TL; DR: Startups and SMEs are turbo-charging economic growth in many emerging markets, including Africa. And Hostlag, a Nigerian web hosting provider, has put together a high-performance suite of tools and an outstanding customer service team to remove barriers to entry for entrepreneurs. Its affordable pricing structure, it supports small business owners in their quest to modernize without a substantial upfront investment. That’s why Hostlag has grown into a trusted solution for Nigerian businesses looking to expand their operations online.
Emerging marketplaces are becoming increasingly vital components of the global economy. While Asia and Latin America have long been the hotbeds of innovation, Africa is just starting to come into its own.
Venture capital funding for African tech startups has rapidly increased, more than doubling in investment value from 2015 to 2017. And this new entrepreneurial wave has resulted in SMEs being responsible for nearly 80% of jobs in Africa.
And among those innovation hubs, Nigeria is one of Africa’s economic hotspots. The country has fostered successful startups including VConnect, an online service marketplace; software developer Andela; and Flutterwave, an online payments API.
Ebenezer Dare also calls Nigeria home, and he is passionate about supporting those African SMEs and startups. But he saw that many local entrepreneurs couldn’t afford the expensive web services they needed to expand their businesses. And, on the other side, many of the hosting providers that catered to smaller African companies offered substandard services.
That’s why Ebenezer founded Hostlag, a web services company built with up-and-coming startups and SMEs in mind.
“Webmasters in Nigeria complain that local web hosting companies overpromise and under-deliver,” said Ebenezer. “Their websites are constantly going down, and they continually have problems connecting to providers.”
Hostlag solved this problem by building an international footprint with datacenters in both Nigeria and Atlanta, Georgia. And, unlike its local competitors, Hostlag’s two datacenters help it achieve its commitment to offering clients fast service with little downtime.
Today, Hostlag is creating lasting partnerships with Nigerian entrepreneurs and helping its clients thrive online. And the company accomplishes that by focusing on responsive customer service and top-notch technology to help enhance Africa’s status as an innovation hub.
Providing Fast, Affordable, and Intuitive Web Services
Hostlag began with Ebenezer’s passion for helping African businesses, which is why one of the company’s priorities is providing a support team that’s always available for customers. That’s why clients who have problems or questions can contact Hostlag 24/7, and the team responds to tickets within five minutes.
“My entire team shares the same vision — to take African business to the global summit,” said Ebenezer. “We can’t do that if we’re not always there for our customers. And by providing great customer support and innovative technologies, we continue to grow and move forward.”
Those technologies include state-of-the-art shared hosting, VPS hosting, and business email solutions, as well as affordably priced domains and SSL certificates. Lara Oyetunji is a long-time client, and a big fan of its services.
“When I first started using Hostlag, I was surprised that a Nigerian company could offer the same quality of service as U.S. hosting providers. Their solutions are incredibly satisfying,” she expressed in an online testimonial.
While the Hostlag team has already built a robust suite of products, it’s still working to improve its solutions and compete in a global industry. The company’s goal is to offer SMEs the same level of service and technology as any other hosting provider — no matter how big.
“We seek out customer feedback. We research. We look at what our local and international competitors are doing.” Ebenezer said. “Our products are always getting better, and that doesn’t just mean staying up-to-date with hosting trends. It means creating disruptive, innovative solutions that shake up the entire industry. We’ll never stop improving.”
Building Products that Work for SMEs in Emerging Markets
When Ebenezer began to research the African hosting marketplace, he was struck by how many local businesses still weren’t online.
“We went through the list of African startups and SMEs and found that less than 40% had any kind of internet presence. Too many of our continent’s companies aren’t online,” he said.
That’s why Ebenezer is so passionate about building Hostlag — he wants to partner with these businesses and help them expand their web presence so they can grow.
Ebenezer wants Hostlag to build a relationship with each company it serves and create an environment in which entrepreneurs can thrive. That is especially important in a burgeoning market like Nigeria.
Harvard Business School underscored the importance of those connections in a report based on interviews with 101 entrepreneurs from emerging markets. It found that successful SMEs often had passionate leaders, but it also showed that most needed a little help.
“Another thing they frequently mentioned was the importance of partnerships, facilitated by reputation and the trust they inspired,” said Project Leader Tarun Khanna.
And Ebenezer’s goal is to nurture as many of those partnerships as possible.
“We want to help SMEs and startups get online, no matter what their budget might be,” said Ebenezer. “Even if you can’t afford more than a dollar a month, we’ll still help you set up a site. If African businesses are going to grow globally, they have to expand beyond their local neighborhoods and communities, and the only way they can do that is with an online presence.”
While Hostlag offers premium hosting packages, its primary focus remains those SMEs and startups. And its price points are lower than most of its competitors because of its dedication to making life easy for African entrepreneurs. According to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, nearly 80% of small businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to credit, which means they need affordable solutions.
For cash-strapped African entrepreneurs, Hostlag’s pricing structure can be a lifeline.
Bringing Nigerian Business to the Global Market
While many African businesses need a web host, local providers have traditionally had difficulty making their products reliable, secure, and affordable. That’s why Hostlag has dedicated itself to being the first Nigerian host to deliver in all three of those areas.
And Hostlag has gone beyond just offering a top-tier solution for the African marketplace. It has also created a service tailored to local business needs.
“For example, 99.9% of Nigerians use WhatsApp. That’s why our platform’s users can use our chat box with a WhatsApp login,” Ebenezer said. “We want to make things easy for our customers, so our products are based around services they already understand. That makes it easy for us to connect with them as fast as possible and quickly respond to their questions.”
Hostlag also offers affordable top-level domains for Nigerian individuals and businesses. Customers can even purchase a .ng site for less than $4. Ebenezer has gone out of his way to make Hostlag a Nigerian-friendly service because he wants his solutions to work for local businesses and websites. And now, he has a new plan in the works.
He found that many Lagos-based startups don’t have workspaces of their own, and many of those bootstrapped businesses wind up launching in small homes or even smaller garages. Ebenezer decided to provide them space to network, meet potential clients, and to expand.
That’s why he’s moving Hostlag into a larger office that has room for clients to use as a co-working space. Hostlag has already worked so hard to improve the online presence of African business, and, now, it is taking the next step and helping them offline, too.