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Series V VP Blog

Nigerian Tech Community Fights Back Against SARS Tech Leaders

Nigerian Tech Community Fights Back Against SARS; Tech Leaders Consider Legal Action Against Illegal Arrests of Software Engineers

Monday 30 September 2019. Lagos, Nigeria. Nigeria’s technology leaders have launched #StopRobbingUs, a campaign to put an end to the common practice where Nigerian police stop young people with laptops and unlawfully arrest, attack or, in extreme circumstances, kidnap them, forcing them to withdraw funds from their bank accounts in order to regain their freedom. Working alongside Enough is Enough Nigeria [EiE], a network of individuals and organisations that promote good governance and public accountability in Nigeria, the #StopRobbingUs movement is now considering a Class Action Lawsuit on police brutality.

Led by ‘Bosun Tijani of CcHUB, Jason Njoku of IROKO, Iyin “E” Aboyeji of Future. Africa and Oluyomi Ojo of Printivo, amongst others, the campaign is calling for the Federal Government of Nigeria to intervene in the continued practice of illegally arresting and extorting young people in Nigeria who work in the technology sector. A fundraiser has been launched by Flutterwave to raise money for a legal intervention and public awareness programme, which has already seen donations flooding in from across the globe.

The #StopRobbingUs campaign comes after Toni Astor, a Lagos-based software engineer, posted on Twitter a harrowing account of his encounter with Special Anti-Robbery Squad [SARS] officers in Ketu, Lagos. During his ordeal on Saturday 28th September, Astor was allegedly publicly intimidated, arrested, beaten and extorted, in order to secure his freedom. News of SARS officers (Nigeria Police and all tactical units) targeting software engineers is a frequent occurrence in Lagos and this is the latest in a string of attacks. Today’s news builds on the larger #EndSARS movement that has rocked Nigeria over the last year, which has used social media to appeal for an end to the frequent robberies of Nigerians, by security operatives who are supposed to protect them.

‘Bosun Tijani, CEO CcHUB says, “Our ask is simple. Stop arresting our colleagues. This is an ongoing concern for Nigeria’s tech community. A talent problem already exists in our sector, yet police, particularly SARS’ harassment, accentuates the talent drain in our industry. This is the central issue for jobs and youth empowerment in Nigeria and the continued, illegal attacks on our country’s young people should be treated as a national emergency. Beyond its pro-innovation rhetoric, the Nigerian government continues to turn a blind eye to the robbery and psychological intimidation of young tech talent.

“We are social innovators, entrepreneurs, engineers and business leaders who work in Nigeria’s technology and innovation sector. Over the last few decades, we have collectively helped to build an innovative, highly respected tech industry that has elevated Nigeria on the global stage and demonstrated that young Nigerians can do great things. The bedrock of our industry is Nigeria’s young and ambitious technology talent. They drive our operations, build our products, serve our customers and solve difficult problems for society everyday. Without this talent, our industry would not exist. Nigeria’s tech community is mobilizing, and fast. Collectively, we have remained silent for too long. As of now, our voice will be deafening, and we plan to see the #StopRobbingUs campaign through to the very end.”

In an online statement, Jason Njoku, CEO IROKO called for “a robust and concerted legal effort” to combat SARS’ indiscriminate attacks on Nigeria’s young technology workers. The tech community is now mobilizing to deliver this, working alongside key partners including EiE, Segun Awosanya (@Segalink), government bodies and the police. The fundraising effort backed by Flutterwave has already seen donations in excess of N11,000,000 million (~$30,000) in less than 24hours, with funds still flooding in. The company’s CEO, Olugbenga Agboola, has stated that the payments platform will “waive all charges on the payment link.”

Nigeria is Africa’s most valuable tech ecosystem, with 400–700 startups worth $2billion according to startup genome report and last year alone, the country attracted $306m in tech investment, according to a report by Partech.

Named tech leaders of the campaign include: Bosun Tijani, Jason Njoku Oluyomi Ojo, Olumide “D.O” Olusanya, Adetunji Eleso, Odunayo Eweniyi, Adewale Yusuf, Tayo Oviosu, Jessica Hope, Chinedu Azodoh, Editi Effiong, Damilola Teidi-Ayoola, Femi Longe, Idris Ayodeji Bello, Jay Alabraba, Kola Aina, Shola Akinlade, Gbenga Agboola, Mark Essien, Sim Shagaya, Aanu Adeoye, Tomiwa Aladekomo, Benjamin Dada, Shola Adekoya, Oo Nwoye, Prosper Otemuyiwa, Nelson Olaonipekun, Dele Bakare, Ngozi Dozie, Chijioke Dozie.


