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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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Series V VP Blog

Diaspora? You can own our future unicorns.

Hello there. Happy New Month! This month on Series V, we write about the potential the continent holds especially for innovators and entrepreneurs. 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.


I believe that Africa will produce Unicorns and the time to get in on the ground-floor is now.

Kola Aina
The 1970s and 80s in China were marked by uncertainty and economic reforms. This period and the decades after saw an increase in diaspora investment activity overshadowing other foreign sources of FDI to China. China’s FDI increased from US$600 million in 1983 to $40 billion in 2000, and members of its diaspora provided a whopping 70% of China’s foreign investment, from Hong-Kong to the United States.

Members of the diaspora were highly engaged in the entrepreneurial, cultural, and political growth of China. Their investments helped strengthen local enterprises that had far-reaching effects on the country’s growth. Members of the Chinese diaspora who have gained foreign degrees and professional experiences returned en-mass to play essential roles in creating and developing high technology industries and, in general, strengthening the competitive advantage of China.

The African diaspora’s contribution to the African continent is also worth noting. In 2012 alone, remittances to the continent from the diaspora were put at an estimated $60.4 billion. Back here in Nigeria, diaspora remittances already play a significant role in the formal and informal economies. In  2018 migrant remittances translated to 83% of the Nigerian Government’s budget, and approximately 11 times the FDI flows in the same period. These remittances are expected to grow from US$25.5bn in 2019 to US$34.8bn in 2023. Significant accomplishments in education and industry mark the Nigerian diaspora. The Rockefeller Foundation- Aspen Institute Diaspora program found the Nigerian Diaspora to be one of the most educated groups.
Now imagine the impact a sliver of these amounts – laced with the professional experience and global connections of our diaspora – could have in our start-up ecosystem, and not as CSR but to join us in doing well by doing good.
In January 2018, I had the privilege to speak to a room of over 500 people in a London Auditorium, mostly members of the African diaspora, I was the last in a lineup of speakers that represented various silver linings from across Africa. For the 13 or so minutes I was on that stage, I had on central message. “Africans in the diaspora need to invest in our growing startup ecosystem”. I also publicly committed my team and me to invest in 100 transformative startups over the next four years.

Since then, we have worked tirelessly on this mission to connect entrepreneurs and innovators who are building bold and urgently needed solutions in the continent with smart capital, with over 30 investments already making Ventures Platform the most prolific early-stage fund on the continent. We are also proud that our portfolio consists of category-leading companies across various verticals delivering cumulative portfolio returns over 15x today.

The title of my Ted talk that January day was, “Who will own our future unicorns?”

At Ventures Platform, we have been thinking deeply about this question. How do we get more missional, contextual, and emphatic capital investing in our startups? How might we get more members of the diaspora investing in startups across the continent?

Now you may be wondering why now? Why during COVID 2020?  Why should we keep investing in Africa? 
When the coronavirus hit earlier this year, it upended the global economy. As a consequence, less than two months later, with only 61 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) revised the continent’s growth projections downwards to 2%.

Now, before you blame it all on COVID-19, we should note that even before now, Africa has largely remained disconnected from global trade and opportunities, perhaps partly responsible for the slower rate of COVID-19 spread to the continent. Productivity remained low; infrastructure weak; systems mostly didn’t work, and inefficiencies abounded with hundreds of millions of people unable to consume goods and services they otherwise needed.

This state of affairs is primarily due to corruption, weak public institutions, as well as decades of underinvestment in critical growth drivers like education, infrastructure, and health.

Unsettling as this is, we believe that this makes a stronger case for investing in innovative digital startups. They may not be wholly recession-proof but tend to be agile enough to navigate the new operating environment. We are already seeing them benefit from a boost in user adoption and lower customer education costs as people find new ways to live, work, communicate, and various sectors take their services online. We genuinely believe in the long term potential the continent holds, especially as innovators and entrepreneurs leverage innovation to build solutions and plug the gaps created by these weak public institutions.

Moreover, the way you get out of rot is by building.
This artwork, The Black Unicorn, is displayed at our Abuja campus, Ventures Park.

This is why at Ventures Platform, we continue to invest early in mission-driven founders building capital-efficient platforms to democratize prosperity, plug infrastructural gaps, connect under-represented communities, create efficiencies, solve for non-consumption, and improve livelihoods. The companies we support have existing positive offline indicators, sustainable competitive advantage, and are led by accountable founders, and have the potential to generate $2million ARR in two years.

