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3 ways minority founders can increase access to capital

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Phone Credit: Mark Filus

I’m truly obsessed with the overarching problem of “a lack of access to capital”. It’s a truly complex one deeply rooted in systemic racism, misogyny, classism, and unconscious bias. Over the last few years of building ecosystems, I’ve compiled thoughts, observations, and data collected as a means of making a hint of sense of this problem.

A lack of access to capital can be broken down into 3 Barriers to Entry (what I’m coining as B2Es):

B2E 1) Lack of know-how/knowledge: what makes a company “investable”, “investment-ready”, or “sexy enough to invest in”

B2E 2) Lack of social capital/network: the sheer ability to be seen, recognized, or connected to people who could then connect us to investment

B2E 3) Lack of resources: tangible products/opportunities that get founders to the next level

From what I’ve learned, resilience and persistence are key in the way we approach these B2Es. I took a survey and asked 150 Black Female Founders what they thought the lead component in a lack of access to capital was. One answer stuck out to me above the rest.

“It’s definitely a lack of know-how. Our people are resilient and adapt to anything. Historically, we have be deprived of this knowledge. But once we understand and get access to it, we’re resilient enough to figure it out on our own.”

I always want to be a solution and a vehicle for providing others with a concrete solution. As such, I thought it would at minimum be helpful to share 3 ways I feel we, as minority founders can start combating these B2Es:

Why? Because once we know how, “we’re resilient enough to figure it out on our own.

B2E 1) Lack of know-how/knowledge

B2E 1) Google “what makes a start-up investment ready”: Understand what first makes a start-up “investment-ready” or “investable” can increase our awareness around the layered and complex components that go into decision-making for investors. This also gives us insight into WHY an investor may not give you their time. Maybe our industry/sector doesn’t fit into their investment strategy? Maybe our traction isn’t high enough. What will help us best is to avoid making assumptions. Do your research first. 2 words: YouTube University.

B2E 2) Lack of social capital/network

B2E 2) Connect with people on LinkedIn and/or Attend Local Meetups: LinkedIn has been an extremely useful tool in helping me connect with founders, operators, and investors alike. This platform gives us a ton of access to people worldwide. Read what other thought leaders are writing, slide into investors’ DMs, and set up some virtual or in-person coffee dates. While I get super consumed in my work, I’ve also been forcing myself to attend more local tech meetups/events as a way of increasing my network. Just remember: No one person is unreachable–if you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to get in contact with them.

 

B2E 3) Lack of resources: tangible products/opportunities that can help us get to the next level

B2E 3) Seek and you shall find: Now, more than ever, there are a TON of development and pitch programs (especially for minorities) in which we can participate to increase our own access to resources and opportunities. BLCK VC has one. Lightship Capital has one. AMEX has one. The list goes on. They’re out there–trust me. We just must be disciplined enough to find them. Use solutions from B2Es #1 and #2 as a means of doing this.

I’m not saying that these solutions are the end-all be-all. But it’s a start. What I’ve learned from my own experiences is this: Avoid carrying the burden of external experiences and forces that are beyond our control. All we can control is ourselves. The more we look at “a lack of access to capital” as this huge, overbearing, insurmountable problem, is the moment we throw in the towel and sell ourselves short.

The steps above are things we can do daily to help us decrease the inequality gap, if even just within ourselves.

Article by Jeanine Suah, Co-founder of Thynk Global

 

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Afripreneur

Claire Rutambuka: Showcasing the beauty of diversity

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Claire RUTAMBUKA is an entrepreneur and the creator of Akâna Dolls. Beyond her professional background in International Trade, she has always been passionate about the creation of small and diverse objects. During her early childhood in Rwanda, she was fortunate to have toys and in particular a doll that she cared very much about. It was not only a privilege to have a doll but even more so to have one with her skin color. 