For interviews with ‘Bosun Tijani contact Jessica Hope — [email protected] or Bemi Idowu — [email protected] of Wimbart

Categories
VP Blog

Invest in Process? Here is Why.

Processes turn startups into legacy companies.

So I met this young enterprising and energetic fellow in one of my design thinking classes. He walked up to me after class and asked for help with business growth. He runs a food delivery service and has been running it for 6 years but the business has been stagnant; pretty much revolving around the same customers and barely making profits. He looked really tired because he came from his office to class and he said that the business still revolves around him and the team cannot deliver as he would.

Small companies (startups) are companies at the seed-stage. During this stage, they experience a lot of learning, testing and make mistakes until they reach product-market fit then exit the startup phase. This exit is possible because the company can replicate itself and its product or service in many places as they want. It is just like recipes that enable anyone anywhere to make dishes, without the recipe nobody can produce the results expected. Startups experience some growth when they are small, but fail to sustain this growth and cannot be successful at a large scale because they don’t have processes that are easily replicable.

Before you continue to read this article, you must first get rid of the perception (that’s if you have it) that processes stifle creativity, innovation and that it is an administrative burden. Yes, most organizational processes can be nerve-wracking and frustrating, but not all are and it doesn’t mean that processes should be gotten rid of, but processes can be designed in a manner that allows innovation & creativity to thrive and it’s not burdensome.

  1. The first reason why you must invest in process is that it is one of the key legs your business needs to grow. Just like a table needs four legs to stand. Every business needs four legs as well: Purpose, People, Process and Metrics. Processes turn startups into legacy companies. Growth means you have attained a product-market fit and you have a business model that can be replicated to acquire more customers in more places. To do this efficiently means you will need to set standards in place so your success is easily replicated without compromising on your values and competitive advantage as you grow.
  2. The second reason is, and if you think about it, that without documented processes, owners must rely on employees to pass on relevant information or to carry out tasks in a particular way; and information can get lost in transmission. Documenting processes as Standard Operating Procedures in a manner that is concise, easy to understand and accessible gets everyone on the same page and makes it easy to follow.
  3. Thirdly, having documented processes and, starting to do this early, makes scaling easier. You can onboard new staff, therefore, saving time, energy and brainpower to rethink and communicate operational activities repeatedly. Also, it soon becomes second nature to your staff that their results and work style can be predicted in alignment with the company’s expectations.
  4. The fourth reason is one way to measure the success of a company is if the company can grow with or without the founder. With processes in place, the founder doesn’t need to be there all the time. The operational system of the business can work without him or her. So, the student I spoke of earlier needs help with setting up Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to reduce his stress and prepare him for scale. Think about the founders of legacy companies who have died and their products are the same or even better?
  5. It helps with decision making and problem-solving. With the right protocols and standards, you minimize the occurrence of problems and make sound decisions that assure you that circumstances don’t force your hand against your ethos. You are almost predictable in a good way. Rather than take advantage of you, your customers, partners, and investors will respect you for it and comply just as much as they expect you to comply with them.
  6. Lastly, it ensures that your company maintains its core values, its soul, efficiency and attains predictable results, even as it grows. Think about any globally relevant company and you will understand what I mean.

What will sustain growth are processes and they usually take the shape of Standard Operating Procedures that do not necessarily have to be long, boring documents. Processes should be clearly outlined, easy to understand, innovative, accessible, promote creativity, flexible, and most importantly inclusive to ensure ownership and compliance.

It is one thing to translate your vision into a product or service and then into a business model that makes sense. It’s another thing to translate your vision into a repeatable and teachable business process for scale. Process is as important as product development, business modeling and measuring results. Invest in it if you want to grow!

Adaeze Sokan is the Programs Director at Ventures Platform. She designs and coordinates the implementation of programs and processes that helps entrepreneurs grow.

Categories
Series V

Boring Things That Makes Startups Fail

“An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down.”― Reid Hoffman

Successfully starting and growing a startup is probably one of the most arduous undertakings on the planet. Typically, building a startup requires coming up with an idea that solves a problem, validating it, developing and testing prototypes, gaining traction, getting investment and working to scale the startup- all the while dealing with uncertainty, late nights, and overcoming the hurdles that arise when going through the stages of the startup lifecycle.

Startups are meant to grow rapidly and the mechanics required for this means that they should be able to innovate quickly and flexibly adapt in response to their environments. These necessities are evident in the makeup of most startups: small team size with a non-hierarchical, largely unstructured and informal form that engenders fast communication and decision-making. Many of the most successful startups in the world are evidence of the power of this model- a close-knit team buoyed by innovation, grit and a shared vision, working together to build a company that changes the world.