As we continue on our mission to “100,” we would love to partner with you as we support members of the diaspora community that are looking to join us in deploying capital and expertise in Africa.

If you would like to learn more, please fill this form here.


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


Portfolio Chatter

VP Fund’s new portfolio company, Brass, a 100% online-no walk-ins, digital bank for SMBs, has launched its bank-backed current account provider for Nigerian businesses. Visit their website to get started.

Gradely emerged winner in the Country Finals of the Mest Africa Challenge. Read about it here.

We absolutely stan an eco-friendly company. Printivo just rolled out eco-friendly product packages. Read here.

Paystack steady coming through with fire updates! Paystack has launched Pay with Transfer, a new payment channel that helps users accept payments via bank transfers from Nigeria-based customers. Read about it here. Also, click here to listen to the latest episode of Decode Fintech podcast here and read the newsletter here.

We’re super proud; can you tell? Some founders of VP Fund portfolio companies and friends of VP have been profiled as Most Powerful Young People in Technology by YNaija for #YNaijaPowerList2020. Congrats guys!

We are thrilled to be part of the Catalyst Fund Network. Read the announcement here.

Want to learn what we look out for when making a funding decision? Read this article by Tech Cabal which features Kola Aina, VP Fund founder.


Inside VP

We teamed up with Wimbart PR and TechPoint for #WimbartOfficeHours part 2, geared towards supporting early-stage startups serving Africa, in need of PR mentorship & support. Find the list of finalists here.

Solutions from our #COVID19InnovationChallenge got featured in this piece by@ayodejirotinwa. Read here – How the pandemic kickstarted a health tech renaissance in Nigeria.

Sponsored by the @ukngtechhub, Ventures Platform Foundation will host a Policy Dialogue Series on Thursday, 6th August 2020 at 11:00 AM WAT to discuss access to capital and investments for startups post-COVID-19. Register here – bit.ly/UK-NG-PDS-V2


What are we reading?

Everything on the internet… Still.


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

Iterate, Don’t Break

Hello there. Happy New Month! This month on Series V, we write about changes and speed in the growth stages in a startup. 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.


Precision beats power, timing beats speed.

Anonymous

Move fast and break things” is a famous Mark Zuckerberg quote that has been adopted into Silicon Valley lore. When we couple this with one of Amazon’s 14 leadership principles “speed matters”, along with a plethora of various principles that revolve around the same idea, it becomes pretty clear that the startup ecosystem puts emphasis that startups have to move at a breakneck speed.                                                                                                        

However, although it is incredibly important for your startup to move fast, you should try to avoid breaking things. 

Building a business is a race, occasionally a sprint, occasionally a marathon. If you find yourself in a marathon and you treat it as a sprint you’re going to run out of stamina very early on and not finish the race at all. 

So, we can see you need to move as fast as possible, but you also need to contextualize how far you need to go and how long you need to get there. So, how does a startup tell whether they’re competing in a 100-meter sprint a 10,000-meter marathon or even an Ironman triathlon?Naturally, the idea is to move as fast as possible, but if the childhood tale of the Tortoise and the Hare has taught us anything, it’s that just being faster may not necessarily get you to the finish line first. Because if you move too fast you’ll run into obstacles, sometimes these obstacles are of your own making.

Now, how do you decide what pace you need to move at, to make sure you avoid obstacles but still get to your targets as quickly as possible? The biggest thing you need to focus on, in this case, is your product and how sensitively it impacts your users. 
Take, for example, financial services. This is an industry that requires a keen sensitivity to privacy and confidentiality, as both are extremely important to building trust with users.
If you move too fast you can break that trust, and having to rebuild that trust with your users is a huge obstacle. We can see this reflected in other fields that may even have mortal impacts if they move too fast, from healthcare startups to car manufacturers, etc.
Whereas in the case of a social networking application – the likes of Twitter and the rest, making changes may not have such a substantial impact on their users as other services would; which gives them leeway to move at a much higher speed.
However, sometimes, it’s difficult to see the impact your company has so one cannot take an early industry rule and continue to apply it as the industry grows. As your company grows so will its impact, and you must recognize this and adjust your pace accordingly. 
Overall startups need to recognize the impact of their industry and their size. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in an industry that allows you to move at breakneck speeds, but as your company grows in that industry you’ll find that you’ll probably have to reduce your pace more so than smaller competitors may have to, as your actions have a greater impact. 
It’s also crucial to apply these same principles within the startup, how fast does each team need to move? What team’s decisions are going to have the greatest impact on the organization? Setting the correct pace for the organization and the teams within is extremely important. 
Ultimately, it is key to move fast as this is still a competitive landscape, but the speed you iterate at should be relative to the industry and your scale, so as to not break things and find yourself fighting various obstacles.


