On Thursday, Google announced the opening of applications for the Hustle Academy SMB Fund, a N75 million equity-free fund specifically dedicated to supporting Nigerian Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs), All Nigeria Latest News reports.

Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde, Head, Brand and Reputation, Sub Saharan Africa, Google, said in a statement that the Hustle Academy SMB Fund is aims to provide N5,000,000 to 15 Nigerian small business owners.

The company said that this initiative cemented Google’s unwavering commitment to cultivating entrepreneurial growth in Nigeria.

Google emphasized that Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) play a crucial role in Nigeria’s economy but often face challenges, with the persistent issue of securing essential funding being a significant hurdle. Aderemi-Makinde pointed out that, according to the World Bank, African SMBs are confronted with a substantial finance gap amounting to $330 billion.

Aderemi-Makinde further highlighted that only 25 percent of SMBs in Africa have access to bank loans, a notable contrast to the 50 percent observed in developed economies. This underscores the challenges that SMBs in Nigeria and across the continent encounter in obtaining financial support.

‘’Hustle Academy Fund is a testament to the resilience and innovation of Nigerian small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy.

‘’We are hopeful that this fund will further empower them to succeed and drive economic growth, creating jobs and opportunities for all Nigerians,’’ she said.

According to her, Google’s Hustle Academy, introduced in 2022, provides SMEs with business and management education, mentoring, and networking, with a particular emphasis on preparing them to package their businesses.

Aderemi-Makinde said that it was in order to raise the necessary capital to take their businesses to the next level.

She said that since its inception, the programme had graduated over 4,000 SMBs in Nigeria, with a notable 74 per cent from the first-year reporting marked business growth.

According to her, the fund earmarks a N75 million pool exclusively for Nigeria to support 15 investor-ready SMBs through non-dilutive funding.

She said that this commitment was further enriched with tailored mentorship, ensuring these businesses were primed for success.

Also speaking, Product Marketing Manager and the Hustle Academy Programme Lead at Google, Sinmisola Nojimu-Yusuf, said that the Hustle Academy Fund provided SMBs with the resources and support they needed to succeed.

Nojimu-Yusuf said: ”Wth equity-free funding, mentorship, and opportunities for increased visibility and networking, we are supporting SMBs to grow and thrive.”

She said that Google was committed to supporting the Nigerian entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the fund was a key part of that commitment.

According to her, to be eligible for the Hustle Academy SMB Fund, businesses must be Nigerian-founded, operating within Nigeria for 1-5 years, and have a clear and scalable business plan.

She said that SMBs should have a track record of commitment to growth, operate in sectors aligned with the digital economy or have a digital enablement strategy.

According to her, previous participation in the Hustle Academy programme is an added advantage.

Nojimu-Yusuf said that applications for the fund would open on Tuesday and close on October 12th.

She said that detailed insights into the fund and application procedures are on ‘google/hustleacademyfund’.

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