Why We Invested: Stears
As the Covid-19 pandemic spreads rapidly across the world and we scramble to protect ourselves, our families, our communities, and our societies, we are even more acutely aware of the need for credible, evidence-based information that audiences can trust. At Luminate, supporting Independent Media as one of our Impact Areas has long been a core focus of our work, as evidenced by our funding for organisations like the South Africa Media Innovation Program and the Baraza Media Lab in Kenya. A free and independent press gives people the information they need to participate in public life, to have a say in issues that affect them, and to make informed decisions.
In 2016, Luminate (then Omidyar Network’s Governance & Citizen Engagement initiative) commissioned a research project to identify funding opportunities for supporters of the media sector in West Africa, a region where trust in media has historically been quite low. In Nigeria, this low trust stems from the fact that many media houses have extensive political affiliations, rely on politically-connected corporates for advertising, or struggle due to poor quality and capacity. The unfortunate result is that Nigerians can’t access the information they need: government agencies suffer from a dearth of information that’s critical to plan, fund, and evaluate their interventions; businesses and investors lack economic and demographic data to enable them to make accurate financial decisions; and the general public are left ill-informed about what is happening, especially in the spheres of business, economics, and politics. The report found that in order to acquire an audience, Nigerian media needed to differentiate themselves more clearly: “too few leverage the power of niche, choosing instead to imitate mass media and ‘do everything’, which has proven to be a losing strategy for many.”
Stears is a digital media & information company that fills this gap by providing audiences and organisations with accurate, unbiased and digitised information on economic and business activity around them. The team of journalists, economists, data scientists, and engineers does this by sourcing data and information, centralising it into a knowledge base, and distributing it to its audience and customers.
Stears has various arms that provide data-driven insights to public audiences and individual consumers in different forms:
Stears Business curates and publishes business news analysis and insight from its in-house journalists and extensive network of contributors and professionals in banking, consulting, law, academia, government, and civil society, both in Nigeria and the diaspora. For example, recent stories highlight in detail the economic impact of the Lagos State government’s recent ban on okadas (motorcycles), analyse the successes and challenges of Nigeria’s big agriculture push, and lay out how to improve regulation in the country’s financial sector.
Stears Data, its data collection, research, and data access services arm works directly with customers to supply the information and data they need to make informed decisions in business and public policy. The team’s unique data skills positioned the organisation perfectly to develop a live monitoring platform for COVID-19 cases in Nigeria from which to draw out crucial insights about the federal response to the pandemic. Likewise the class-leading Stears Election Data Centre visualised live, easy to access and interpret results from Nigeria’s 2019 Presidential Election.
Stears is online-first, an example of a new generation of media companies that is challenging the traditional model of heavy advertising dependency and analogue newsrooms by monetising their editorial, data, and research expertise.
We’re pleased to announce our participation in Stears’ seed investment round alongside two other investors. Stears has already demonstrated its value in providing accurate news and analysis that enables policymakers, investors, civil society, international development institutions, and Nigerians both in and outside the country to make informed business, economic, and political decisions, and to actively participate in public life. By prioritising quality, the company is also contributing to rebuilding public trust in the media in Nigeria (and beyond), while simultaneously building up a cohort of talented young writers contributing to public dialogue.
Smart and intentional data collection and use, commitment to the highest quality output, and an exceptional team driven by the mission to provide accessible and reliable information make Stears a clear leader. We look forward to continuing to support the organisation in its mission and as it grows the Stears footprint in Nigeria.