Over a hundred thousand users are currently signed up on NODO, arguably one of the continent’s most valuable products launched in 2023. Not many African blockchain products were able to record similar successes last year, which saw VC funding dip from its 2022 highs as the market cooled off into a brutal bear season.
For several blockchain enthusiasts, this year came with far too many red candles and product shutdowns. For operators, the stakes were higher and the losses more. Selloffs, shutdowns, layoffs, and system breaches topped headlines as startups scrambled for funding that seemed evasive. NODO was born in this harsh environment, but thanks to an ambitious and vision-aligned team, the project flourished all year, recording new highs quarter over quarter.
Shogo Ishida started NODO in 2023 to solve problems inherent in the African blockchain ecosystem. Their ambition was to build a product that works with several ecosystem stakeholders to drive all-around value for builders, investors, and users of web3 products. In 2022, when NODO was still an idea in their minds, Africa’s blockchain ecosystem received an unprecedented influx of blockchain capital, but the market’s immaturity was defined by a lack of substantive data, barring some institutionalised investors and decision makers from making inroads into the continent.
In a recent conversation on DeFi in Africa, Mia Mai from Asia-focused Hashkey Capital puts her experience this way: “We understand the opportunities in DeFi and payments, but often lack the guided access to understand the market properly; we hardly get to know so much about the nuances of the ecosystem in Africa.”
NODO has plugged this ecosystem gap, leveraging its deep market penetration to build the continent’s largest database of blockchain companies. Over 1,125 ‘Makers’ have been onboarded on NODO. Makers are entities that list blockchain products and build engaging communities around them. NODO, in return, can launch product campaigns for these startups, exponentially driving their visibility within a pro-blockchain community of over a hundred thousand people.
NODO’s vibrant community drove engagement on the platform to new highs month after month. The platform boasts over 340,000 upvotes (similar to likes) on articles posted on the feed and about 40,000 quiz completions. Alongside articles, quizzes and surveys were some of NODO’s most explored features. A NODO survey that collected data on the most used blockchain products on the continent was the most engaged last year, providing important insights into the perception of blockchain products on the continent. NODO will publish a report on its findings in Q1 2024.
NODO’s gamified system also introduces a leaderboard that tracks users’ XPs, typically gained by performing a range of actions on the platform, including posting, upvoting, taking quizzes and surveys, and generally maximising interactions with the product. Every week, the top 10 users by activity are featured on the leaderboard and win USDT.
NODO, which records about 1.5 million site visits and over 2,000 articles, has also positioned itself as the centrepiece for blockchain education in Africa. From important news updates and ecosystem analysis to trading insights and explainers, NODO’s articles, quizzes, and surveys dominate web3 conversations in Africa and provide direct market insights.
“It’s amazing how, in barely nine months, NODO grew to lead the ecosystem in terms of data intelligence and blockchain education. More intriguing is that this happened in a bear market, and we have only begun to scratch the surface of our ambitions for the product,” said Shogo Ishida, NODO’s cofounder who also serves as Emurgo Middle East & Africa’s Co-CEO.
NODO enhances its value through funding and acceleration initiatives for African blockchain startups. Its upcoming Web3 Accelerator Programme, set to launch in Q1 this year, offers curated workshops and masterclasses by NODO ‘Experts’ for pre-seed and seed-level startups. Leveraging a robust network of projects and experts, NODO aims to establish the largest web3 community accelerator ecosystem in Africa. NODO’s comprehensive mini-accelerator program will feature global experts such as Gideon Greaves and Vincent Li. The company’s network includes over 10 VC partners, including Greenhouse Capital, Kepple Africa, and Adaverse.
“We’ve Only Scratched the Surface”
NODO’s gospel caught on quite quickly within the African web3 ecosystem, owing to its relatively novel play and compelling value proposition. Most evident this year was how it tapped into web3’s community ethos to build dedicated communities around hundreds of Africa-native products. Several product and investment communities have recorded increased engagement post onboarding on NODO, attesting to its ecosystem growth mandate.
“Blockchain retail use grew by 6% in 2023 in major African countries such as Nigeria. NODO acts as an effective platform for global web3 projects and protocols to fund, discover and retain new users within the pan-African market. In addition, we provide significant support to startups with talents, networks, and advisory services to ensure their sustained growth,” said Sowmya Raghavan, NODO’s Head of Product.
2023 came with a continuous stream of exciting upgrades to the NODO product, capped by the recent release of NODO Gems, a community engagement and reward infrastructure system. Launched on Avalanche, CELO, and Base, NODO gems are chain-agnostic and integrate into popular wallets such as Coinbase and Metamask. NODO will leverage its gems to achieve product stickiness and drive marketing execution for native blockchain products. Presently, off-ramping gems to airtime is seamless on NODO through a Fonbnk integration, but “fiat offramps to naira and Kenyan shillings are underway in 2024,” says Raghavan. Users can also offramp tokens including USDC and USDT on Ethereum, Avalanche, Celo and BASE networks.
On the back of the success achieved this year, NODO is currently fundraising its seed round of $5 million to take the product to new markets and expand offerings. Some of this has already been secured, NODO says, as it expects to close the round within the first quarter of 2024.
“NODO is set for much more in 2024 and beyond. We will build out a robust user data service that tracks micro and macro trends, expand our content research and market data, and launch a syndicated investment service that generates yield for African retail web3 investors, said co-founder Vincent Li. “NODO in a few years will be the go-to product for investors, consumers, and operators at all levels in the African blockchain ecosystem. We’ve only scratched the surface.”