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Identifying the right venture capitalist for investment: The do’s and dont’s

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Kevin Mutiso (Source: Kevin Mutiso)

I wrote an article recently on the key lessons I have learnt so far in the tech business and some people reached out to me to provide some advice when negotiating with a venture capitalist (VC) or an investor. This is from my own personal experience and observations and thus critical feedback and debate are welcome, particularly from investors themselves.

Sun Tzu, one of the greatest strategists in human history and author of one of my favorite books, The Art of War, has a quote that I live by: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Before I go into what to look for in a VC, it is good to understand WHO YOU ARE. In the world of ideas, the probability that you have a unique idea is next to zero. In the big scheme of things generally, you as an entrepreneur are nothing but another person roaming this earth just trying to figure out life. This video is a scaled representation of our solar system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj4524AAZdE 

When you realize how far the Moon is from Earth, or that it takes 5hrs for the suns rays to reach Pluto, it hits you how small you are in this infinite universe.

Secondly, a conversation with a VC is about an exchange of value. The entrepreneur has a vision and an idea that he believes will have commercial success. A VC has cash and wants to take a risk with this cash and get above-average returns. Usually, in an early stage start-up, the VC is buying into your ability to execute your vision and deliver these above-average returns. So you both have something of value to exchange. You are equals.

With those two points in mind; let go of your ego the moment you meet with an investor and instead start observing and looking for their ability to understand your vision and idea.

What should you be looking for?

1. Does the VC insist that you get your own lawyer – The reality of life is that by the time someone has enough cash to invest in people’s ideas, they have learned that a good lawyer is a must-have. If they downplay the need for you to have a good lawyer, then be wary. This is a clear sign that they want to take advantage of your ignorance. “Lawyers -” as my mentor from CreditInfo once told me -” plan the funeral,” the entrepreneur and the investor usually plan the wedding – they only see the happily ever after. The lawyers usually see what could potentially go wrong in a transaction and thus depending on whom they are being paid by, provide the protections to this party.

Yes, you are a start-up and you may not have money, but by the time you are engaging lawyers you have agreed to begin a relationship with the investor, and they should be willing to add the cost of your lawyers to the investment they are making. If they are not willing to do this, be aware of potential malice.

2. Does the VC understand the risks your business’ faces – An entrepreneur should always know what are the key risks to the success of their business and should strive to de-risk them. The VC too should have an idea of the risks of the business they want to invest in. If they do not, then other than the money they might not be of much use. If you are not aligned on how to de-risk the business then you will have conflicting objectives and this will start affecting the business. A good example of this is usually observable when it comes to allocating resources of the company.

3. Do you want to be in the trenches with this investor – The legendary John Doerr usually asks himself when evaluating entrepreneurs the following question, “If s*** hits the fan, do I want to fight the fight with this person?” I think that question also applies to the entrepreneur. Problems are part of your existence and things will not always be rosy, so when you have a major fraud in your business or the technology crashes, does a blame game start, or is a brainstorm held?

You can see this early on, observe how the investor negotiates their must-haves in a contract or if a junior member of their team accompanies them to meetings. Do they naturally teach or do they instruct them on what to do? Do they apologize if they misunderstood something? These little things give you an indication of the kind of person you are about to spend considerable time with — so can you live with this for the next 5 years?

4. Zero-sum game vs. Positive sum game – The key lesson I learned when I did the master negotiator program at Strathmore Business School (If you can, please do this course – it changed my life) is that negotiation doesn’t have to be a winner and loser experience, it should be a win-win for both parties. If you are raising a sum of money and the VC wants to take anything over 50% of your business, I’d be wary. If an exchange of value is the point of the transaction then a fair price must be met.

Both parties must be striving to solve for each other’s needs when negotiating and the must-haves of both sides must be very clear. If you reach an understanding with the positive-sum game strategy, you have found a partner you can work with through even the most difficult of problems. Mark Zuckerberg is going through one of his most tumultuous times with all the data privacy issues, but when I looked at his board and saw he has the likes Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman on his board, I was a little envious because the problem-solving abilities he has at his disposal are at genius level.

What I would do to be a fly on the wall during their brainstorming sessions. Both Peter and Reid were early investors in Facebook and have been with Mark from the beginning, and if I was to bet money, I’d bet that they will solve this too, not without some bruising. Entrepreneurship is lonely, and more so during tough times.

Also Read: Meet The Resilient Black Brothers Saving The Planet One Car At A Time

Finally, I’d like to add the final tidbit that another mentor constantly reminds me of. He says, “Good ideas do not chase money, money chases good ideas!”As an entrepreneur, it is always better to give a true and honest picture of your business to your potential investor and demonstrate that you have the ability to execute the idea and vision that will achieve commercial success.