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


Portfolio Chatter

Great news for African creators as Paystack launches Product Links, a seller tool that allows brands to create simple, high-converting pages to sell products, display multiple images, collect delivery fees automatically, customize URL, & much more! Read the announcement here. Well done Paystack team!

Are you looking for more visibility for your business? Printivo is offering free promotional services for business. All you have to do is use the hashtag #FollowMyBiz and tag them and voila! For more information, visit here.

We’re happy to announce a new integration from Paystack. It is in collaboration with Craft SMS. To learn more about this new feature click here.

Paystack has also announced one of Africa’s first direct payment integrations with@Wix. To find out how to utilize it, click here.

RelianceHMO is currently hiring a Product Designer. To find out more about the criteria, kindly click here.

Drum rolls! We’re excited to announce that MDaaS has won an award as the Best Digital Health Solution by Pulse Nigeria for developing Sentinel X.

New feature alert! You can now pay using your dollar card on Trove Finance. To learn more about this, click here.

How are you adjusting your workforce for post COVID? See how Seamless HR can help you put your operations in order. Click here for more.


Inside VP

Ventures Platform Foundation has released its 2019 Impact Report. Read the report to learn how they have created 40,000+direct and indirect jobs – bit.ly/VPF_2019_Impact_Report

Ventures Platform turned 4 on the 6th of June 2020. We continue to say thank you to our partners, donors, program alumni, co-workers, community members, investors, mission-driven founders in our portfolio, and friends of VP! Watch our anniversary video here.

We published a piece on our stand on Sexual Harassment and the workplace. Read here.

With the support of the folks at UK-Nigeria Tech Hub, Ventures Platform Foundation will be hosting a Policy Dialogue Series on Thursday, 2nd July 2020 at 11:00 AM WAT to discuss the impact of COVID-19 crisis on startups & investors in Nigeria. Register here.

On Saturday, 4th July 2020 at 1:00 PM (GMT+1), Ventures Platform Founding Partner, Kola Aina, alongside top business leaders, Angel investors, early-stage venture capital firms, and founders will gather at Velocity_Mini (by Stanbic IBTC Founders Institute Lagos) to discuss how businesses can thrive amidst the global crisis and celebrate founders who have completed the FI Cohort II program. Register 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.

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Series V VP Blog

BUILDING A SAFER WORK ENVIRONMENT & ECOSYSTEM

Sexual harassment and the workplace

In the course of building a tech company, there are a number of things that founders focus their attention on; building the product, getting customers, recruiting employees, raising funds, etc. One thing that gets overlooked is building the right culture of the company. Company culture is the embodiment of the values and actions of the people that make up the company.

At Ventures Platform, we believe that getting your culture right isn’t by happenstance. Having the right culture means that founders and the company work continuously and deliberately on getting and maintaining the right company culture and environment.

Having a safe workplace where people can be themselves and thrive is important, not just for productivity but for the well-being of our team.

Recent happenings about sexual harassment and assault especially in the workplace have brought about an opportunity for introspection and reflection in the tech ecosystem.

Being leaders in our ecosystem, we thought it’s important to not only talk but to take action. 

Here is what we are doing at Ventures Platform;

  1. We called up our sexual harassment policy and reviewed it to ensure that it is explicit in stating our position on the matter. We have a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.
  1. We went further to encourage anyone who had experienced any form of sexual harassment in our organization to speak up. We would be working even harder to encourage and ensure that anyone can speak up and whistleblow without fear of judgment or silencing. It’ll take a team effort to build the type of company we want. 
  1. We would also be updating our recruitment onboarding process to include a more detailed session on sexual harassment and sexual conduct.
  1. We would be having periodic reorientation sessions with the team on matters of sexual conduct.
  1. Going forward we also intend to include an assessment of the startup’s policies and philosophy on sexual harassment and discrimination as part of our criteria for investment decisions and because we invest early we will work with companies in our portfolio to develop relevant policies and cultures.

