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Series V VP Blog

VP Fund Artifact Podcast Series 2- Tomi Solanke of Trove Finance

Listen to VP Portfolio founder, Tomi Solanke of Trove Finance, on Artifact, where he talks about startup fundraising in Nigeria and our partnership with them to get things going at Trove Finance.

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Series V VP Blog

VP Fund Artifact Podcast Series 1- Soga Oni of MDaaS

Listen to VP Portfolio founder, Soga Oni of MDaaS, on Artifact, where he discusses the challenges he’s faced building his company, MDaaS, and how working with Ventures Platform has provided the capital and connections to help make that happen.

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Series V VP Blog

Hey Founder, Take Care Of Yourself!

Hello there. Happy New Month! This month on Series V, we write about the importance of founders taking care of their mental and emotional health. Please forward it to a friend and share it on your social media by clicking any of the buttons below. We love to get feedback and suggestions, you can send them here.


Try dey take care of yourself; problems no dey finish

Anonymous

This tweet by Oluyomi Ojo of Printivo is very instructional.

In an industry where many fail, there is already an immense amount of pressure on startup founders to succeed. Founders are constantly faced with challenges and question if they are going to be good enough to attract investors if they reveal what they personally struggle with — imposter syndrome, their startups surviving this current global crisis, salaries, keeping up employee morale, family, and the problems with the world at large.

“Startup founders worry about if they share, let’s say, something vulnerable about a big family issue they’re going through that’s creating a lot of anxiety and stress that they’ll be looked at differently,” John Meyer, CEO — Homebound, told Business Insider in an interview.

When a founder begins to feel unhappy, no longer enjoy work as before, easily exhausted, physically and emotionally knackered, cannot sleep well or focus during the day, easily distressed by the thought of networking, raising funds, and managing people, it is safe to say his motivation has taken a hit and, in no time, his performance will too.

Founders are expected to be strong, show unwavering conviction and commitment to the goal, be enthusiastic, and show no form of weakness. It’s surprising that in 2020, talks about work stress, burnout, and mental wellness are still stigmatized.

Humans, not built to be isolated for months at a stretch, are now faced with immense pressure from different bearings and almost only connected to friends, loved ones, investors, teams, customers by video conferencing, and emails. This can have a negative effect on the mental well being of the founder as the task of building a company in itself can be lonely and daunting and founders need to unplug from time to time, socializing and spending time with loved ones.

The uphill task of building successful startups births unhealthy behaviors like overworking and leaves little or no time to socialize and especially at a time like this, self-doubt and esteem issues begin to creep in. Finding the right people to talk to is key to managing such feelings.

VCs have a part to play here. Encourage founders within your network to unplug from time to time, possibly create safe spaces for them to share their concerns and fears with an expert that can provide relevant help.

Two weeks ago, the team at Ventures Platform engaged in a mental health training with the folks at Mentally Aware. This exercise was geared towards coaching employees on how to manage stress, work-life balance, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are many more professional care options available to Nigerians these days and founders, startup employees should explore them.

It is important for founders on this entrepreneurial journey to understand the importance of taking care of their mental and emotional health as being healthy means being more productive and effective in both their work and personal lives and delivers long term gains.

Ultimately, being open and vulnerable about your struggles might just be a way to deal with it, talking about it is very therapeutic. It could also help to have a group of other founders (or friends, family, or partners) who come together to open up about personal struggles.

Can we, please, normalize openly talking about work and mental stress?


That’s all folks! Now, let’s dive into the other parts of Series V.


Portfolio Chatter

PiggyVest won the Techpoint award in the category of Best Nigerian app. Congrats guys.

CoBuildIT has commenced a housing project, 404-REGENCY — designed to give residents the perfect blend of functionality and class. The scheme consists of 4 units of 4 bedroom terraces topped off with 2 units of 4 bedroom penthouse apartments. It is located on the leafy, and exclusive J.H. Wariya Crescent in Karmo District; within a few minutes walk of Nizamiye — Turkish Hospital, and the Epicentre Lifestyle Mall (under development). Learn more here.

Join PayStack in a webinar with Y Combinator’s CEO, Michael Seibel, and Paystack CEO as they speak with African founders on how you can get into YC. Date: Tuesday, September 8th | Time: 5 PM — 6 PM (WAT) | RSVP here.

Fintech and music! What? Who would have thought? Listen to a monthly curated mixtape by Paystack here.