For many early-stage startup founders, this model is a frame of reference, a motivator, and a necessity. Startup founders thus tend to eschew structure and processes, viewing it as a hamper to the innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and ownership that bolsters startups in their early days. The implication of this is that usually, during a startup’s nascency, structures such as HR, legal, procurement, and accounting are largely non-existent.

Once a startup starts to grow in team size, investment and scale, however, the cracks that inherently accompany an unstructured organization start to come to the fore and deficiencies in structure begin to affect organizational performance. In some cases, chaotic operations and unpredictable performances in startups have led to combustion from within.

Based on experience, there are a number of areas that startups need to particularly focus on and develop a strategy for so as to be in good stead to avoid the negatives that accompany the absence of structure and processes in an organization:

  • Human resources
  • Accounting and book-keeping
  • Legal compliance

Human Resources: As more and more people join a startup, things that were previously easy such as communication, common knowledge, and decision-making begin to become more challenging.[1] Founders thus need to be strategic in their approach to managing the people who comprise the organization. For one, startups in their early stages are typically comprised of generalists that are able to carry out a wide range of functions in order to meet objectives. However, as the team size expands, it becomes necessary to define roles and expectations, hire specialists in select functions and demarcate team units.

Accounting and book-keeping: In the early days of a startup, accounting and book-keeping are not as integral as say, developing an MVP, however, as the startup grows, it is imperative that accounting and book-keeping measures are instituted in order to ensure that the startup is able to track all financial records, as well as interpret financial records that will serve as the basis for activities such as paying the right amount of taxes and making strategic business decisions based on numbers.

Legal Compliance: Legal compliance and its importance is often overlooked by some early-stage startups due to a lack of awareness of existing laws. Failure to adequately ensure legal compliance can affect a startup in many ways including; attractiveness to potential investors, issues with cap table and equity, as well as issues with intellectual property and regulatory authorities.

“Organization is the devil’s work” — Linda Medley

To avoid the pitfalls that arise due to a lack of structure, it is imperative that founders are cognizant of the beneficial role of structure and processes in startups, keeping a finger on the pulse of the startup and increasingly instituting structure as the startup grows. The differing needs and context of startups mean that there is no one-size fits all approach to instituting structures and processes, as such, it is advisable that startups:

  • Speak to experienced founders who have successfully grown startups
  • Develop a structure and process culture using DIY technology tools
  • Speak to experts that can provide specialist advice

Speak to experienced founders who have successfully grown startups: Founders of successful startups are likely to have experience of instituting structure and processes in their startups and might be able to provide anecdotal insight on the intricacies involved. By talking to them, early-stage founders are able to learn from the experiences of their more experienced peers.

Develop a structure and process culture using DIY technology tools: In the early stages of a startup, a lack of resources usually means that specialist functions such as accounting cannot be hired for. However, founders can instill a culture of structure and process by introducing the use of DIY tools to carry out these functions. Accounteer, for instance, is a simple accounting software that helps entrepreneurs to create invoices, track expenses and receive online payments.

Speak to experts that can provide specialist advice: By speaking to experts, startups are able to get tailored specialist advice on how to institute structure and processes in their startups. Ventoven- a sister company of Ventures Platform- is a shared services company that focuses on providing advisory and services in the areas of HR, Accounting, Procurement, IT and Audit to startups.

As stated at the beginning of this article, successfully starting and growing a startup is no mean feat. While it is tempting for founders to fall in love with the informality and flexibility that are the hallmarks of a startup in its early days, it is essential to ensure that the appropriate structures and processes are instituted in the startup as they become necessary. For startups, humble beginnings make for a great story but true greatness lies in the ability to adapt, transcend and radically change paradigms. Doing this requires cohesiveness and long term thinking that can only be achieved through efficient structures and processes.


[1] “Taking the Mystery out of Scaling a Company — Andreessen Horowitz.” 2 Aug. 2010, https://a16z.com/2010/08/02/taking-the-mystery-out-of-scaling-a-company/.


Inside VP

ARM presented equity free funding of N3Million to the 6 participating companies of their corporate acceleration program, LabsByArm.

The participating companies were Asusu Technology Limited, PayDayInvestor, FINT, Think First Technologies Ltd, Trove Finance, and Tsaron Technologies. Read more here.


Portfolio Chatter

Congratulations to VP portfolio company mdaas global on closing their latest funding round to power the next chapter of growth.

