Hello Radar! I'm Fola Olatunji-David from Ventures Platform - let's talk all things startups! AMA!


#21

Hi Chivuzo,

  1. Perhaps the most common question I get from people about our program is why are we focused on tech businesses. And honestly, we’re not!
    ProTeach, one of our startups is primarily concerned with teaching students, PayConnect is concerned with giving out easy loans, Jalo is concerned with helping small businesses handle delivery, etc. Would you consider hotels.ng a tech company, they are in the hotels booking space, just using technology smarter than ancient travel agencies, same thing with Iroko (simply put, they are “video clubs” from the 90’s on steriods) - Tech isn’t the business, tech is the enabler of the business, tech levels the playing field, its just the adaptation of technology that differentiates companies.

  2. Impact startups are high on our priority list, infact, since day 1, we have had a lesser publicized startup foundation that works primarily with startups that are business oriented but startups focused. And after seeing what egbon Seun and the BudgIT team are doing, funds are moving in that sector too :slight_smile: . As regards bias, we try to treat all ideas equally on their own merits, and are constantly looking for companies that “surprise” us!


#22

Just for clarity
Given the current unpredictable state of the Naira, will VP be investing in dollars or the Naira equivalent?


#23

Hi Fola,

So i saw you at a recent meet and couldn’t place the face…now i feel silly :neutral_face:

Q: Is VP comfortable with online marketplaces?

Q: Does VP work with businesses still at the ideation stage in their life-cycle?

Q: If you have had some experience with marketplaces, do you think Nigeria poses a unique challenge to marketplace models you may have come across and seen to have worked well in other climes?


#24

Mr (Luke) Skywalker,

Don’t worry about being a greenhorn, we all are! (we just wont agree based on inflated egos)

Incubators and accelerators:
I’m not going to google this, let me try to explain -

Incubators typically attend to founders at the earliest stage, when their ideas are still forming in their heads. The support here is very key to the survival of the idea, because the founders can start on misguided data, or the idea can be killed quickly. The goal is to get a working prototype and gain the first set out users to validate this business.

An accelerator on the other hand helps businesses who have been able to prove that they are solving a real need, and (preferably, but not critically) have a users. The accelerator helps grow their business and scale.

One thing to note is that by nature, the business model of a startup demands being nimble and changing at any point (in response to either the market, or other forces). A traditional business is NOT a startup. So business models of startups can change in either incubator or accelerators.

We switched because we became big boys :wink: - I’m kidding - we’re still small boys, but we switched because ideas are the easiest part (looking at the applications from last year and this year, ideas are plenty), but we want entrepreneurs who have done something on their own with the idea before waiting for VP to come help them start. I wrote about this here.

Cheers


#25

Fola,

Thanks so much for answering my questions. I have another one (just one question broken down over several bullet points):

  • Today Venture Platform gives $20,000 for a 10% in startups participating in the accelerator program

  • In one cohort, there are 10 startups, meaning that Venture Platform invests $200,000 per cohort

  • A cohort typically “graduates” in 16 weeks. Assuming you have 3 cycles during the year, this means Venture Platform will typically invest $600,000 per year.

  • If I assume a naira/dollar exchange rate of N450, that will be N270 million per year in investments alone.

  • I can’t tell if this is significant for Venture Platform. Bearing in mind that it could take 2-3 years (at the minimum) to exit one of these investments with a good multiple, how do you ensure you maintain this kind of investment firepower?


#26

@folasanwo

Floreat.

Glad to hear from you. I’m new to this startup thing so forgive any blunder I might make.
My questions are:

  1. As an accelerator. what do you look out for in choosing a startups. Are you more focused on the founder(s) or the business. I ask this because we’ve seen countless threads on here about how execution is what matters meaning the people steering the ship matter a lot. Based on your experience. Where would you see yourself drifting to: A very competent founder(s) with an average idea/business or a newbie with a promising idea/business

  2. What’s your take on mentorship in the tech industry? How open are you to them? How do newbies access mentors (advice)?


#27

Hey! You sound familiar! :grinning:

VP has traditionally invested in dollars, and that is always our preferred option. We have the startups open Dom accounts and we deposit USD in there.