Author: Kevin Mutiso, CEO Alternative Cricle

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Investment

Chaka secures $1.5M pre-seed round to power digital investments and wealth management opportunities across Africa

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Chaka CEO, Tosin Osibodu at a press briefing (Image & Press Release: Chaka)

Chaka is thrilled to announce its $1.5M pre-seed funding round led by Breyer Capital, a global venture firm focused on catalyzing growth in high-impact companies like Spotify, Facebook, and now, Chaka. Other participants in the round are 4DX Ventures, Golden Palm Investments, Future Africa, Seedstars, and Musha Ventures.

Chaka is a technology solutions company on a mission to enable every business and person in Africa to access borderless digital investment and wealth management opportunities. The team combines investment expertise and best-in-class technology to provide reliable digital Investing, trading and wealth management solutions that are easy-to-use and easy-to-integrate.

Their mission is to enable digital border-less investing for African businesses and individuals. They’re powering the digital investment landscape in Africa through partnerships with asset managers, financial technology firms, and regulators with whom we have a shared mission. We achieve this by providing trading solutions that are easy to use and easy to integrate.

With this capital, they will focus on the goals to build a roster of formidable partners and accelerate expansion to other markets within West Africa. This investment also enables them to hire top talent and integrate more advanced functionalities into our investment and wealth management solutions.

Jim Breyer, CEO of Breyer Capital, shared his view on this investment and it illustrates their shared vision: “We are proud to align ourselves with a company that is leveling the investment playing field for Nigerians (and Africans at large). We’re confident in the value Chaka provides through its digital tools, and we look forward to playing our part in supporting Tosin, Bo, Olaolu, and the Chaka team.”

This is a significant milestone for Chaka and could not have come this far without their users, partners, early investors, and a talented, achieving team of Champions.

They see digital investments as a means to boost economic transformation in Africa, and we’re very keen to bring this vision to life.

 

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elmenus, Egypt’s Leading Food App Secures $10M Pre-Series C from Fawry, Luxor Capital and Marakez

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Co-Founders (Image: elmenus)

elmenus and Fawry to co-develop innovative solutions for restaurants and customers

Luxor Capital’s first investment in the MENA region, previous investments include the biggest food ordering platforms globally, such as Zomato, Deliveryhero and Glovo

elmenus, Egypt’s biggest food discovery and ordering platform, has secured new funding from three new investors, based in the MENA region and North America. Fawry Group, the renowned digital transformation and e-payment platform is leading the investment from Egypt. The investment follows Fawry’s new strategy to take minority stakes in fast-growing, Egyptian, technology businesses. As well as investing, Fawry will work closely with elmenus to develop innovative solutions to benefit restaurants and consumers. Also investing is Marakez, a leading Egyptian real estate developer.

Ashraf Sabry, CEO of Fawry, said: “Fawry is looking forward to its journey with elmenus, working closely with the executive team and entering many ventures together.  By this investment, we show our desire to not only be a payment catalyst but to be a strategic partner to elmenus, its customers, restaurants and their riders. The Egyptian food space has high growth potential, with technology disrupting the status quo, as customers’ needs in food service provision rapidly change.”

From North America, investment has also been received from New York-based hedge fund, Luxor Capital Group, which has $11 billion of assets under management. elmenus is its first investment in the MENA region testament to its’ growth track record and market opportunity in Egypt. Luxor has a long history of successfully investing in food technology companies around the world.

Amir Allam, CEO of elmenus, commented: “Attracting new investment from Fawry, Luxor Capital and Marakez – following the endorsement of industry veteran, David Buttress, earlier this year – validates elmenus’ unique strategy. We are accelerating the adoption of online ordering by users, while enabling restaurants with new verticals – to help them scale. This funding demonstrates the investors’ strong belief in our position in Egypt, and our capability to dominate the market.”

elmenus, which now has over 1.5 million monthly users, is the most comprehensive platform for restaurant information and food discovery in Egypt, and its aim is to personalize food recommendations at a dish level. elmenus continues to expand rapidly, and today’s announcement follows the investment and board appointment of David Buttress – the former CEO of global food ordering firm, JustEat – announced earlier this year.

By the end of 2021, elmenus expects to empower 12,000 restaurants with new data and tool offerings to help them scale their businesses, across 20 Egyptian cities. Its cutting-edge digital solutions will also drive its existing database of several million users, to switch to online ordering.

