Microtraction: Trusting the entrepreneur, the idea and the market in good faith and helping raise $10m in follow-on

Microtraction, could be called the stepping stone into getting into YCombinator (Silicon Valley-based Startup investor) seed investor base on their track record. Most startups they invested in have been able to get into YC. In this Chat with Dayo Koleowo, the partner, we asked about their thinking when it comes to writing the first checks for entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

Below is the interview;

VentureHunt: What’s the link between YC and Microtraction? Do you hold special classes for your startups to be able to make it through YC?

Dayo Koleowo: Our relationship with YC is pretty informal, we do not have any official relationship. What has really worked for us is that we understand the ethos of YC as well as understand the local market. YC doesn’t have the exposure to the African market because they are not on the ground like us and other micro VCs on the continent. However, because our criteria are similar and we look out for the same things when making investments despite being in different locations, the chances become a little higher for our portfolio companies to get in. 

We do not hold special classes for our startups. What we simply do is go through their applications and help them review it. We also connect them to YC founders who can help them prepare for the video interview if they do get to that stage.

VH:What’s the success rate of the startup’s post-pre-seed in raising additional funds?

DK: 100%. All our companies have raised follow-on funding after our initial investment. They have all raised a sum total of about $10m.

VH: Market dynamics; based on recent investments, MT has invested a lot in Fintech, how much attention is given to other sectors? Do you actively pursue deal flows from other sectors?

DK: It is important to note that we are sector agnostic despite the investments in a couple of fintech startups. One of the most important things for us is the quality of the founders and these founders have generally focused on providing fintech solutions. In general, from an overall economic development perspective, regions like West Africa, and some other parts of Africa are still developing their capital market. Some of the basic and of course important problems such as consumer-level payments, credit, etc. are still being solved for. 

The flow of money is very critical to the economic development of the continent. So what tends to happen is that founders and companies decide to solve a problem but find out that their scalability is linked to the flow of money. When financial problems are solved it then becomes the foundation for other things to be built on top of. Classic example – imagine Nigeria without Paystack & Flutterwave, some companies will never have been started.

In summary, the same attention is given to all sectors. We will support and back founders who are solving the biggest challenges on the continent, regardless of the sector.

VH: Your portfolio has proven true to your mantra of a solid technical co-founder as part of the founding team; how flexible are you these days if the idea is awesome but the founders are not technical, do you invest still and ask them to figure out the technical bit?

DK: It is very difficult to build something without some level of expertise. We are in the business of tech. Any team building a tech business or tech-enabled business has to have some level of technical expertise. It is not just about what our criteria is, it is also about ensuring you don’t outsource your tech development. As a previous founder, I understand how expensive and time consuming it is to outsource your tech development. 

So for us, having 2 – 3 people in the team with a technical founder is always a winning combo. If we come across a great idea with no technical founder, we will only invest if the non-technical founder is willing to have a co-founder down the line. There are exceptions but we like to stick to our mantra.

VH: We have gone through your portfolio, you currently have like 9 startups, are there any others you want to share?

DK: None at the moment.

VH: Logistic is going haywire across the market, what your view and is it something you are looking at?

DK: We are always looking at different sectors. The logistics/transportation industry is a very interesting one and similar to the way fintech is being approached. Moving people or goods around is still difficult and if solved for it will open up interesting ideas that founders can build on top of that. Definitely a space we are keeping an eye on.

VH: There seem to be lower than average activities on the seed side in the country, what’s your view around this?

DK: There will not be enough seed activity if the pre-seed activity is not vibrant. We need more folks to bet on very early-stage startups for the seed activity to pick up. After all, it is the pre-seed startups that stand a chance to become seed startups. That is why we are focused on this very important stage of the venture chain. 

VH: What are your expectations generally about the Nigerian and Africa tech ecosystem?