Though we think this is a good start, we are open to suggestions and recommendations. We’d like to encourage other organizations to look inwards and act if they are yet to. 

If you do not have a sexual harassment policy, create one. Even if you do have one,  review it to make sure it is clear and ensures a safe environment for your team and other stakeholders. We hope that as more organizations do better, sexual harassment victims would be encouraged to speak up more, perpetrators will know there are consequences for their actions and incidents will reduce. 

We aim to keep holding ourselves to a higher standard and with others, a higher standard for the tech ecosystem.

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Series V VP Blog

Why We Remain Bullish About Africa

Hello there. Happy New Month! This month on Series V, we introduce our new investment thesis at Ventures Platform Fund in a blogpost written by Kola Aina. We love to get feedback and suggestions, you can send them here.


“We invest 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.”

Ventures Platform Fund

Last week I was privileged to deliver the keynote at TechCabal’s “Bullish on Africa” conference. 

Besides the fact that it was such an ambitious event, I also got a chance to anchor a fireside chat with the insightful Amandla Ooko-Ombaka who authored the famous Mckinsey Report on “Tackling COVID-19 in Africa.”

The stark picture it paints is best summed up by the following excerpt: “For Africa’s economies, the implications of these challenges are far-reaching. A slowdown in overall economic growth is already being felt, and this is acute in hard-hit sectors such as tourism. Many businesses, particularly SMEs, are under significant cost pressure and face potential closure and bankruptcy. That is likely to lead to widespread job losses. At the same time, the pandemic will impact productivity across many sectors. Closures of schools and universities could create longer-term human capital issues for African economies—and could disproportionately affect girls, many of whom may not return to school. Not least, the crisis is likely to reduce household expenditure and consumption significantly.”

In addition, anecdotes from various tech hubs regarding our hostile regulatory landscape and other bottlenecks have caused us to question our investment thesis at Ventures Platform.

Why should we keep investing in Africa? 

Or more aptly, why did we recently announce investments in Tambua Health, FunnelJoy, and Brass?

When the coronavirus hit earlier this year, it upended the global economy. As a consequence, less than two months later, with only 61 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) revised the continent’s growth projections downwards to 2%. Amandla’s report goes into even more detail of the impact of this growth contraction and the likely bleak economic scenarios with Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa as case studies.

Now, before you blame it all on COVID-19, we should note that even before now, Africa has largely remained disconnected from global trade and opportunities, perhaps partly responsible for the slower rate of COVID-19 spread to the continent. Productivity remained low; infrastructure weak; systems mostly didn’t work and inefficiencies abounded with hundreds of millions of people unable to consume goods and services they otherwise needed. 

This state of affairs is largely due to corruption, poor public institutions, as well as decades of underinvestment in critical growth drivers like education, infrastructure, and health.

Unsettling as this is, we believe that this makes a stronger case for investing in innovative digital startups. They may not be completely recession-proof but tend to be nimble enough to navigate the new operating environment.  In fact, they may benefit from a boost in user adoption and lower customer education costs as people find new ways to live, work, communicate and various sectors take their services online. We deeply believe in the long term potential the continent holds especially as innovators and entrepreneurs leverage innovation to build solutions and plug the gaps created by these poor public institutions. Moreover, the way you get out of rot is by building.

This is why at Ventures Platform, we continue to invest early in mission-driven founders building capital-efficient platforms to democratize prosperity, plug infrastructural gaps, connect under-represented communities, create efficiencies, solve for non-consumption, and improve livelihoods. The companies we support have existing positive offline indicators, sustainable competitive advantage, and are led by accountable founders, and have the potential to generate $2million ARR in two years. 
And so we will continue to invest in companies like Reliance HMO and MDaaS. We fund and support companies creating products and services that deliver healthcare to the last mile efficiently and affordably. 

Millions of young people are unable to access services and goods that would improve their lives and finances, so we will fund companies like Trove and PiggyVest that are innovating around enabling wealth creation and targeting non-consumption.

