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Baller Syndicate: Building Europe’s First Elite Athlete Angel Syndicate And Exploring Africa

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Baller Syndate Founders – Koen Bosma (r) and Jason Esseboom (l) (Source: Baller Syndicate)

Baller Syndicate is an exclusive network of elite athletes that are looking to get into tech investing. An initiative by Koen Bosma and Jason Esseboom, two former athletes who were better at startups than playing football. They played together in a youth academy, and Koen even turned pro. The founders crossed paths again in the world of startups and innovation. Koen and Jason share a passion for sports, entrepreneurship, and investments. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, they talked about how they are positioning elite athletes to become successful tech investors, through their educational like-minded community and building bridges between Europe and Africa.

Over the past few years, they have worked with hundreds of startups and invested in 20+. Most of those startups are trying to break into the sports-, health-, and entertainment industry. During this time, Koen and Jason had the privilege of working closely with founders, which gave them great insights and a first-row seat to startups’ biggest pain point.

Startups in the sports-, health, and entertainment industries have a disproportionate mismatch with angels that can truly accelerate their journey, compared to startups in other industries.

When Koen and Jason looked closely, they spotted a trend in the USA of elite athletes making tech investments cool and accessible to the world. Athletes like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Serena Williams are building their own family offices, venture funds, becoming LP’s or making direct or syndicated angel investments. So they asked themselves the question: why is this not happening in the rest of the world?

This led to starting Baller Syndicate.

Alaba: So what does Baller Syndicate do?

Koen: Our vision is to unlock athletes’ capabilities as accelerators for the growth of startups. When we started having conversations with active-, and retired athletes about their post-career activities, we truly learned a lot. Simply mentioning the term “investment” to an athlete in Europe turns all signals to red and makes their alarm bells go off! We could hear them thinking: “are these guys trying to take my money!?.

The interesting thing, however, was that when we took the conversations a layer deeper, we learned athletes get approached for investment opportunities quite regularly, but always ‘through a guy.’ When athletes don’t fully understand the concept, the default is to rely on someone they trust.”

We learned that athletes “solve” their lack of knowledge about investment opportunities by putting their trust in a person they know well.

Baller Syndicate’s goal is to decrease the knowledge gap by educating athletes with understandable content. Education is liberation, and that’s how they will help athletes change the narrative!

Alaba: Tell me, how does your education work with the tight schedules athletes have?

Jason: Overall, our education consists of two parts. We noticed that there is so much good content out there, but navigating it can be challenging or even overwhelming. Our vision towards education is to aggregate the most relevant content and translate it into a language athletes understand. We don’t see ourselves as professors but as translators.

Our first approach is to make an online course with actionable and engaging videos. This is the theoretical part. For the second part, we interview athletes that are active as investors or entrepreneurs to provide valuable case studies. Providing the theory is necessary because if we’d just share case studies, athletes miss foundational knowledge. To make learning fun and engaging, we chose to explain investments through sports analogies, using stories all athletes can relate to. Everything we offer is online, so the athletes determine when and where they want to learn.

Of course, we dream of a big live event where we connect the worlds of startups and athlete investors, but that’s not happening in a world governed by a pandemic.

In our way of working, we are lean startup evangelists at our core. This means we start with something, test it, and adjust based on the feedback. We test our educational program with a small group of selected athletes and truly learn if our translations resonate with them. After testing, we know where we need to improve to move forward and help more athletes.

Regarding the content of our education, we have three principles:

  1. We skip jargon or break it down
  2. We logically structure content, tested by elite athletes
  3. We facilitate group learning through our community

We believe this structure puts athletes at an advantage to learn how they can make independent investment decisions.”

Alaba: How do you make money?

Koen: Right now, we don’t… We invest our time and money to make Baller Syndicate into something valuable for athletes and startups. The sportstech ecosystem really needs to grow, and we believe we need to give first and hopefully get something in return later. Baller Syndicate is our way of building the sportstech ecosystem. Our educational platform will run as a foundation, where athletes pay a small fee as a yearly contribution. Secondly, we are attracting corporate sponsors that have a similar vision as ours, to pitch in a bit.

Baller Syndicate operates as a typical angel syndicate for athletes who have learned they wish to go into tech investments. In a syndicate, athletes pool money and invest together in startups they select themselves. We facilitate athletes by finding the right startups and guiding athletes throughout investing in those startups.

Our business model is based on carried interest, which means we only make a buck when their athletes make profits. But we have some strict “rules” for our members to start with tech investments.

If the athletes don’t know how to activate an investment, there is just waste. So before any tech investment through the Baller Syndicate platform, we ask these five questions below:

  1. Does the startup have something special that fits the profile of our members?
  2. Can we add value beyond money (and the obvious Twitter post)?
  3. Are multiple athletes on board?
  4. Do the interested athletes know they need to create a balanced portfolio of startups and not ‘bet’ on 1 or 2?
  5. Is there a lead investor (in case of large investment rounds)?

