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 –

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,


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