DK: My expectation is to see a vibrant and successful Nigerian and African tech ecosystem where problems are being solved and the economic development is rapidly growing. This can only be achieved through the stakeholders – entrepreneurs, founders, investors, service providers, etc. We have to work together, educate each other, and build an ecosystem that will outlast us. 

If you are an entrepreneur building awesome stuff, why not sign up on Microtraction to get your ideas funded? Click here to get started.

Breaking News: Andela is Sacking 400 developers in Africa, declares $50m in revenue

Andela’s is one of Africa’s best place to work, helping global companies hire developers across Africa remotely thereby saving them a lot of overhead and providing opportunities to Africa Developers.

Today, it releases news that it will be letting go of 400 junior developers in Africa as part of its restructuring efforts. The CEO, Jeremy Johnson said they have hired more developers than they can find jobs for, hence the need to cut and focus more on mid-senior developers.

Andela has raised more than $180m in funding since launched in 2014; the CEO mentioned that as a startup, they have generated more than $50m in revenue, showing good sign of demand for its service in the global market.

What happened to these junior devs?

Andela is known to be employee-friendly, with good working condition, good salaries, and perks; one wonders why junior developers failed to live of up expectation given the great opportunities provided by the company.

How will this impact the ecosystem?

It’s good news for everyone but the staffs being let go. For one, more developers will be available for hire for the growing startups. The big question now is, can the startup able to match Andela’s pay and will the developers be willing to take on local opportunities with lesser pay? If I was in their shoes I will take up the job because it becomes an opportunity to improve their skills and be ready for future opportunities.

Is this the end of Coding Bootcamps?

Since the launch of Andela, countless companies have modeled their structure to try to take advantage of the global demand for developers. With young graduates getting picked to join coding boot camps with a promise of a job after training. We will expect this to be a shock to the companies with high hopes of making money from this model.

Fairmoney Nigeria’s Fintech Startup Raised $12.5m in Series A Funding

Fintech just can’t stop raising money. The Firm launched in Nigeria last year with a local team and France-based engineering and product teams. Yesterday announced the raising of $12.5m, Led by Flourish, a venture of The Omidyar Group, the partners of DST Global, and existing seed investors Newfund, Speedinvest, and Le Studio VC.

Fairmoney is a microloan startup with a focus on the emerging market. Started as a mobile phone-based loan company, it has expanded to microloan to small businesses. Its goal with the new funding is to become a digital bank just like Kuda, which raised $1.6m seed last.

Back in May 2018, it raised $1.4m in seed and has gone on to grow to 200,000 customers.

The new funding will be used to scale up the engineering team and expand beyond Nigeria.

Big Question

Given that the engineering team is based in France, will the new funding help hire local devs and product team to help in further tailoring the product to the local markets they will be expanding to?

 

ABAN and AfriLabs Partner to Launch Catalyst, an African Matching Fund

The African Business Angel Network (ABAN) has partnered with Afrilabs, a pan-African network of technology and innovation centres to launch Catalyst, a cross-stakeholder initiative aimed at increasing the pool of capital available to promising African growth-stage entrepreneurs, and also support the startup ecosystem including hubs and angel network.

AfriLabs is a network organization of 158 innovation centers across 45 African countries. It supports hubs to raise successful entrepreneurs that will create jobs and develop innovative solutions to African problems. The objectives of this organization are to encourage technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in all forms, and to promote the creation of African-made technology, among others.

ABAN is the largest network of Angel investors in Africa with a goal of dramatically growing the number of investors who support and fund promising African entrepreneurs. Founded in early 2015,  ABAN is a Pan-African non-profit association that supports the development of early-stage invest networks across the continent.

This partnership is in line with the objectives of both organisations, as Catalyst is a co-investment fund that will match investments made by registered angel investors with institutional funds.

Funds are being raised from various institutional partners to add to the pool, which aims to encourage investment in viable startups by verified angel investors.

The first Catalyst co-investment fund will be available towards the end of 2019. Funds from Catalyst will be released after startups have received investments from angel investors that are part of an angel network registered with ABAN. To be eligible, startups are required to register on the Catalyst platform through hubs that are members of the AfriLabs network.