Use USSD withdrawal on Kudi mobile App today. Learn more here.

VertoFX’s marketplace offers a range of options including direct trade with other businesses, liquidity providers, and banks. Register for early access here.


Inside VP

We won the Techpoint award in the category of Most Active VC! We thank the Techpoint team for the recognition, our portfolio founders out there kicking ass, our investors, and the entire VP team.

We hosted our Q3 webinar — Conversations With… Adia Sowho who dropped gems on how startups can leverage partnerships to grow their startups. If you’d like access to the recording of the webinar, email [email protected].

Ventures Platform Foundation will be hosting a Policy Dialogue Series, sponsored by the UK-Nigeria Tech Hub, on Thursday, 3rd September 2020 at 11:00 AM WAT to discuss how the ecosystem can enable and support more female tech founders. On the panel — Dr. Omobola Johnson of TLcom, Anna Ekeledo of AfriLabs, Dr. Ola Brown of Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group, and Kofoworola Oyeleye of IyinCreative. Register here — bit.ly/UKNG-PDS-V3.

Ventures Platform in partnership and Acumen, with support from LoftyInc, has launched the Nigeria Impact Startup Relief Facility (NISRF). The NISRF is designed to disburse grants to ensure qualifying post-MVP stage high-growth startups who create impact remain viable and resilient through the COVID-19 crisis. The facility will provide grants between $5,000 — $20,000 to support startups whose businesses are either being adversely affected or modified in response to COVID-19 for a period of six months. The call for applications will close on Friday, 7th of September 2020. Apply here — nisrf.venturesplatform.com

Ventures Park, our artsy co-working campus located in Abuja, which supports a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and innovators, is fully opened. They are taking all precautionary measures to ensure the safety of community members against COVID-19 using Sentinel X, an amazing health surveillance platform by MDaaS Global. For more information, email [email protected] or visit their website — theventurespark.com — to take a virtual tour of the Park.


What are we reading?

Why most anti-poverty programs fail to eradicate poverty by Efosa Ojomo


Are you building a market-creating innovation? We would like to know more. Apply here.


Stay safe and see you next month,

V.

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Press Releases Series V VP Blog

Investor Consortium to Provide Grants To Nigerian Impact Startups During COVID-19 Pandemic – Calls for more Donors to Contribute to the Facility

Abuja, Nigeria, *24th August 2020* Ventures Platform (VP), and Acumen, with support from LoftyInc, have launched the Nigeria Impact Startup Relief Facility (NISRF) – designed to support impact-oriented startups so they remain viable and resilient through the COVID-19 crisis. 

In order to meet the demands of the crisis, and the financial gaps faced by promising startups, the Nigeria Impact Startup Relief Facility (NISRF) will support impact-oriented startups that are at the post-MVP stage, are high-growth, and can demonstrate the scale of impact, amongst other criteria as outlined on the website

The NISRF program kicks off activities with calls for applications on the 24th of August, 2020, to 7th September 2020, and will support applicants whose businesses are either being adversely affected or modified in response to COVID-19 with grants between $5,000 – $20,000. Entrepreneurs have consistently cited bridge financing as their most urgent need during the pandemic. 

According to the “Impact Investors’ Foundation: Nigeria and Ghana Impact Investing and Policy Landscape”, prior to COVID-19, impact investors cited a lack of investable opportunities as a challenge to deploying capital in Nigeria. Now, the ecosystem is faced with a challenge of unprecedented dimensions emphasizing the need for financial investment. 

While the pandemic has had a negative economic effect on startups: a lot of businesses are struggling while some are on the verge of folding up,  the crisis has also scaled the process of digital transformation across sectors and created more opportunities for growth and investment. 

It is in our collective interest to ensure that the most promising startups among us – especially those tackling urgent social problems – are able to sustain and scale. With this aspiration to protect today’s startups and tomorrow’s pipeline, the collaborating investors invite other investors, ecosystem players, development partners, and government institutions to join the Nigeria Impact Startup Relief Facility (NISRF).

Speaking on the partnership with Ventures Platform and the implementation of the NISRF, Meghan Curran, West Africa Director, Acumen said, “COVID-19 has reminded us of our interconnected fate, and has reinforced the importance of building more just and equitable societies. Acumen has long been focused on investing in businesses that share this aspiration and use the power of markets as a tool for tackling urgent social problems.