Congratulations to VP portfolio company Kudi as they hit 1B Naira in daily transaction value! Read here.

VP portfolio company, Printivo has introduced Thrive. Thrive is about sharing the ideas and the secrets of making small businesses great. Read about it here.

VP portfolio company, VertoFX wrote about Bridging the International Business Corridor in Africa. Its an insightful 3 minutes read.


What are we reading?

Lessons from Keith Rabois Essay 4: How to run an Effective Board Meeting and make an Effective Board Deck. Read here.

Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow. Read here.


See you next month,

V.

Categories
VP Blog

Infrastructural Support for Tech-Startups through Tech Hubs

Today’s article was written by Gift Agboro, Our Google Policy Fellow. This is especially for startups, policy makers and stakeholders in the tech ecosystem. Please forward to a friend and share on your social media. As always, we love to get feedback and suggestions, you can send them here. Happy reading!

Infrastructural Support for Tech-Startups through Tech Hubs

“Nigeria has vast digital possibilities and with the right policies and infrastructure, the balance could tilt significantly, raising millions out of poverty while moving Nigeria to the standout league”. [1]

The Nigerian tech-ecosystem can be characterized by the robust increase in tech-startups, investors, venture capitalists, and tech/innovation hubs. According to Disrupt Africa’s Startup Funding Report for 2018, Nigerian startups led the bulk of investment on the continent in 2018 with 58 startups raising a total of $94.9 million from various sectors.

The 2018 “Tech Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Nigeria” report reveals that the innovation hubs and accelerator programs are the strongest links of the Nigerian Tech ecosystem. Innovation hubs are seen to be social communities, work-space or centers that provide knowledge, strategic innovation and support for startups. Hence, providing infrastructural support for hubs would invariably support startups using technology to solve a problem.

However, “Nigeria struggles with fundamental infrastructure problems that overshadow most of the initiatives undertaken to foster tech-entrepreneurship.” Also, the Economic and Business report for February 2018, the Financial Directives Company (FDC), stated that the under-investment in infrastructure in Nigeria over the years had widened the infrastructural gap across the country.

An article published by Punch, reveals that “Nigeria’s under-investment in infrastructure left it with a core stock of infrastructure of just 20 percent to 25 percent of Gross Domestic Product, compared to an average of 70 percent of the GDP for more advanced middle-income countries of similar size. Which brings to bear, the precarious situation in the infrastructural space in Nigeria as compared to more advanced countries.

A 2019 research and needs assessment exercise carried out by Ventures Platform revealed three top infrastructural pain-points faced by innovation hubs in Nigeria to include: “Poor Broadband Internet Penetration”, “High cost of internet service” and “Erratic Electricity Supply”.

On Erratic Electricity Supply

Across the power sector value chain, the infrastructure from generating electricity to transmission and distribution is grossly inadequate. Even if power generation goes above the 5,073 MW threshold, the transmission system is yet to be optimized.

²

A look at the government’s plan to reverse and reposition the electricity sector shows that government budgetary provision is grossly inadequate. The budgetary allocation of N85.9 billion is far from what the government needs to do in the immediate to reposition the sector towards growth. [3]

On Poor Broadband Internet Penetration and High cost of internet

In 2018, the Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) announced the harmonized right of way charges across the country. This would require that telecom operators be required to pay N145 per meter to lay fiber cable anywhere in the country as opposed to N4,000-N5,000.

Despite this welcome development, some states still implore indiscriminate charges on Right of Way of about N1,500-N5,000 per meter. It is believed that the refusal to adopt this harmonized charges, could amount to withdrawal of telecom operators in laying fiber-optic across the country as it would be expensive for them to lay. The cause of action could amount to poor-internet penetration which may invariably translate to high cost of internet.

With high costs of internet, it would be difficult and in some cases too expensive for tech hubs to carry-out their day to day activities, one of which is supporting startups within their community who need internet.

Policy Recommendations:

In order to create an enabling environment for tech-startups to thrive in Nigeria, Ventures Platform organized the fifth edition of the Ecosystem Dialogue Series (EDS) themed “Infrastructural Support for Tech-Startups through Tech Hubs”.

The objective of this edition was to discuss challenges and policy recommendations to provide infrastructural support for startups by strengthening tech hubs as well as encourage wide-ecosystem policy participation to enhance policy intervention.

To address infrastructural problems stated above, recommendations gleaned from the event included: the need for Government to refocus its efforts at developing the country’s renewable energy potential, to serve as an alternative source for the increase in power generation. Also, the Government should adopt the public-private partnership approach that enables collaboration between government through its agencies and the private sector through service providers with the aim to provide infrastructural support for startups through tech hubs. In line with this, Government through such partnership with the private sector can provide sustainable, cost-effective infrastructure at innovation hubs and workspaces. Subsidized electricity generation, high-speed internet connectivity, designating vacant government buildings in the heart of tech-clusters for the use of innovation hubs.

