From Fintech to Football, Shola Akinlade launches Sporting Lagos FC

Nigerian Fintech mogul, co-founder and CEO of payment platform Paystack, Shola Akinlade launches Sporting Lagos FC (Football Club) ahead of the 2021/2022 season in the Nigeria National League (NNL).

With this move, Shola is now the latest football club (Sporting Lagos FC) owner in the Nigerian professional football league at the moment, making his childhood dream come into reality. 

Through technology, the CEO intends to use the platform in alignment with the movement to harness football’s transformative power to bring together people from all walks of life and create economic opportunities on a large scale for Nigerians.

According to the Paystack CEO

“In the last few years, several platforms have emerged to provide opportunities for young Nigerians to perform at the highest level of excellence. Young Nigerians came together to turn technology, music, and cinema into hugely successful industries that command global attention, and we’ve built flourishing ecosystems around these platforms that benefit millions of people. 

Serena Williams is jumping into NFTs
Serena Williams is jumping into NFTs

In sports as well, we have a long history of individual Nigerians using football – and sports in general – as a platform to ascend to global recognition.”

Akinlade added that he would remain fully focused on Paystack and building payments infrastructure for Africa.

“I’ll provide most of the financial investment necessary to get this off the ground and will entrust the full-time team to realize our bold ambitions,” he said.

Collaborating with Shola Akinlade, Godwin Enakhena, former managing director of MFM FC, will serve as chairman of Sporting Lagos FC, Uzo Okonkwo will be the club’s managing director and Yemisi Cole as the secretary. Colin Udoh, a former Super Eagles media officer as well as Fola Olatuniji-David, an employee of Google, are all governing members of the football club.

Why delve from Fintech to Football?

Akinlade’s interest and commitments to deepen his involvement in his community was inspired by the death of his father in 2021. According to Shola

“Last year, I lost my dad and spent a lot of time with my 75-year-old mum. And for the first time in my life, I started thinking about what my life would look like at 75. The outcome of my reflection was a commitment to deepen my involvement in our community, which has given me so much,” he said.

“Football has always been a space that makes me proud to be part of this country and continent. That’s likely because football is more than entertainment; it’s identity, it’s opportunity. Digging deeper into the sport has been a revelation. There’s an entire ecosystem of time, activity, and talent that goes into those electrifying 90 minutes.

Who is Shola Akinlade?

Shola Akinlade is a Nigerian software engineer, club owner and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and CEO of Paystack, a Fintech company launched in 2020 with co-founder Ezra Olubi. 

Paystack co-founders Sola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi

Sola attended St. Gregory’s College for his secondary education and In 2006, he graduated with a degree in Computer Science from Babcock University. 

After his university education, Shola’s tech career started at Heineken where he worked on their database management as a management trainee from 2007 to 2009. He later moved on to being a software engineer with some of the biggest Banks in the country.

Shortly after that, he spent the next 5 years working on a software called Precurio, an open source collaboration platform like Dropbox, which was used by over 200,000 organizations. While working on the software, a few banks reached out to him to help them build software, this was when he realized that he could take a stab at figuring out how to make payments easier for businesses in Africa.

Shola with his friend Ezra created Paystack as a modern payments platform that allows Nigerian merchants to receive funds from anyone, anywhere in the world with ease.

Paystack was inducted as the first Nigerian company into Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley-based incubator. A big win which has given birth to bigger wins in Fintech in Africa.

Paystack was acquired by Stripe in 2021 for USD$200million. Shola has since been positioning himself as a fintech mogul, investor and entrepreneur in Africa. He has invested in startups and businesses in Nigeria and in Africa, pushing the African tech ecosystem to a new level.

What you should know

Commenting on the club’s goal, Enakhena stated that the team’s spell in the Nigerian second division would not be more than a season before joining the top teams in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

“I don’t see myself as someone that wants to run an NNL team, we tried our best to get an NPFL team, but it didn’t work out. We are an NNL team for now, but we will not spend more than one season in the second division,” he said.

Sporting Lagos FC, coached by Uche Okagbue, will begin its NNL campaign on February 12 when they host Go Round FC at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos. The club has also invited the general public to support the establishment by becoming Founding Members at a one-time fee of NGN 50,000 (or ~$100).

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