We’re getting into a new formation because, “it pays to stay stubborn with the vision but flexible with the tactics.”
After two interesting cohorts, we are rethinking our accelerator program, leveraging on our key learnings and building a stronger platform that will support the most innovative startup founders in Africa with much more than money.
Since launching Ventures Platform in 2016 we’ve been quite active — delivering 2 cohorts of our accelerator program and actively writing cheques for other non-accelerator companies that fit our thesis. Through this, we have worked closely with over 50 founders and their teams to ideate, launch, scale and get funding for their businesses.
We initially set out with a vision to build the African future by providing support to bold and innovative entrepreneurs; based on a belief that the changes we seek in Africa cannot be built by government and grants alone, but by entrepreneurs using technology to solve problems across the continent. To date, we’ve pursued this vision with the support of a lot of people that have helped to give meaning to our work. Because of our mentors, partners, founders and our amazing team we’ve had a great journey so far. Thank you all for allowing us experiment and stay nimble.
We are also super thrilled to see the progress that has been made by the companies in our portfolio and intend to continue to support them as they break new ground. These founders are the real MVPs!
As we close out 2017 and forge into 2018, we couldn’t be more delighted to share some thoughts on our journey so far and the future.
What have we learnt?
Here are some of the key things we’ve learned along the way:
- We cannot build a vibrant startup ecosystem by merely writing cheques. There is need for work at all stages. From ensuring critical reasoning, problem solving and design thinking is a part of how we learn; to early and advanced education; to technical skill development and internships; to supporting folks as they cross the idea / product chasm to the MVP level and then on from there. If one would build a business out of writing cheques at the post MVP stage, it would be short-sighted to ignore this funnel effect.
- All things being equal, building and scaling startups should become more cost-efficient in Africa due to reduced capital cost, democratized access to technology, reduced acquisition cost and improvement in infrastructure.
- While Africa is not an homogenous market, access to software tech and internet-connected devices will provide cohesive, transformative and cross-border effect. Access to this market will continue to be distributed and democratised. Small startups will be able to create and distribute products and services to hundreds of millions of people with less capital and resources compared to before.
- However, building a startup to scale in Africa is hard. Probably harder than elsewhere. Founders need more than $20,000 to validate and then begin to scale their idea enough to attract more support. Also, raising follow-on capital can be distracting for founders.
- As an early stage investor, success for us means finding and connecting with ambitious and gritty founders early and providing them with a ton of support within close proximity.
- There is a need for more active early stage investors that will go the extra mile in supporting entrepreneurs from idea stage to post product/market fit, ensuring they avoid the valley of death that currently exists between seed / post-seed and series A funding.
So, what do we do about this? We can either continue with the status quo and hope someone will solve these problems or we orchestrate the change we want to see.
We choose the latter.
We choose to leverage on these learnings and raise the bar a little higher.
So, what’s new?
We are expanding and setting up shop in Lagos. To be closer to most of the entrepreneurs we support, we are setting up shop for our investment and accelerator program in Lagos. We’ve always viewed Abuja as our testbed, our MVP, and it has been a great host city. Now, we want to be as close as possible to where most of our entrepreneurs will be building their business. For now, this place is Lagos. It brings our companies closer to a lot of our mentors and alumni. For companies also coming outside of Nigeria, Lagos is usually their first entry point.
We are launching an incubation program in Abuja. Our experience so far points to a need amongst early stage (would be) founders for support to validate their idea or make the transition from employment to startup — way before getting to MVP. This program is designed to support this group of early stage founders and will be run out of Abuja by the Ventures Platform Startup Foundation team from Q1 2018.
We are increasing our investment in startups that are accepted into the accelerator from $20,000 to $40,000. We understand that a lot of startups that join our program will need more to help sustain them before they start generating significant revenue, or raise a large seed round. We want to help fill this gap. This also means that we are looking for companies that are really post — MVP and are ready to take on this amount of investment. As well as all the other benefits, our companies get, including; $10,000 in AWS credit, thousands of dollars in Facebook credit, legal service, finance and accounting support, hands-on business support, trainings, a strong global mentor and expert network, workspace, several other add-on services and discounts on other services.
We have a new program manager and are super excited to announce that Kayode Oyewole a pioneer member of the team and die-hard “startup-guy” is stepping up as a new Partner to lead the VP Acceleration Program. Kayode will continue to build on the work of Fola Olatunji-David our pioneer program manager who until recently lead the team. As Fola moves on to pursue other interests we are proud of his accomplishments and confident he will do amazing things!
We are now taking applications for cohort 3 and are especially inviting startups all across Africa to apply. We are also keen about entrepreneurs outside the continent building products for the African market.
We are looking for ambitious and gritty founders solving big problems with large market opportunity across the continent. We are particularly looking for companies that are post MVP with some revenue or users who absolutely love their product.
The next cohort is in 2018, but please apply early at venturesplatform.com. We spend more time reading the applications of companies that apply early.
If you know a company building a great product, please recommend them here by clicking here.
May the forces be in our favour.