The private sector can play a pivotal role in improving the power and internet situation. By focusing on creating a more enabling environment, the government will help enable greater private sector financing. Creating a policy framework that would ensure returns on investment in the sector would go a long way in assuring potential investors. [5]

Such partnerships with the private sector can be seen in countries such as France, South Africa and the United Kingdom(UK) where they exist partnerships between tech hubs and mobile operators as seen particularly with Orange, MTN, and Vodafone respectively.

Another key recommendation was the need for innovation hubs to form a strong support network amongst themselves to tackle these challenges.

Conclusion:

We can safely say that while the Nigeria Tech-Ecosystem is growing with full potential, there is still room for more growth and infrastructural development to meet up with international best practices as well as to set herself on par with other countries such as India which had readily created an enabling environment through its #StartupIndia policy.

The role of key stakeholders in government, academia, entrepreneurship, private sector and civil society groups can not be overemphasized. Hence, the “gospel” on private-public partnership does not only need to be preached but also implemented across the country.


¹ http://bit.ly/31Bm215 ² http://bit.ly/2wWv4Yt ³ http://bit.ly/2Im0ttF

http://bit.ly/2IlbZp6http://bit.ly/2x0wfGo

Categories
VP Blog

Digital Explorers: A Journey of talent development and knowledge transfer.

A huge portion of Nigeria’s teeming youth population is unemployed. More than 8 million of them, at the last count. The thought of that many young people milling about with nothing to do is unnerving. If nothing is done, bad things could happen. With an economy largely dependent on dwindling oil revenues and barely managing to stay a few decimal points off an official recession, it is difficult to forecast that the situation gets better soon. I sincerely hope it gets better. But this source of anxiety is also our biggest opportunity. Our young population are a much more valuable asset than crude oil could ever be. All we have to do is, well, find them jobs.

What jobs, you ask? I’ll get to that in a bit. Before that, let’s talk about how the global demand for digital talent, as foretold by this 2013 report by Capgemini Consulting continues to grow, and how the supply can hardly keep up. This demand has fueled the rise of businesses that recruit, train, and hire out digital talent to companies across the world. One of such businesses is Andela which has assessed more than one hundred thousand applicants, hired over a thousand software developers, and integrated these developers into hundreds of companies including Safaricom, Percolate, and InVision. Today, Andela has raised $180 million and recruits talent from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and most recently, Rwanda. But all of that began in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2014, out of a nondescript building in Yaba.

Andela was the first to demonstrate, at scale, what could happen if you matched Nigerian talent with global opportunity. But the evidence of Nigerian excellence finding global demand continues to multiply. Nigeria is the fourth fastest growing developer community on the Github platform. Nigerian startups account for nearly half of the African ventures that have made it into Ycombinator (a leading startup accelerator). 6 out of 7 of the African startups in 2019 Winter Class are in fact Nigerian.

Today, the stories of Nigerian developers and creatives getting recruited by global tech and software companies are a daily staple of my Twitter timeline. But I suspect that there are even more stories of developers who work for foreign companies and do so quietly from right here in Nigeria. Sure, it doesn’t sound as enchanting as a fancy relocation to Europe or North America, but the implications are no less life-changing for those getting these jobs. They get to work with world class teams and earn multiples of any salary they would ordinarily be able to earn locally.

This brings me back to the question of jobs I alluded to earlier. We need to create a lot of them, as fast as we can. And these jobs don’t necessarily all need to be in Nigeria.

At Ventures Platform, besides investing, we do a lot of work that supports entrepreneurship, “intrapreneurship” (the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organization) and capacity-building. In October 2018, we were visited by a high-level delegation from Lithuania led by the Afriko team, who wanted to learn more about what we do. Our teams had several conversations, and I eventually found myself on a plane headed to an obscure country in the Baltics that I knew little more about than I had picked up in books.

Eugenija, Kola, Renata, and Aurelija at Rise Vilnius (a fintech hub and co-working space in Lithuania).

As an economic case study, Lithuania is fascinating, going from communist roots to a free market that is friendly to multinationals and is increasingly powered by a vibrant technology sector leveraging emerging technologies in transport, banking/fintech, e-commerce, e-government, and lots more.