Speaking on this, Tomi Davies, the President of ABAN said, “When we signed the MOU with AfriLabs at their Annual Gathering in Dar es Salam in 2018, we were excited about the opportunity for partnership between angels and hubs on the continent. Catalyst will facilitate the development of those relationships as the first initiative of what we expect to be a highly valuable and long lasting collaboration between AfriLabs and ABAN.

Catalyst is the first pan-African programme of its type, and commenting on this, AfriLabs board chair Rebecca Enonchong said, it is a “real gamechanger” for Africans.

We have all recognised the need to increase early stage funding for our African founders. Catalyst not only does that, but it helps to structure the ecosystem, supports collaboration, and provides actionable insights into the early-stage funding landscape, all the while strengthening our hubs and our angel networks,” she further said.

Top Business Grants for Entrepreneurs in Nigeria in 2019

Funding is a critical factor to the success of any startup. One of the cheapest and easiest ways to fund your startup in Nigeria is by applying for business grants. The impressive thing about business grants is that no repayment is required. Yes, you heard that right. With business grants, you don’t need to worry about interest rates, term length, refinancing or APR. You just need to qualify, and then you get “free” money.

The general criterion for qualifying for these funds is to have a business, that is, you must have started something that is providing a solution to a problem in the society. Next, you must have a viable and bankable business plan. You should have a vision, market strategy, and records of your revenue and expenditure.

Here are the top business grants in Nigeria

The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEE P): Launched in 2015 by the business tycoon, Tony Elumelu, this programme provides 10,000 USD seed funding for entrepreneurs across Africa, selecting 1,000 entrepreneurs from over 5,000 applicants. If you are in fashion, agriculture, design, ICT, solid minerals, and light manufacturing, among others, you can apply for this funding.

YouWIN Connect Nigeria: The Federal Ministry of Finance offers this program with the aim of promoting entrepreneurship, job creation, and wealth via enterprise education for young Nigerians.

BOI Funds: Recently, the Bank of Industry (BOI) launched a youth empowerment program for young and talented entrepreneurs who have started businesses in various sectors of the economy. Titled the Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES) Programme, BOI aims to equip young people with the skills and finances to manage their businesses.

Diamond Bank BET Program: The BET (Building Entrepreneurs Today) is designed to serve as a support system for budding entrepreneurs. Fifty entrepreneurs are selected yearly to undergo a six months intensive entrepreneurship training, after which, the top five are awarded financial grants as seed capital

GroFin Fund: The development financier, GroFin, has committed over 500 million USD to funding micro, small, and medium businesses across Nigeria.

 

 

 

Venture Capital Investments in Nigeria

The private sector is the pillar of every economy. Yet, startup companies all over the world face many obstacles to funding, and in Nigeria, these obstacles are compounded by the government’s neglect of the private sector.

Venture Capital is one of the financing options open to privately-owned companies and small businesses. It is a type of private equity provided by venture capital firms interested in investing in startups with high growth potential in exchange for equity or partial ownership of the company.

Venture capital certainly holds the potential to drive economic development in Nigeria. It creates a ripple effect, which improves R&D, promotes innovation, and increases intellectual property assets – which also becomes a source of wealth creation.

Venture capitalists provide not only financing but also mentorship, strategic guidance, network access, and other forms of support.

The funds provided by venture capitalists fill the void created by high bank-lending rates. For instance, how many startups can reach the Nigerian prime lending rate, which according to CBN in December 2018, was 16.17% December 2018. What’s more, most growing companies cannot access public equity funds through initial public offerings because they can’t meet up with the listing requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The frontiers of Nigeria are gradually opening to venture capital investment and responsibility is placed on the Nigerian government to strategically create policies and the right investment environment needed to attract increased funding of the private sector.

Nigeria has attracted a lot of venture capital investments in recent years. Within the period of 2012-2017 alone, Nigeria accounted for 73 percent of the US$10.7 billion value of private equity funding in the West African region.