Acumen is a global nonprofit changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing patient capital in social enterprises and building a community of leaders committed to building a more just and sustainable world. Through the NISRF, we’re excited to ensure that the pandemic doesn’t impede the progress of these companies in building new models for our post-COVID reality.” 

“At Ventures Platform, we are always seeking to forge strategic partnerships like this as we continue to provide support to entrepreneurs who are the bedrock of the economy,” said Kola Aina, Founder, Ventures Platform. “Through this partnership, our expected outcome is that funded startups remain resilient through the COVID-19 crisis and are better able to take advantage of the increased opportunity for digital adoption, while we  inspire a culture of triple-bottom-line and active philanthropy in our ecosystem.”

Ventures Platform (VP) is an organization building inclusive and sustainable economic prosperity in Africa by catalyzing entrepreneurship and innovation.

In his remarks, the Managing Partner at LoftyInc, Wole Odetayo, said “The challenges we’re living with in Nigeria can be daunting but surmountable. The future of the solutions to these resilient challenges lie with innovators. What the NISRF is poised to do in Nigeria’s innovation ecosystem is crucially fundamental to our collective success as a nation; the creation of sustainable, innovative SMEs as the pathway to accelerated and sustainable economic growth.” 

LoftyInc is an Innovation development company with vast experience in Business and Project development. They have developed startup teams, managed innovation programs, and facilitated impact projects across sub-Saharan Africa.

Through the NISRF program, Founding Partners – Ventures Platform and Acumen, will work to ensure the selected startups receive the required funding to grow and also create social impact in terms of the number of opportunities created. The primary aim of this program is to support high growth, impact-oriented startups to thrive in the midst of an uncertain economy. To do this effectively, there is a need for more donors to invest in the Facility. 

To learn more about the program, please visit nisrf.venturesplatform.com and follow Ventures Platform on Twitter, Instagram – @vplatformhub, and Facebook, LinkedIn – Ventures Platform Hub to keep up with the program and learn any new information as soon as it comes up.

-ENDS-

For interview requests or additional information, contact Joy Mabia | [email protected] | 08097973797

About Ventures Platform Hub

Ventures Platform Hub is a catalyst for innovation & entrepreneurship across Africa. It provides smart capital through its early-stage fund, Ventures Platform Fund, it provides infrastructure and nurtures communities of entrepreneurs and innovators through Ventures Park and it builds pipeline by providing capacity and ecosystem support through its not-for-profit – Ventures Platform Foundation. More information about Ventures Platform is available at www.venturesplatform.com.

About Acumen in West Africa

Acumen is changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders, and ideas. We invest patient capital in businesses that impact low-income and vulnerable populations either by providing access to affordable goods and services or by creating meaningful livelihood opportunities. Active in West Africa since 2012, Acumen has invested more than $10 million across Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. We are also developing a global community of emerging leaders with the knowledge, skills, and determination to create a more inclusive world through the West Africa Fellows program. www.acumen.org.

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companies

Gradely

Gradely leverages artificial intelligence and data to help parents and schools plug learning gaps realtime. It is an adaptive learning platform that identifies student learning gaps quickly and offers tools and resources to close those gaps.

Founders:

Boye Oshinaga
Femi Ibiwoye
Seyi Adelaju
Babatunde Caleb

Visit Website

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companies

Brass

Brass is a digital bank for SMB 100% online, no walk-ins, that provides them with a suite of product and tools designed to help them grow their business and significantly reduce the friction of doing business. Join the waitlist here to get notified when they go public.

Founder:

Sola Akindolu

Visit Website

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companies

Tambua Health

Tambua Health is using lung sound analysis to transform the diagnosis and treatment of respiratory diseases globally. They have built a hardware device called the T-sense that generates images of the lungs by detecting the vibrations of sound as air moves in and out of the lungs using sensor arrays put on the back of the patient. The team has approached this in a fundamentally different way using first principles and has brought new ideas and advances in machine learning, acoustics, biomedical engineering, and electronics to lung diagnostic. Schedule a demo here, if you would like to see how it works.

Founder:

Lewis Wanjohi

Visit Website

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Press Releases Series V VP Blog

Investing in Tambua Health, Brass and FunnelJoy

We have spent the last 3+ years making early bets on companies building the future of Africa.