 

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MarketForce secures $2M Pre-Series A round, plans to launch in Nigeria and scale up RejaReja in East Africa

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MarketForce Co-founders, Tesh Mbaabu (Left) and Mesongo Sibuti (Right) (Image & Release: MarketForce)

Kenyan-based MarketForce, a B2B platform for retail distribution of consumer goods and digital financial services in Africa, announces a $2 million Pre-Series A round, bringing total funding to-date to $2.5 million. With this fresh round of funding, MarketForce has brought on V8 Capital, Future Africa, Greenhouse Capital, Launch Africa, Rebel Fund, Remapped Ventures, and a couple of strategic angel investors as new investors. They joined Y Combinator and existing investor P1 Ventures, who also participated in the oversubscribed round.

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 90% of household retail transactions are in cash, and delivered through a network of about 100 million MSMEs, with 42 million in Nigeria alone. Retail payments on the continent are expected to top $2.1 trillion by 2025, and MarketForce aims to digitize a large portion of these offline transactions.

Co-founded in 2018 by Tesh Mbaabu and Mesongo Sibuti, MarketForce uniquely combines a field sales automation SaaS solution with it’s “RejaReja” B2B marketplace to digitize how informal retail merchants buy and sell FMCGs and digital financial services. RejaReja helps these corner shops, commonly referred to as ‘dukas’ in Kenya, get better service, assortment, and access to new revenue opportunities, outfitting them with the technology and support they need to transform themselves from simple FMCG outlets to comprehensive financial service hubs for the continent’s last-mile communities. Currently available in Kenya, RejaReja offers informal retailers next-day delivery for hundreds of SKUs from the leading FMCG brands.

Last month, MarketForce announced the strategic acquisition of Digiduka, which was formed and funded during the inaugural cohort of the Antler programme in Nairobi. This was a huge fintech step forward as RejaReja now provides a wallet that allows retailers to collect mobile money and bank payments via mobile app, WhatsApp bot or USSD shortcode, eliminating the high mobile money transaction fees and enabling merchants accept digital payments, access working credit and earn more by acting as distribution agents for popular financial services such as airtime, bills, utilities, and even insurance.

With this round of funding, MarketForce plans to launch in Nigeria and to scale up RejaReja to more towns in East Africa.

“We are seeing significant demand for our radically improved way for companies to distribute their goods and services in Africa, and we’re thrilled to get a boost from returning and new investors at this crucial time,” said Tesh Mbaabu, Co-founder and CEO of MarketForce. “The combination of our technology with the offline distribution network that we are building is essential to creating maximum output and impact in African retail distribution. Our goal is to create income growth opportunities for a million retailers and independent sales agents across Africa within the next five years.” 

“Our clients and partners understand MarketForce’s power to increase sales performance and productivity across markets and industries,” said Co-founder and CTO Mesongo. “We are building the operating system for retail distribution in Africa, and we have the right combination of technology and team to make our Pan-African vision a reality.” 

Today, MarketForce clients are able to gain access to both our software and the RejaReja marketplace, which has garnered over 15,000 retail customers, processing thousands of orders daily, and we are experiencing double digit revenue growth month over month. The MarketForce SaaS product on the other hand has garnered over 10,000 monthly active users, with over 300,000 transactions worth over 500 Million USD processed to date through the platform in 3 key markets; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Clients and partners include Safaricom, Pepsi, Grain Industries, Fort Beverages, Madison Insurance, Platinum Credit, Momentum Credit, Letshego, Pezesha and Lami.

A happy RejaReja customer in Nairobi (MarketForce)

“We are glad to be backing MarketForce in this round of funding, given their ability to build a differentiated, powerful and all-inclusive digital commerce platform for informal retailers in Africa. Similar to Paystack, another successful African YC company who targets merchants selling online, RejaReja targets the millions of underserved informal merchants who are still offline when it comes to business automation and payments,” said Tobi Oke, Managing Partner at V8 Capital Partners. 

“We are proud to back MarketForce to build the future of retail in Africa and help catalyze the digitization of the African retail market, which is highly informal, fragmented and undigitized, but holds a lot of untapped potential to improve incomes and enable millions of African retailers to grow their businesses. MarketForce sits in a place that enables them to generate a lot of value and empower every single participant in the massive retail industry,” said Adenike Sheriff, Principal at Future Africa. 

“We are excited to strengthen our partnership with MarketForce,” said Mikael Hajjar, Managing Partner at P1 Ventures. “MarketForce is one of the fastest-growing African leaders in sales and distribution automation technology. We’ve witnessed the pain point that MarketForce’s product addresses and how its customers realize major productivity gains over substitutes.” 

“I have known Mesongo and Tesh for over two years and MarketForce has proven that they know how to leverage the entire retail supply chain as a gateway for digital payments. Their organic as well as acquisition-driven growth & expansion strategy thus far has proven that their understanding of unit economics and marginal customer acquisition costs is solid. As a pan-African fintech company, they are very well positioned to tap into the $700 billion that gets transacted in this space every year,” said Zachariah George, Managing Partner at Launch Africa. 

 

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