According to Partech Ventures, a global investment platform for tech and digital companies, $560m was invested in African tech startups by VCs focused on the African market in 2017, with Nigeria startups accounting for 20 percent of the funding.

Though, raising funds from VCs isn’t always a straight path, particularly with their valuations, and terms and conditions, startups using venture capital follow strategies that are more innovative and take shorter time to introduce their products and services to the market.

The provision of funds to start-ups by venture capital companies is an important stage of start-ups life cycle, but these VCs do more than that. Venture capital companies utilise huge part of their resources in understanding new markets and technologies for the investee company, providing effective coaching for startups, and providing an extensive network of contacts to investees.

 

 

Bosun Tijani – The CEO of CC Hub

You should have heard of CC Hub, as they keep making revolution waves in the tech and entrepreneurial space in Nigeria, and Africa at large. Have you ever wondered who the brains behind CC Hub are?

Meet Bosun Tijani, one of the brains behind CC Hub.

Born in 1977, Bosun Tijani is a Nigerian entrepreneur and the CEO of Co-Creation Hub, which he co-founded with Femi Longe in 2010.

Named as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Africa by New Africa Magazine, Bosun attended the University of Jos, where he got a diploma in Computer Science, and B.Sc. in Economics; the Warwick Business School, where he got an MSc in Information systems and Management; and the University of Leicester, where he is currently a Postgraduate Researcher in Innovation Systems.

An associate of the Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship, Bosun initiated and received the visit of Mark Zuckerberg for the first time in Nigeria in August 2016.

According to Bosun, his cofounding of CC Hub was fuelled by his quest for a more competitive Nigeria through knowledge application. With a deep sense of responsibility, Bosun together with Longe, took on a challenge of building a platform capable of spotting and supporting smart Nigerians to build a future of collective desire.

Funded by Google, Omidyar Network,and  Sainsbury Family Trust, Co-Creation Hub Nigeria Ltd operates as a venture capital firm, focusing on educational, health and wellness, digital security, fintech, and governance sectors.

Before this, he worked with International Trade Centre and Hewlett Packard on projects supporting African SMEs to leverage technology to grow their businesses. He later moved to Pera Innovation Network, where he worked as an European Innovation Manager, leading the networking and coordination of leading innovation agencies across Europe.

According to Bosun in an interview with Punch some years back, his passion is not necessarily in mentoring entrepreneurs, but in finding ways to make technology work for the society in Nigeria, and Africa as a whole.

Speaking on this, he said, “That is why I have decided to do what I do, which is to find ways in which technology can be useful and one of those would be to find smart people. If my interest is in building technology solutions, obviously, I have to find smart and creative people that will build those solutions. So, find them, support them, invest in them and expose them to people who can help make their ventures grow

 

Digital Agriculture Platform, Farmcrowdy, Partners with Oyo State Government on $5m Agric Project

Farmcrowdy, the popular Nigerian digital architecture marketing platform, has entered into a partnership with the Oyo State Government to enhance agricultural development in the state.

Farmcrowdy is Nigeria’s first technology-driven agriculture platform, focused on empowering rural farmers by providing them with improved seeds, farm inputs, training on modern farming techniques, and provides a market for the sale of their farm produce, ensuring increased food production and security in Africa.

Since its inception in 2016, the company has empowered over 11,000 small-scale farmers across the country, and their commitment to expand their reach just became even more possible. Less than an hour ago, Farmcrowdy too to their Twitter page, saying,

We are very excited about our partnership with Oyo State and appreciate the Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde @seyiamakinde for partnering with us. We look forward to achieving the milestones we have set together for the people of Oyo State

Farmcrowdy’s tweet was actually under a post by Seyi Makinde, the Governor of Oyo State, where he said,

We promised to explore PPP models to achieve our aim for agriculture. Yesterday, I welcomed the agritech company, Farmcrowdy at the launch of a partnership with Oyo State for agribusiness. I believe the partnership will be mutually beneficial to Farmcrowdy and our people

The present administration in Oyo State is doing everything within means to upgrade the economic status of the state, and agriculture seems to be the route being adopted. Seyi Makinde stated as much during the official launch of the partnership yesterday, on August 26th, which was held at the Golden Tulip, Jericho, Ibadan.

