In July last year, The Hague Institute for the Internationalization of Law (HiiL) unveiled the SME Empowerment Challenge East and West Africa, an initiative aimed at identifying and strengthening new projects that can empower start-ups and SMEs in the field of justice.
A Nigerian all-female legal technology company, DIYlaw.ng, emerged winner after beating 21 other African start-ups that had been shortlisted for the voting phase which saw more than 200 innovators apply.
The six other participating companies included mSME Garage (Uganda), BudgIT (Nigeria), ShopOfficer (Kenya), BitsPlatform (Kenya), Atikus (Rwanda) and Justart (Ghana)
After battling for a total $70,000 seed investment prize, DIYlaw went home with a first prize of $40,000.
1st runner-up was Uganda’s mSME Garage, an online platform that provides free legal information, guidance and support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the country. They took home a cash prize of $20,000 in seed investment. ShopOfficer from Kenya came in as 2nd runner-up, pocketing $10,000. ShopOfficer is a platform that empowers SMEs by enabling them to account for every sale real-time and make this information visible to the right staff.
As for DIYlaw, the company makes registration and legal processes more accessible, professional and transparent for entrepreneurs seeking to do business in Nigeria by being a one-stop online portal for fulfilling registration and legal needs.
The initiative which is currently in its public beta stage, is run by Odunoluwa Longe, Bola Olonisakin, and Funkola Odeleye.
According to co-founder Longe, DIYlaw “is making legal one less challenge to grapple with”. The strat-up plans to launch a portal for legal documents, a resource platform and a directory/lead generation platform for lawyers.
'Legal, Simplified' is the slogan that made DIYLaw grasp the award. Apart from the cash prize, DIYlaw will also receive acceleration support, and access to funding, networks and expert advice from HiiL.
Moreover, all innovations will receive further support from HiiL Innovating Justice and Next2Company to accelerate their impact.
Speaking to Techpoint during his visit to Nigeria, Wilfried de Wever, Head of the Innovating Justice Hub, said that they are “investing in building capacity in an innovating justice hub in Lagos and Nairobi, together with the Ford Foundation”.
Whilst highlighting the challenges of the Nigerian entrepreneur during her pitch at the Innovating Justice Forum, which she stated to include “Access to Finance, lack of infrastructure, corruption and legal”, Odunoluwa Longe stated that DIYlaw “is making legal, one less challenge to grapple with”. She emphasized that “our value propositions are transparency, simplicity and affordability”.
DIYlaw is one of the newest startups to join the growing sector of justice entrepreneurs emerging globally and seeks to be at the forefront of this emerging entrepreneur sector in Africa. Justice Entrepreneurs utilize innovation and technology to create access to justice. In addition to the cash prize of $40,000 won by DIYlaw, DIYlaw also gets acceleration support, access to funding, networks and expert advice from HiiL.