When Claire Rutambuka became a mother years later, she was surprised that she couldn’t easily find such a doll for her children that would showcase the beauty of little black girls. That’s how the idea of creating “Akâna Dolls” came about. Akâna is a word of Rwandan origin that can be translated as “little child”. It’s also a nod to the founder’s origins. 

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The brand was born from a mother’s desire to meet a need; namely, giving all children the opportunity to choose a doll they can relate to and adults an additional choice when it comes to gifting. After the first realization of the “Kaliza” doll, the ambition is to gradually expand the collection to include more skin shades and hair textures, so that every child feels represented.

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Hakeem Abogunde: Building Slash, a solution for Africa B2B market

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Hakeem Abogunde, CEO Slash Africa. SLASH is a decentralized B2B marketplace where buyers and sellers meet to facilitate and protect their transactions. Buyers can place orders and make payment into “Slash Account”. Slash will hold the fund until item(s) is delivered. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online (BAO), Hakeem shares his journey into tech entrepreneurship and how he is building the solution for Africa’s B2B marketplace with Slash. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: To start with, could you share your journey into tech entrepreneurship?

Hakeem: Growing up as a kid, I was the type of guy who loved the internet. I spent most of my time reading, studying, and researching information and news on the internet. Most times, I would be on my computer from night till the next morning; that’s how attached I was to the internet space. 

My journey as a tech entrepreneur started in 2005 when I dropped out of school to pursue my career as an entrepreneur. I joined my sister in her wholesale business at Lagos Island. During this period, I witnessed how people traveled from different parts of Nigeria to Lagos just to purchase products and resell them in their various locations.  This journey was usually stressful, time-consuming, and costly. As an internet expert, I began to think of how I could use the internet to connect with these people and stop them from traveling to Lagos. Unfortunately, the internet wasn’t as popular then, and the only functioning platform available was Nairaland. On Nairaland, I would post some of our products and connect with a few people who were online at that time. 

After a few years in the business, I joined a Multi-Level Marketing company where I led a team of over 500 sales reps. In the Multi-Level Marketing company, we usually went offline to meet with customers, sell our products to them, and get paid based on the sales volume. As an internet expert, to increase my team’s sales volume, I started selling the products online using different social media platforms. However, I later realized that most of these platforms were not efficient. It was then that I decided to build my own e-commerce website. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to write code then.

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So, I enrolled in a web programming course online, and as a fast learner, in less than 3 months, I was able to build our own e-commerce site from scratch. That actually increased our sales volume by 10 times. I started falling in love with programming and became a freelancer. I worked as a freelancer, developing mobile and web applications for both individuals and companies for 5 years. After, I decided to build a startup.

 

Alaba: You are currently building a solution for Africa’s B2B market through your venture, Slash Africa. Kindly tell us more and the inspiration behind it?

Hakeem: Slash Africa is a decentralized B2B marketplace that connects African retailers with suppliers globally and enables them to carry out secure transactions without any intermediary. 

I got the inspiration when I was working with my sister in her wholesale business. I discovered a huge economic inequality between suppliers and retailers. For instance, one of the biggest problems Nigeria is currently facing is artificial scarcity perpetuated by most suppliers in other to increase the price of their products. This creates a market environment that heavily favors them, leaving retailers at a disadvantage. Having experienced this myself, I think now is the best time to democratize Africa’s wholesale market. This will give retailers access to varieties of quality products at very competitive prices and also save them more money and time.

 

Alaba: What sets Slash Africa apart from other Africa B2B market solutions, and how are you positioning it to become the go-to solution for Africa’s B2B market?

Hakeem: We are the first decentralized marketplace in Africa. We allow both small and big suppliers to list their products and enable direct interaction between suppliers and retailers, allowing them to define their terms and conditions of transactions without an intermediary. This will increase the level of trust and transparency and also gives everyone equal access to the market. Additionally, by operating on a decentralized fulfillment management system, we make our operation faster and minimize cost.