Further speaking on this, the governor said, “During the electioneering campaign, I promised the people of Oyo State that we would have a practical farmer as Commissioner for agriculture and that is exactly what we have done.

“The gap between policy and implementation will be filled effectively. We are not looking at agriculture as just planting and extension work, we are looking at it as a business and that is why we went out to look for the best hands on continent who happens to also be from Oyo state, in person of Dr Debo Akande to drive Oyo state agribusiness venture. He is here now as an Executive Assistant to the governor, so we believe effectively we are bridging the gap.

As he concluded, the governor assured the people of Oyo State that the partnership with Farmcrowdy which totals a sum of $5m would definitely have a positive impact on their lives. He went on to describe the partnership as an agricultural revolution that would grow like wildfire.

To answer questions as to how the funding will be utilised, Onyeka Akuma, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Farmcrowdy, said, “We are investing about $5m dollars in agribusiness in Oyo state within the next three years and connecting not less than 50,000 small scale farmers in the state with solutions to various bottlenecks militating the growth of their farm business. At the end, everyone would be happy with the outcome of the project.

With this partnership, it is evident that the Oyo State government is concerned about the technical, business and management aspect of agriculture, and has decided to leverage the abounding opportunities for growth. This should have been done a long time ago, considering as agricultural products contribute chiefly to the state’s economy.

As this follows the unexpected nomination and appointment of 27-year-old Seun Fakorede as the Oyo State Commissioner of Youth and Sport, one can only wonder at the next revolution fire to be lighted by the iconic Seyi Makinde.

CcHub’s Pitchdrive Tech Tour Second Edition: Ten African Startups Participating in the Pitchdrive Asia

The Co-Creation Hub’s Pitchdrive tech tour second edition kicked off today. Ten selected African startups, who utilise hardware and deep technology tools in their businesses, are participating in this tech tour.

CcHUB, the leading technology innovation centre in Nigeria and Google for Startups announced the launch of the PitchDrive II in April this year. This edition is a three-week, five-city Asian tech tour across Singapore, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo.

The PitchDrive kicked off today with a target is to bring 10 elite African hardware and advanced technology startups together to discover and engage Asian suppliers and manufacturing partners.

The startups will be interacting with deep tech and hardware communities in Singapore, Japan, China, Hong Kong and South Korea. They are to engage in pitching events, seek out collaborations, partnerships and potential investment opportunities to help them grow further and scale their businesses.

Speaking on this, the Director of Incubation at CcHUB said, “We find that there’s a lot of interest from Asia in Africa and we believe there are opportunities for collaboration that could help strengthen the hardware and deep tech ecosystem in Africa.

Selected from a highly competitive pool of over 200 applicants from across Africa, the participating startups are: Moroccan safety IoT device company Casky; Rwandan smart transport solution company, AC Group;  Nigeria’s Gricd Frij, a cold chain technology for transportation of healthcare and agricultural produce; Access Afya, a Kenyan primary healthcare social enterprise using technology to deliver affordable and effective health access;  Ugandan CHIL AI Lab which leverages AI to improve cancer diagnostic services; and Taeillo, a Nigerian furniture and design company that leverages mixed reality to improve customer experience.

Others include Enova Robotics from Tunisia which specialises in mobile robot development for security purposes; Flare, a Kenyan uber-like company which aggregates ambulance/emergency options for easy access; LIFI-LED, an Ivorian energy startup providing electricity and internet connectivity to difficult-to-access communities, and Nigeria’s Reliance HMO, which employs a consortium of tools to make health insurance accessible and affordable.