Over the years, African governments have under-invested in infrastructure, a situation only worsened by endemic corruption. This is why we will fund companies like Send that aim to bridge infrastructural gaps and enable African companies to efficiently participate in global commerce.

African innovation is grossly under-represented globally, this is why we invest in companies like FunnelJoy. Likewise, communities within Africa remain mostly offline and disconnected from critical financial services, as such we will invest in platforms like CrowdForce and Kudi.

Africa urgently needs to democratize prosperity, and companies like Paystack are building infrastructure for this with platforms like ThriveAgric helping thousands of farmers become more prosperous.

We will seek out companies that are capital-efficient, have a clear path to monetization, led by founders with a unique insight into the market, are mission-driven, and have a deep-rooted desire to win.

So going forward we are excited to partner with entrepreneurs building early-stage companies in the following verticals;

  1. Financial Services and Insurance– While we have had advancements in digital banking solutions, lending, money transfer, we expect to see a lot more advancement around wealth management, digital currencies, remittance, B2B oriented solutions such as Digital SMB banking, and insurance products that help people better manage uncertainty.
  2. Life Science and Health Tech– We have a broken healthcare system, and as such, it has become increasingly difficult for everyday individuals to access and afford quality healthcare services. We are seeking companies transforming the way we diagnose health issues, access healthcare, pay for it, and experience it; companies providing tools that help healthcare providers become more efficient and cost-effective.
  3. Edtech and Digital talent accelerators  – Schools (Primary – Tertiary) need to be able to deliver classes, administer tests, gauge and track performance, engage the student community online. No single event should affect the delivery of education as severely as this has. As the revenue of companies dwindles globally, companies would seek new ways to reduce their cash burn whilst maintaining or improving outcomes. They would search for more cost-effective ways to deliver their products and services. This presents a huge opportunity for organizations providing skilled digital-native talent, as they can outsource this talent to companies across the world at a significantly lower cost.
  4. Enterprise SaaS – Businesses of all sizes are increasingly looking to better manage their business process, sales, and teams. Companies that were not leveraging software tools before now, will begin to do so. Consequently, they will optimize their process, reduce burn, and massively increase productivity and revenue.
  5. Digital Infrastructure Plays– Companies building digital rails and networks needed for the optimal operation of industries, enterprises, and more broadly speaking societies. 
  6. AgriTech and Food security– Africa needs to move towards food security and sustainability. We need to leverage data and technology to massively increase production, reduce waste, and improve the whole agricultural value chain.

    If you are a mission-driven founder, building a capital-efficient business that democratizes prosperity, plugs infrastructural gaps, connects underrepresented communities, creates efficiencies, solves for non-consumption, and improves livelihoods, we would love to talk to you.

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


Portfolio Chatter

Guess what? Printivo has launched the first edition of their magazine, ‘Thrive.’ It encapsulates quality content with a focus on business growth and brand building. ⁣ Click here to get a soft copy.

It is important that you stay safe even as businesses re-open. That is why Printivo is delivering personal protective wears across Nigeria with different customization options. Click here to get your swag on.

Join the CEO and Co-founder of Paystack, Shola Akinlade, in a fireside chat with OfferZen tomorrow Tuesday 2nd June 2020 at 5:30 PM WAT. Sign up for free here.

During this trying time, MDaaS Global has intensified its effort to flatten the curve. They embarked on a week-long screening of patients and collecting #COVID19 samples at the Ogun State Walk-In & Drive-Through Testing Centre! Read more about their effort here.

Over the past couple of months, Trove users have traded more than One Billion Naira on the platform. Way to go Trove! Read more here.

Saltbox is currently hiring a Community Operations Manager. Click here to see the requirements.


Inside VP

Ventures Park is back! Read all about the measures they have taken to ensure the safety of staff and co-workers alike here.

Join Kola Aina and industry captains from across Africa as they discuss skills African graduates need for a post-COVID-19 world. Date: Wednesday, 3rd of June 2020 Time: 2:00 PM WAT Click here to register.

Last month, we hosted Jason Njoku at a webinar where he talked about swinging for the fences: taking bold bets and doubling down on growth. Find the webinar recording here.

Innovators from the COVID-19 Innovation Challenge received their MTN Hyflexnet Modems with 6 months unlimited data . Read 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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.