There are many other factors to consider, but we ask these vital questions to help elite athletes de-risk their startup investments. Our goal for 2020 is simple: to build our educational content and test it with a selected group of 10 athletes. We are currently primarily working with footballers, but there are also professional golf- and tennis players.

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Jason: Building this syndicate is as tough as it gets, but we are up for the challenge. We are motivated to the core to realize our big vision: unlocking athlete potential as accelerators for startups’ growth. We have started exploring athlete investing in Europe, and now we are eager to learn how athletes in other continents are approaching their new career after sports.

Through Baller Syndicate, we are building a diverse community of like-minded athletes. In our community, athletes are diverse in their sport, country, or background. They are alike when it comes to their ambition, mentality, and work ethic. Hopefully, this interview will open the doors for us to get in touch with African athletes and build bridges between Europe and Africa.

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Mohamed Sekkina Digs Dip Into Quick Commerce at Consoleya

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Mohamed Sekkina, General Manager of leading quick commerce platform, talabat mart, hosted the latest “Business Meetup” session organized by Consoleya on “Understanding and Seizing Quick Commerce.” The event took place on Tuesday 26th of July at 6 pm.

“Our biggest pride is not only rooted in introducing quick commerce to the region, but that we are still innovating as the market leader. Leveraging the world-class tech of Delivery Hero and localizing it to fit our local market needs is what enables us to achieve such remarkable results and continue offering an ultra-convenient experience,” said Sekkina during the session.

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Having grown talabat mart’s footprint by 200% and increased profitability by 50% during the last six months, Sekkina shared his hands-on experience and deep knowledge of the market with over 70 attendees from the startup and tech ecosystem.

Mohamed Sekkina took the attendees on talabat mart’s inspiring journey and detailed how the leading platform is able to deliver thousands of orders per day through technology and customer-obsession. Stressing on the importance of being efficient, hyperlocal and adaptive as key to the journey of scaling up and reaching profitability.

The session also touched upon the operational reality of running a quick commerce platform, such as setting-up dark stores on an average of three weeks, innovating to earn consumers’ trust and steadily shifting mindsets in favor of online shopping.

He explored the factors that prepared quick commerce to skyrocket and drew parallels between traditional retail and quick commerce – highlighting that the business model brings businesses closer to customers in unprecedented ways. Which in turn, positions dark stores as sustainable on the business and environment front.  

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Shelter Afrique records US$1.04M in net profit for 2021

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Shelter Afrique Ag. Managing Director Kingsley Muwowo(left) and Shelter Afrique Company Secretary Mrs. Juliette Kavuruganda present a gift to the Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe General (Rtd.) Dr. Incumbent Chiwenga after he officially opened Shelter Afrique 41st AGM currently underway in Victoria Fall, Zimbabwe (Image supplied).

Pan African housing development financier Shelter Afrique has posted an operating profit of US$ 1.04 million up from operating loss of US$ 0.58 million the Company recorded in 2020, backed by impairment recoveries and effective cost control measures.

The Company contained its operating expenses at US$ 8.04 million in 2021 down from US$ 8.44 million in 2020, representing a 10% decline. It also reined in its operating expenses which dropped from US$ 8.35 million in 2020 to US$ 7.71 million in 2021. The Company’s gross income, however, declined slightly to US$12.09 in 2021, down from US$13.94 recorded in 2020.

Addressing Shareholders at the 41st Annual General Meeting held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Shelter Afrique Chairman Mr. Ephraim Bichetero said the transformational initiatives undertaken by the Company and its business’ resilience enabled the Company to weather the COVID storm.

“This profit continues to build on Shelter Afrique’s commitment to returning to full Financial Sustainability, one of the Company’s 3 Strategic Goals, along with Enhancing Shareholder Value & Development Impact and Organisational Sustainability. I wish to commend the board, management and staff for their continued efforts towards achieving the desired results ahead of time,” Mr. Bichetero said.

The AGM which kicked off on July 25 under the theme: Climate Change and the Built Environment, in reference to the Glasgow Conference of Parties (COP26), will close on July 30.

Financial Viability

In the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan, the Company projected a return to financial viability by 2020 and overall financial sustainability and profitability by 2023, a feat that it achieved two years ahead of schedule.

“Our 2021 financial performance, despite the macroeconomic and socio-political environment, is an indication that the turnaround plan recommended by the board and approved by shareholders continues to be the north-star on our course to returning to financial stability and viability. As management, we are encouraged by this and look forward to the challenge of the coming years,” said Shelter Afrique Group Ag. Managing Director and Kingsley Muwowo.

During the year under review total assets declined by 5 per cent from US$ 176.68 million in 2020 to US$ 167.31 Million in 2021, attributed to the 100 per cent reduction in settlement of the total debt following the repayment of US$ 34.71 Million.