This CcHUB tech tour edition is supported by Google For Startups; Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO); ICT and Innovation ministry (Rwanda); German Society for International Cooperation [GIZ]; TechCabal, the media company in charge of curating the tour in images, film and text which will culminate in a documentary production to be aired at the end of the tour; Keppel Capital, MainOne, Future Hub, Found8, and CoCoon.

 

Nigerian Top 5 Early-Stage Investors and Venture Capitalists in 2019

If you are looking to raise money for a startup or funding to launch new products, then this is a must read.

Over 80% new businesses in Nigeria fail in their first year, and lack of funding is one of the prominent reasons for this. Money is the lifeline of a business. A business can only accomplish new goals and attain new heights when it is sufficiently fuelled by funds.

The tech ecosystem in Nigeria is one of the most important in Africa currently. In 2018 alone, two of the world’s biggest tech companies, Facebook and Google, opened their own hubs and launched accelerator programs in the country.

We have scoured the tech startup landscape, and handpicked some of the top early-stage startup investors in Nigeria. ‘

  1. Venture Platform

Ventures Platform is a Pan-African early stage fund that actively finds, funds and supports innovative companies solving real problems in the continent. Founded by in 2016 by Kola Aina, a startup mentor and a passionate angel investor, the focus is to support MVP teams in growing their startups. This Platform invests in ambitious founders who are growing sustainable companies, operating scalable tech-enabled business models, with a clear-cut path to revenue.

Currently, Ventures Platform supports over 2000 entrepreneurs, funds over 28 startups, and popular Nigerian startups in its portfolio include MobileForms, PiggyBank, Accounteer, GeroCare, Paystack, crowdForce, Thriveagric, Wesabi, MyPadi, Tizeti and Printivo.

  1. GreenHouse Capital

Greenhouse Capital is of the belief that “every company must have a strategy to harness the powerful advantages of the new financial technology (‘fintech’) revolution.

Spinned out from Venture Garden Group in January 2016, Greenhouse is an independent investment holding company in Africa with a vision of building the largest fintech investment holding company in Africa through direct investments in African technological companies that support and disintegrate banking services.

Their goal is to provide exceptional teams with the resources and network they need to drive growth and scale their companies locally and internationally. It has invested in popular Nigerian startups like MAX.NG, Flutterwave, Riby, TalentBase and Rensource.

  1. SPARK Capital

Spark is a company that builds companies with a focus on Lagos, Nigeria as the gateway to Africa. Founded by Jason Njoku in 2013, at the inception of Spark, he wrote in a manifesto, saying,

We are not a fund and we are not an incubator; we are a company that builds companies. We focus on Lagos, Nigeria as the gateway to Africa. We focus on well-defined and scalable revenue models. We are a collection of Internet people. We are Spark.”

Shortly after its launch, the company deployed $2m in a number of companies. The company appears to maintain a close and personal relationship with the startups it invests in. Currently, companies like Ogavenue, Hotels.ng, Paystack, Medsaf, MyFoto, and Drinks.ng are on the company’s portfolio.

  1. Growth Capital Fund

Launched by CCHub, Growth Capital Fund is the first social innovation fund in Nigeria with the aim of creating an unprecedented path to scale for outliers driving social change in Nigeria. The company supports high potential, early-stage businesses who are focused on building next generation infrastructure with technology. Participating investors in GC-Fund include CCHub, Bank of Industry, Omidyar Network and Venture Garden Group. It has invested in six companies including Taeillo, Edves, Riby, LifeBank, Delivery Science and DrugStoc.

  1. LeadPath Nigeria

If you have a product that eliminates or reduces the competing factors in an industry, while creating or raising elements that have never been offered in the industry, then you should contact LeadPath for funding.

LeadPath is a seed capital fund that specialises in providing short, medium and long-term funding to small and medium sized start-up businesses in high growth technology areas such as software, web and mobile technologies. The company’s average investment ranges from $25,000 to $100,000 for seed investment and several millions of dollars for follow on funding series.