Now that I was in Lithuania, the original idea that had come up in our initial interactions with the Afriko-led delegation during their visit to Abuja, made even more sense. Here was an opportunity to facilitate a symbiotic relationship of talent and knowledge transfer between both our countries, and that is how we conceptualized and set in motion the Digital Explorers program.

How the Digital Explorers Program works is simple:

  1. The program connects Nigerian digital talent — developers, creatives, and tech business developers — to ICT companies in Lithuania.
  2. The ones who make it into the program get to work, learn, and earn in Lithuania for one year. Digital Explorers from Nigeria can choose the type of training they receive, the company they will work in, and really experience the local ICT culture from the inside.
  3. At the end of the program, the Digital Explorers return to Nigeria with all the knowledge and connections they’ve acquired, and through the reintegration program managed by Ventures Platform will be in a vantage position to access strong local employment opportunities in Nigeria, work for Lithuanian companies remotely or start their own companies altogether.

Applications to the first cohort wrapped up on the 1st of April, and we are looking forward to welcoming the successful applicants this month of May.

Mante, Eugenija, Adaeze, and Mimshach at Ventures Platform Abuja-Nigeria engaging developers on the Digital Explorers Project.

I realize that it is easy for some people to get carried away and see this as an opportunity to “leave Nigeria”. This is most assuredly not necessarily the case or at least our intention. There’s also others who are afraid of “brain drain”, but they need to look at the bigger picture of how these sorts of talent exchanges have a net positive impact on the economy.

First of all, this is about upskilling the next generation of Nigerian entrepreneurs and knowledge workers with global networks and connections. Our Digital Explorers will be working side by side amazing people, on world class teams, building products and services for global clients, and spending a lot of time in structured learning and networking activities. Also, through the reintegration component of the program, they will be bringing their skills and experience to bear on Nigerian problems and leveraging their global networks to attract funding and the best talent. Looked at from a certain perspective, the people who make it into the Digital Explorers program are effectively being paid to learn and acquire world class skills. You know what’s not free? Sending young Nigerians to study abroad. Every year, Nigerians spend over $2 billion on foreign student education.

Second of all, diaspora remittances are huge.

An excerpt from Stears Business:

“Typically, Nigerians living abroad remit (send) money to friends and family back home. According to the World Bank, in 2017, the diaspora remitted $22 billion back to Nigeria, equivalent to our total crude oil earnings. In essence, Nigeria receives as much money from its diaspora as it does from crude oil, the backbone of its economy.”

Our Digital Explorers will be earning in Euros, and their remuneration will be on par with the pay that workers in their respective Lithuanian tech companies earn. Here’s how E puts it — “get the guys out, get the remittances in”.

Of course, our guys are coming back.

I am not deluded that there is a ton of ready-made talent running around, waiting to be scooped up and plugged into these opportunities. There is the fact that most of those 8 million unemployed youth cannot find jobs because of deep-seated societal, economic and educational dysfunction. If we fixed education, the argument over the pros and cons of people leaving Nigeria would be moot ab initio, because there would be lots of talent to take the place of the ones that leave. That is unfortunately not yet the case. And no long term effort to build a secure future can ignore the fact that we will have to be deliberate about the foundational work that must happen to educate the next generation. It is one thing to upskill people to world class, and match them to global opportunities. But the underlying work, which is obviously even harder, investing in and building the systems and infrastructure that create world class talent, at scale. That is why Ventures Platform is forging long-term partnerships with communities like Forloop and initiatives like NESA ( a VP portfolio company) to, like Emeka Afigbo puts it, boil the ocean.

The road to 8 million jobs is going to be a long one. One that will require a lot of innovative thinking and the will to try new things, from the government on the one hand, and the private/innovation ecosystem on the other.

Our government needs to realize that we are at crisis point and urgently begin to revamp the education system, including overhauling the entire curriculum and teaching methods to make it fit for the new economy. As I explain here, priority must be placed on developing the digital economy by the federal and state governments.

The Digital Explorers program is private sector attempt to tackle this from the other end, and everyone from Nigeria and Lithuania who helped conceive and design it is putting a hundred and fifty percent into it. I’m grateful that my team and I get to be a part of it, and can’t wait to see what we can learn and accomplish. To learn more about the program please visit the program website at: www.digitalexplorers.eu

For the people who make it into the program, you have an exciting journey ahead of you. Please, fasten your seatbelts.

Thanks to my friends and colleagues; Adia Sowoh, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Dotun Olowoporoku, Adaeze Sokan, Akintunde Oyebode, Feyi Fawehinmi, Bankole Oluwafemi, Ola Orekunrin, Ukot Umezinne and OO Nwoye, for reading early drafts of this essay.