 

Alaba: What have been Slash Africa’s biggest challenges, and how do you overcome them?

Hakeem: Initially, our intention was to build a platform that enables everyone to create their own independent online store in minutes without coding. But we later realized that most suppliers/sellers, after creating their stores, didn’t have the money and skills to promote their stores. As a result, they didn’t make any sales and they would abandon their store. At that point, we decided to convert it to a marketplace, this enables them not just to create their stores but also connects them with potential customers.

 

Alaba: Raising capital has been one of the major challenges entrepreneurs face. How are you currently fundraising?

Hakeem: Raising funds as a local founder is very difficult if you don’t have any investor connections. Most African investors are not helping the situation either. Imagine this: because an African investor doesn’t know you, they won’t want to have anything to do with you. They also like to copy the US model. Technology in Africa is still at a very early stage, and the level of adoption is still very low compared to the US.  Without local experience, getting people to adopt your solution will be very difficult, and this is where local founders have the advantage. So far, we have been funding our project through bootstrapping and support from families and friends.

 

Alaba: Can you tell us your impression of the current entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in Africa? How have you seen it transform in the last 5 years?

Hakeem: In the last 5 years, the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in Africa has been growing rapidly. I see a lot of young entrepreneurs solving problems by leveraging modern technologies. But we need to work more in the area of getting people to adopt these solutions, and that is where local expertise is needed.

 

Alaba: What are Slash Africa’s priorities/plans for the year, and where do you see this venture in the next 5 years?

Hakeem: This year, our priorities involve raising funds, strengthening our team, scaling in Nigeria and reaching $1 million in monthly sales. In the next 5 years, we are projecting Slash Africa to hit $200 million in monthly sales and become the largest B2B marketplace in Africa.

 

Alaba: What is your advice to budding entrepreneurs aspiring to go into tech?

Hakeem: My advice to entrepreneurs aspiring to go into tech is to come with the pure intention to solve a problem and not just for the money. Because when you prioritize money, you won’t have the drive to build the business, and eventually, you will fail. Secondly, you also need to love the people you are building the project for because this will also be your driving force.

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Afripreneur

Alassane Sakho: The Senegalese Serial Entrepreneur

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Alassane Sakho is a young and brilliant Senegalese entrepreneur, Telecommunications engineer specialized in the Technical-Commercial field, He founded KALIMO GROUP in January 2023, with the ambition to contribute to the development of Senegal. A graduate of ESMT in Dakar, Alassane is passionate about sales, ICT, Mobile Money and real estate. He began his career in 2010 with the Orange Money Senegal and Orange Business Service projects. Later, he joined large real estate companies as a commercial developer, (SIPRES SA, SENEGINDIA, TEYLIUM Group and the company Fimolux, where he held the position of General Manager of the commercial subsidiary. 

Alassane Sakho has also supported many Senegalese and international companies in their development in Senegal, including Wizall Money, ATPS, MOODS, etc. Its vision extends beyond national borders, initially targeting West Africa, with projects planned in Mali, Gambia, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, before expanding to other parts of the continent. 

Kalimo is involved in various areas of activity, including real estate development, digital communication, sales, rental and asset management, construction, training, advice and assistance. In addition, the company plans to enter the film industry, with its subsidiary K7film, which will produce short and feature films, animated films, corporate communication, documentaries, etc.

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Apart from his professional activities, Alassane SAKHO is involved in sports, especially football. He coaches youngsters from 8 to 20 years old and has the honour of winning the “Universal Youth Cup” tournament in 2019 in Italy, against big clubs such as Inter Milan, Ajax Amsterdam, Atletico Madrid and AC Milan. Its main objective is to consolidate Kalimo’s presence in Africa and to help foreign companies wishing to set up in Senegal.

Finally, its digital team is ready to help companies or public figures increase their notoriety and visibility on social media. Other areas of activity, such as agribusiness and mass distribution, are currently being explored.

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