Today, despite the reality of the currently Covid-19 pandemic and its far-reaching 2nd and 3rd order social and economic effects, that hasn’t changed as we believe that this pandemic makes a stronger case for investing in innovative startups that are nimble and able to benefit from a boost in user adoption and lower customer education costs as people find new ways to live, work and communicate.

Moreover, the way we get out of rot is by building.
In furtherance of this mission, we are happy to back, Tambua, Brass, and FunnelJoy.

Tambua Health:

The first time we spoke to Lewis,  we were immediately blown away by the “why” behind Tambua, it was a compelling and deeply personal conviction around solving the problem he and his team were going after.

Lung related disease is an enormous and growing burden on society, resulting in one-in-six (16.7%) deaths globally, that’s about 2.5 million deaths annually across the world, More than $25 billion is spent each year on respiratory diagnostic procedures globally. While most respiratory diseases have a cure and are manageable, early diagnosis is the most essential for successful treatment. Unfortunately, medical imaging devices are invasive and expensive making them out of reach of some health care facilities and in facilities where they are available the associated cost is quite expensive making it increasingly difficult for everyday individuals to access quality healthcare service, which explains why the acoustic-based lung imaging and lung function test device built by Tambua is in itself revolutionary.

Tambua Health is using lung sound analysis to transform the diagnosis and treatment of respiratory diseases globally. They have built a hardware device called the T-sense that generates images of the lungs by detecting the vibrations of sound as air moves in and out of the lungs using sensor arrays put on the back of the patient. The team has approached this in a fundamentally different way using first principles and has brought new ideas and advances in machine learning, acoustics, biomedical engineering, and electronics to lung diagnostic.

Brass:

Operating a business account for most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is expensive on average, opening an account requires several walk-ins to the bank, starting minimum balance, fees at every step of the way, a 10-page+ form and a lot of friction, not to mention limited access to credit or tools, basically no real value asides being able to receive and send money inefficiently.  Within our portfolio, we also observed how companies string together multiple tools just to run their finances semi-efficiently. 

And so when Sola shared his vision of 100% digital bank, tailored specifically for SMBs, designed to provide them with superior banking experience and tools to help them run more efficiently and increase revenue, we were sold.

Traditional banks have not applied anywhere near the same degree of innovation to  SMEs as they have done to consumer retail banking, even if the later still begs for improvement. While they are great at treasury management, they have massively underinvested in creating tools and services that enable SMBs to succeed, thus creating massive white space for a product like Brass.

Brass is a digital bank for SMB 100% online, no walk-ins, that provides them with a suite of product and tools designed to help them grow their business and significantly reduce the friction of doing business. Join the waitlist here to get notified when they go public.

FunnelJoy:

When we met Sam late last year, his thinking around solving a problem for digital entrepreneurs across the world and in the process building a globally relevant product deeply resonated with us, as we have always wondered why African founders weren’t building for global markets, More importantly, he had also spent the last 4 years selling multiple digital products across multiple continents and understood the challenges around doing this on a deep level. 

FunnelJoy is an all in one tool designed for digital entrepreneurs, marketers, and creators to help them capture, convert and engage leads and sell products online, FunnelJoy was built to simplify the process and offer an easy to use sales funnel tool to online entrepreneurs (something they can set up without the help of a web developer) that helps them convert visitors to actual leads or purchases. It’s a simple drag and drop tool to create landing pages and sales/membership funnels. The alternatives are expensive, non-intuitive, complex and require developers, designers, and “so-called ” experts to help build 

The Marketing automation software market is a $25B+ industry and expected to reach $32B in 2024,  Today, a lot of digital entrepreneurs rely on sales funnel tools to market and sell their products online and as more people explore digital commerce for the first time, FunnelJoy offers them just the right tool to do that. 

Interestingly >90% of the companies customers come from the US and European market and the product has a high retention rate. This speaks to how founders can build great products, loved by users all around the world irrespective of their geography.

So today, we are super excited to announce our investments in Lewis, Sola, Samuel, and their teams. They are some of the most talented founders building today and it is a privilege to partner with them.

Kayode Oyewole 

Partner, Ventures Platform Fund

About Ventures Platform Fund

Ventures Platform Fund invests early in mission-driven founders that are building capital-efficient platforms that democratize prosperity, plug infrastructural gaps, connect underrepresented communities, create efficiencies, solve for non-consumption, and improve livelihoods.

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Series V VP Blog

Internal Communication During a Pandemic; Are You Doing It Right?