I will also like to appreciate the consortium of partners that have made Digital Explorers a reality; the European Union, ICMPD, Enterprise Lithuania, AfriKo, Diversity Development Group, Code Academy and the Ventures Platform team.

By Kola A.

Categories
Series V

Questions about consumer lending.

Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

Nigeria is still a ‘cash-and-carry’ economy. Most consumers and small business owners and operators largely depend and rely on their savings and support from friends and relations to obtain funds to start and grow their businesses, and as a result, Nigeria is lagging behind in the consumer credit scene. Formal lending to consumers is still relatively low. To give an idea, Credit penetration in Nigeria is still below 30 per cent, while the average for Africa is 57 per cent. The global average is 132 per cent.

“Nigeria has 22 commercial banks, over 900 microfinance banks, about 100 primary mortgage banks. Nigeria has not experienced the kind of consumer credit you will expect.” — Tunde Popoola, MD, CRC FICO score.

It is hard to project credit demand in the coming years because of a number of hindrances — refusal to embrace new lending business models by banks; information asymmetry; data scarcity, but the proliferation of mobile creates opportunities for new companies to fill this gap (startups like BillionLoans, Klarna, Paylater, and Branch use hundreds of data points to approve a credit decision) etc. The result? There’s a new consumer lending startup showing up every day — and for good reason.

Mckinsey reports that 53% of income earners in Africa are between 16–34 — an age group that tends to be more aware and willing to try new products. They are in school, renting their first apartment, starting new families, etc. They are not just young; they are growing in importance and willing to spend.

This begs the question:

  • What is going to drive growth in this scene and this part of the globe?
  • How high does the ceiling go?
  • Who are the borrowers today?
  • How will their needs evolve?
  • Do the same solutions work across segments?
  • How might this work without smartphones? Can it even?

Usually, consumer lending startups serve those who have steadily growing income but are underserved by banks. The average consumer’s banking relationship is dominated by making payments, but banks are doing little about it (as this Twitter thread shows).

Given that the primary means of identification is BVN which is dependent on having a bank account, the majority of people are excluded. How then do we expand access? The national ID card often takes years to get a hold of, so, how do we verify identities? Should we push for a unified software platform like indiastack (Aadhar)? What are the broader, ethical, implications of this?

How about moving beyond credit for white goods and into other segment-specific solutions like healthcare? For example, unplanned health emergencies are one of the single largest cost for many middle and lower-middle-income families.

For FinTech startups, the big questions are around strategy, choice of segments; bottom of the pyramid, middle or top? Use cases, and distribution approaches. Pick too small a section — no matter how innovative — and it may be hard to monetize. The good news is that there are real use cases, large addressable markets, and viable economic models for the truly innovative.


Access opportunities at VP’s portfolio companies. If you want to join an early-stage startup fill out this application and our founders will be able to get in touch with you.

Categories
VP Blog

The Art of the Pitch (Part 2)

Designing a great pitch deck

“A picture is worth a thousand words”

A well-designed pitch deck enhances your story, creates images in the minds of your listeners and makes it easier for them to grasp what you are talking about.

Following my previous write up on “How to pitch”, I will share a few pieces of advice I give to companies on how to design a great deck.

Things to note:

  • One idea per slide. Please repeat, One idea per slide. Don’t put different pieces of information on one slide. If you are talking about the problem, do that on a slide, when you talk about the solution, do that on a different slide.
  • Use pictures rather than words where possible. Work with images, icons, diagrams to represent what you would have said in words
  • Minimize the number of words on a slide. More than 7 words on a slide is too many, you want people to follow what you are saying and not get distracted by the excessive texts on your slide
  • When using bullet points, animate them so they come in one after the other. That way, you can explain one before moving to the other.
  • Use a common font, that is generally available on most computers, that way if your slide is displayed on a different computer it doesn’t mess it up.
  • Make sure the fonts are large enough and use primary colours, they are easy to read.
  • Put important text at the top of your slide not the bottom. That way it’s easier for people to read even if they are seated at the back.
  • Avoid jargons.
  • Avoid complicated graphs. The purpose of graphs is to make displayed information simple to understand not the other way around. Except your goal is to confuse the audience.
  • Place your logo on every slide. Tip: by placing it on the master page, it appears on all other pages.
  • White background is bae; colours, images, texts and graphs appear better on a white background.And lastly remember to practice, practice, practice and after you have practiced, practice some more.

Bonus Point- let the most compelling speaker on the team pitch, it doesn’t have to be the CEO.

Categories
Series V

Thanks to you; 2016 was awesome!