Some glitches here and there with banks have given us headache in the past, but with the CBN recent efforts, we hope things will stabilize ASAP.


#28

Hi Fola,

Does VP accept foreign based founders (but Nigeria/African focused companies) who have the ability to be in Nigeria for the length of the program?


#29

Haha… Don’t worry this is forgivable - I once walked past Ed Sheeran and kept wondering who he was :frowning:

Q1: Yes we will do Marketplaces that are (a.) Useful (b) Unique © Founders with domain experience

Q2: We work with businesses that have started something post-ideation. We know your business (model) will still change no matter how mature, but we want founders who can prove that they’ve started something - We want to feel like we will miss out on investing because of how driven the founders are!

Q3: I do have experience in Marketplaces. Payments was a huge challenge, Nigeria is getting there with companies like Paystack. Delivery channels used to pose a challenge, but companies like Jalo are making that a thing of the past.

To generalize a bit, ecommerce platforms generally are posing a behavioural change for Nigerians because it illicits trust on both ends (seller trust users will pay, buyer trust user is selling quality). We need to move beyond just behaviour - The book Scaling Up Excellence by Rao and Sutton speaks about how people need to also change their belief (in addition to behaviour) - and thats the tough nut entrepreneurs looking at marketplaces (and ecommerce platforms in general) have to crack.


#30

Hey Chivuzo,

Now that you’ve done this calculation, it sounds really scary! :astonished: Lol

Financially, early stage investments have the highest risk, and also the highest reward. The only flaw in your calculation is that we do 2 rounds a year, but we can take up to 15 companies per batch - but you’re right in your $600k assumption.

$600k - This is the amount we intend to spread across 30 companies, it sounds a lot, but thats just half of the amount that Paystack has raised. While we are proud of having Paystack as one of the companies we’ve backed, we believe we can support 30 similar business early enough to make a huge difference. Thats what drives us.

Our goal is to be a global brand, and we believe we can also help global investors channel funds to the right startups over time, so thats the plan going forward.

In the mean time, It is well.


#31

Hi,

Yes we do, we have received applications from across Africa, and we’re open to startups that can solve Africa-centric problems.


#32

Hey Michael,

Floreat bro!

  1. This is an age-long argument, but I believe that intelligence grows, and if you don’t expand your intellectual capacity, certain things would always elude you. What differentiates you from others is (1) Who you know (your network), and (2) what you know (your knowledge).
    Let me give context, a newbie with the discipline to learn and unlearn, and be dedicated in his/her business pursuit will quickly catch up with a serial founder who doesnt “sharpen his tools”.
    Great ideas are more common than we think, great founders are the scarce commodity. The reason more people lean to the “great people with average idea” side is because they can either make that idea work, or take that passion and energy and pursue an even better idea.

  2. Mentorship is key! I am a product of useful mentors, and encourage people to do so! Our program links each startup to 2-3 primary mentors per company, and gives them access to all other mentors. Mentors not only guide, they open doors. I personally mentor a few people too on a rolling basis.

Advice on getting mentors:
The easiest way to get a mentor is to find someone to do an intro, personal introductions work best. In close second is to stalk them online and reach out and let them know why they should mentor you. Don’t just pitch yourself, let them know why they should mentor you. People don’t realize this, but when looking for mentors, be prepared to also give your mentor something in return - not in cash (or kind), but in things like you respecting their time, giving them feedback, listening to their feedback, and generally being responsible not doing things that will ruin the relationship.


#33

Hi Fola, thanks again.

Let me focus a bit on your investment capital (i.e the $600,000, which perhaps is just a part of your total fund size). Is this cash pool 100% Venture Platform, or you collaborate with some institutions (e.g. local or foreign VC firms or fund managers) and/or HNIs?


#34

No worries Chivuzo.

So far, its been primarily Ventures Platform funds, but we’re constantly innovating more sustainable and inclusive ways to get funding - leveraging some of the channels you mentioned. Expect to hear of this in the near future.


#35

10% is a lot lesser than and average VC firm in the United States.


#36

Since the AMA is mostly over… I’ll just come here, strongly DISAGREE with this and go away :airplane:


#37

Thanks for taking the time to do this, @folasanwo


#38

My pleasure!