“Internal communication isn’t about telling employees what to think; it’s about creating and enabling authentic, ongoing dialogues with and between them.”

Paul Barton, ABC

Hello there. Happy Workers Day! This month on Series V, we talk about how those in management positions should communicate with the people in the organization especially when relaying important life-changing information. Please forward it to a friend and share it on your social media. We love to get feedback and suggestions, you can send them here.

I’m sure we have all gotten the memo that the world we now live in has gone remote and a great percentage of human interactions are now digital. This global pandemic has changed the landscape of human interactions and by extension, Internal Communication. 

While we applaud the good use of tools and software to bridge the gap in attempts to flatten the curve, we also have to be mindful of how digital relationships can tend to make us feel emotionally disconnected. I’m sure we’re all Zoom’ ed out by now but this is our new reality.

Internal Communication is practised as standalone departments, through the Human Resources Department or, in some cases, no particular employee/department is saddled with that task. Whatever the case, corporates that practice Internal Communication will agree that now is a very critical time to double-down on IC activities.

CEOs, Founders, Department Heads, Team Leads need to reach out to staffers more deliberately these days and be careful of how communications are delivered to them bearing in mind that we are all fragile and dealing with one form of uncertainty or the other arising from this global pandemic; ranging from health scares to job insecurities. This is the time for leaders to tighten their girds and lead.

The COVID-19 crisis has not only impacted sales and market values but it has also changed organizations’ structures and the management of some organizations has had to make painful decisions that will change the lives of their employees. These decisions are necessary for the sustainability of the organization and it is vital that management navigate this process successfully as that will determine how their own people, those that keep the engines roaring, respond to the message.

Below are 5 practical guides on how to communicate with staffers the right way at this time.

  1. Check on your team – A lot of people have found themselves working in isolation from the norm and now under challenging conditions such as managing to get their work done and taking care of the needs of their children. Make sure your communications are conscious of employees’ real concerns and always reiterate that their mental and physical well-being is the priority of the organization.
  1. Balance head with heart – While it is vital to communicate in a clear and concise manner, it is also just as important that this is done laced with the right amount of empathy.
  1. Be accessible – This is the time for an organization’s leadership to be seen and heard by junior employees. Management should be at the forefront of all Internal Communication. This will make employees feel like they matter and can openly talk about what they are feeling.
  1. Your employees > your customers – Customers are important, yes, but your employees are just as important if not more. Just like businesses have changed the way they operate for the sake of their customers, in that same vein, organizations should also realize that just like your customers, your employees have different priorities, and different ways in which they like to be reached. It can be more effective to tailor communications channels accordingly.
  2. Communication is a two-way street – While ensuring that information regularly flows from management to the rest of the organization, it is equally important that leadership is open to feedback, critics, questions, and concerns. Depending on the structure a company operates, employees are also encouraged to, at this time, reach out to management to know how they are doing, ask how else they can help, and proffer solutions on how to keep the company afloat.

Portfolio Chatter

  • It’s time to give back! VP Portfolio company, Printivo, has launched its line of #COVID19 PPE products. For every 5 face masks sold, they’ll be giving out 1 unit to non-frontline workers like cleaners, traffic wardens, and other service providers. Learn how you can contribute here.
  • The latest episode of Decode Fintech podcast by Paystack is now available. This episode features Nkebet Mesele, Visa’s Senior Director, Solutions Management, Sub-Saharan Africa. Listen here.
  • Read this article about How COVID-19 is affecting the Financial Market” by Kudi.
  • The folks at MDaaS have put together the COVID-19 Mass Testing Guide, a step-by-step playbook on how to set up & operate a mass sample collection site in low-income areas. Read about it here.

Inside VP

  • Congratulations to VP Founding Partner, Kola Aina, on being selected for the prestigious Tutu Leadership Fellowship for 2020.
  • Read our latest press release on partnerships and support received from NCDC, LASRIC, MTN, and VP partners for Successful Startups from our #COVID19InnovationChallenge here.
  • We joined forces with key players in Nigeria’s entrepreneurship ecosystem to deliver trusted, vetted and purposeful resources to guide specific businesses and communities, as they steer their businesses through this crisis. Learn more here.

What Are We Reading?

Everything on the internet.


Are you building a market-creating innovation? We would like to know more. Apply here.


Stay safe and see you next month,

V.