In 2016 we had lots of fun and got some stuff done. Some stats;

  • 3850 cups of coffee
  • 755 Visitors
  • 204 Start-up founders
  • 103 Co-workers
  • 63 office hour sessions
  • 12 Techpreneurship events
  • 7 Incubated companies

VP Hybrid-Incubation Program

  • On June 3rd 2016 Ventures Platform Hub was officially opened by the Honourable Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu with a mission to “become the most ideal community in Africa for nurturing disruptive and financially sustainable technology ventures that also have a social impact” — long for “becoming the most awesome start-up Launchpad.”

Honourable Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, cutting the yellow tape.

Almost immediately, the incubation team swung to action and opened the applications for the first cohort #VPHub1. Combing through well-over 500 applications from across Africa was interesting. After 2 application stages including video pitches, final interviews were held in Lagos and Abuja.

  • 7 start-ups were selected for Cohort 1: Jalo, Lizzie’s Creations, Mobile Forms Africa, PayConnect, ProTeach, Wesabi, DriversNG.
  • The program officially started on the 19th of September 2016. During the program we provided work & living space, invested in, coached, shared with, challenged and stressed the hell-out of the very awesome founders in Cohort1. We also learnt lots from them to make the program better.
  • We were very fortunate to have 20 amazing mentors and 5 advisors be an integral part of the program, sacrificing their scarce time to support the founders. We owe our mentors and advisors everything, they are the true MVPs!
  • As of today all our start-ups have shown healthy traction and are making good revenues. 2 of the 7 startups have gained international recognition, representing Nigeria in SLUSH Global Impact Accelerator in Finland (PayConnect), and at the African Entrepreneurship Awards in Morocco (Wesabi). Together, our start-ups have now cumulatively reached 8,756 new customers and counting.

VP In the ecosystem.

Between working with our 7 companies, we also found some time to do good in the ecosystem.

  • Working with SLUSH Global Impact Accelerator (Europe’s leading start-up and technology event) was an awesome experience culminating in one of our incubated companies — Payconnect and Adaeze Sokan of Ventures Platform representing Nigeria in Helsinki Finland.
  • We hosted the Aso Villa Demo Day (AVDD) boot camp. This was an interesting one!
  • An august-visitor, Michael Seibel — CEO of Y Combinator came calling while on his international tour and held office hours at VP for the startup community in Abuja and beyond. Michael was gracious enough to share from their experiences at YC.

Michael Seibel — CEO of Y Combinator with the VPHub team and founders.

  • We collaborated with the American Embassy in hosting a round table discussion with selected entrepreneurs during the visit of Macon Philips — Coordinator of the United States Department of State, Bureau of International Information. Macon is the former White House Director of New Media and worked on digital strategy for the Obama campaign.
  • Techpoint embarked on their Innovation tour engaging with the startup community in North Central Nigeria and made a stop at VPHub for a few days, complete with a super-cool tour bus.
  • VP Office Hours was opened for entrepreneurs to get free business advise from our pool of business experts; with over 60 startups getting help in 2016.
  • We began working with Microsoft to foster a vibrant developer community in Abuja and met regularly at the hub to share ideas, opportunities, engage and hangout in an informal setting, tagged: “Developers Hangout.”

Kendra Nnachi of Microsoft addressing a cross section of developers at VPHub.

You made it possible.

Looking back now, one realizes that none of the baby steps we took this year would have been possible without the support of so many people like; Micheal Sibel, YCobminator, the SLUSH team, The United States Embassy, Macon Philips, Microsoft, The office of the Vice President of Nigeria — Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, The Honourable Minister of Communications Technology — Barrister Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, Starta, MEST, YALI, June, Longe Practice, SLA, OO Nwoye, Danjuma Enebi, Victor Ehikhamenor, Bunmi Okunowo, Afolabi Imoukhuede, Wole Olabanji, Techpoint, Techcabal, Techloy, all our partners, service providers, investors, co-workers, founders, mentors, advisors, friends, family, the EP Team, the VP Team and most importantly You!

Thank you for making 2016 awesome!

2017 & beyond.

  • In closing we are happy to announce that we will be hosting our first Demo Day on the 27th of January 2017 in Abuja, Nigeria.
  • Spaces are limited, but if you would like to join us as an investor or to learn more about the startups to be featured, please drop us a line at [email protected]
  • Applications for cohort2 will also open in January 2017, so keep an eye out on our website.
  • If you haven’t visited Ventures Park yet, please do so in 2017, till then you can take a Virtual tour by clicking here
  • Know how we can be better? Please drop us a line at [email protected]

May you take flight in 2017!