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Liquidity decreased by 33% per cent from US$ 47.41 million in 2020 to US$ 31.59 million in 2021, attributed to significant debt servicing payments on the CFA Bond and DRA debt amounting to US$ 35.87 million. However, the liquidity ratio still remained strong, closing at 19 per cent, which is 4 percent points above the minimum threshold of 15 per cent. Shareholder Funds increased by 19 percent from US$135.74Million in 2020 to US$ 161.60 Million in 2021 due to the new capital subscriptions of US$24.85 million and the profit of US$ 1.04 Million for the year. This increase brings the total paid-up capital by 15 per cent, from US$ 157.29 million in 2020 to US$ 182.14 million in 2021.

“We are grateful to our shareholders for their unwavering support through the continued capitalisation of the Company, with US$ 24 million received in 2021 against a target of US$ 17 million. The receipt of these funds was achieved amidst severe fiscal constraints, and we are conscious of this,” Mr. Muwowo said.

Mr. Muwowo added that the Company would continue to review various capital raising options, including new equity capital and debt options through the issuance of local currency bonds to develop and deepen Africa’s capital markets.

“We recently completed a debut ₦46 billion (US$110.7 million) Series 1 Fixed Rate Senior Unsecured Bond Issuance in Nigeria’s capital market under its ₦200 billion (US$481.3 million) bond issuance programme for housing and urban development in Nigeria.  We plan similar bond issuance in East African markets including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda,” Mr. Muwowo said.

New Managing Director

Meanwhile, Shelter Afrique shareholders have approved the appointment of Thierno-Habib Hann as the company’s new Managing Director. Mr. Hann will replace Mr. Andrew Chimphondah who left the company in February. Mr. Hann has extensive international experience in housing finance, capital markets and structured finance, set-up and management of investment funds with banking and multilateral institutions.  Currently, he is the Asia-Pacific Lead for housing finance & capital markets at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), based in Bangkok and previously in charge of Africa and the Middle East, based in Nairobi.

“The process was very competitive, and Mr. Hann was selected based on merit and competence. He is expected to strengthen governance, be an embodiment of our values and drive the investment strategy of the Company focused on delivering large-scale affordable housing,” Mr. Bichetero said.

Mr. Hann will join the organization once he completes his current contract with the International Finance Corporation. In the interim Mr. Muwowo will continue to serve as Acting Managing Director.

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Fitch revises ARC Limited’s Outlook to Positive; affirms IFS Rating at ‘BBB+’

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Fitch Ratings has revised African Risk Capacity (ARC) Limited’s Outlook to Positive from Stable and has also affirmed its Insurer Financial Strength (IFS) rating at ‘BBB+’ and Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘BBB’.

Announcing the news, the credit rating agency commented that this Outlook revision reflects ARC Limited’s “strong progress in meeting its development objectives, which if sustained, could support a stronger company profile assessment within the next two years”.

It added: “In Fitch’s view, the improvement in ARC’s premium base, risk pool and claim pay-outs enhances the company’s geographic diversification, franchise and operating scale. In addition, the improved reach of the company’s development activities is likely to further increase its importance to sponsors.”

Says Lesley Ndlovu, ARC Limited CEO: “We are delighted with this revision of our Outlook to Positive which reflects the work we have done to raise our company profile and improve portfolio diversification.

“We are confident that the support from our sponsors will only grow as we expand ARC Limited’s impact on the African continent in terms of our development activities and the number of parametric insurance pay-outs we have been making in 2022 to respond to cyclones and droughts.”

In addition to its strong growth in gross written premiums (GWP) in 2021, ARC Limited’s support from and oversight by the German development bank KfW through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) were cited as reasons for the revision.  

ARC Limited’s key strength, adds Fitch, is its capital position. “We regard the returnable capital provided by KfW/BMZ and the FCDO of USD70 million at end-2021 as fully loss-absorbing, and consequently treat it as equity capital when assessing capitalisation and leverage. On this basis, ARC scored ‘Extremely Strong’ on Fitch’s Prism Factor-Based Capital Model based on end-2021 figures, unchanged from 2020. Fitch expects that further capital support could be made available as ARC continues to achieve its development goals.

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ARC’s regulatory capitalisation is strong, with a Bermuda enhanced capital requirement ratio of 796% at end-2021 (2020: 1,628%),” it said.

“While our product portfolio is concentrated, dominated mainly by drought insurance, we are actively diversifying this. To that end, we introduced tropical cyclone cover in 2020 and are also expanding our offering to cover outbreak and epidemic, and flooding risks. In addition, we are expanding our insurance offering to non-sovereign entities and working to increase the number of African countries covered in our risk pool. Which we believe will help to elevate our standing in future Fitch ratings,” Ndlovu concludes.

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