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.
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.
Fawry Invest in Sudanese Classifieds and Marketplace Platform alsoug, Marking First Overseas Venture
Fawry CEO Eng. Ashraf Sabry (Image: Supplied)
Fawry establishes strategic partnership with Sudanese consumer platform with an eye to scaling up technology platform beyond Egypt.
Fawry (the “Company”, FWRY.CA on the Egyptian Exchange), Egypt’s leading provider of e- payments solutions and digital banking services, announced today that it has finalized an investment in alsoug.com, Sudan’s largest online classifieds platform and marketplace, to help build out alsoug’s new fintech platform, Cashi. Fawry has acquired a strategic minority stake in the alsoug.com/Cashi holding company, marking the Company’s first venture capital investment outside of its Egyptian home market. The investment comes as part of Sudan’s first announced venture capital funding round.
Fawry played a leading role in ensuring the success of the USD 5m round, with the Company’s presence catalyzing involvement from other strategic Western VC players. As a strategic investor in alsoug, Fawry intends to leverage its long track record with white label technology solutions to help the platform expand in scale, enhancing the platform’s merchant acquisition operation, refining its go-to-market approach, and providing valuable insights that inform high-level strategy across all segments of the business.
Founded in 2016 by a world-class team of technology entrepreneurs, alsoug is now Sudan’s leading consumer internet platform and its largest digital marketplace. Alsoug is one of Sudan’s most downloaded apps on the Google Play app store with two million downloads and is a platform where sellers can list everything from real estate and cars to services and commodities.
Despite the political and economic headwinds experienced by Sudan as it goes through a transformative political transition, the platform has grown rapidly since 2016, reflecting alsoug’s highly skilled team of in-house developers, comprehensive coverage by its on-the-ground teams, as well as Sudan’s promising economic fundamentals. Moving forward, and building on the strategic partnership with Fawry, alsoug will significantly expand its service offering by building a new payments network capable of serving customers across Sudan, one of the largest countries on the African continent.
“We’re delighted to be kicking off our partnership with alsoug, one of Sudan’s most exciting prospects and a Sudanese leader in tech innovation. This is our first investment foray outside of Egypt in our thirteen years of operation, and we’re confident that our story with alsoug and Cashi will be a special one. Fawry’s investment in alsoug delivers on our plans to venture into underserved international markets by leveraging our technology and teaming up with strong local players. This investment will provide us the opportunity to strategically expand our footprint into Africa and transfer the experience we’ve gained in the dynamic Egyptian market to neighboring Sudan, an economy with major potential across several sectors and with a significant pool of entrepreneurial talent. Meanwhile, Fawry’s strategic partnership with alsoug leaves it ideally placed to help guide the platform’s rollout of a countrywide payments system, a feat which Fawry has already managed through a scalable, robust, and best-in-class technology platform.” said: Fawry CEO Eng. Ashraf Sabry
“This investment marks a significant milestone not just for alsoug, but for the nascent tech space in Sudan as a whole, which has until today been essentially shut out of the global capital markets. I hope this investment is the first of many and that the huge potential of the tech sector in Sudan is fully realized in the coming years. We are looking forward to working with Fawry, and our new strategic shareholders, to continue our expansion from the classifieds and marketplace space into payments. We will build a payments platform that will deliver financial inclusion to all Sudanese.” said Alsoug co-founder and CEO Tarneem (Nina) Saeed
ReelFruit Secures $3 Million Series A Funding To Expand Production with New Factory
ReelFruit CEO/Founder; Affiong Williams (Image: Supplied)
ReelFruit, a premium dried fruit company known for its high quality nutritious snacks, today announced a Series A investment of $3M. Alitheia IDF led the round and invested $2M while other investors included Samata Capital and Flying Doctor Healthcare Investment Company. The New Practice advised ReelFruit on the transaction. With the capital, ReelFruit will scale its dried fruit production, develop new products, and increase exports by 10 x to 15 MT in the first year.
Key to its expansion plans, ReelFruit will acquire a new factory in Ogun State to increase its monthly dried fruit production from 6 MT to 30 MT. The factory will hire over 200 people in its first year. With its greater supply of dried fruit, ReelFruit will continue to innovate new products for the local and international markets.
As part of its efforts to secure high quality raw materials, it plans to deepen its existing work with Nigerian fruit farmers. The company will form an agro-extension services program for 250 registered mango and pineapple producers. The program will boost fruit yields and help support a steady supply of high quality raw material for the factory.
To meet strong demand for its dried fruit snacks, ReelFruit will diversify its local and international sales channels. The company will launch an e-commerce channel for direct US sales by 4Q21. ReelFruit will also unlock more B2B opportunities including white-labelling and co-packing to support the national drive toward import substitution. Local buyers will be able to buy dried fruit locally thereby reducing dependence on imports. Reelfruit is already on track to double last year’s revenues by November 2021.
“This investment takes ReelFruit to the next level. We can meet increased demand for our products and tackle one of our biggest challenges – raw material supply. We’re thrilled that this will unleash a greater impact on our value chain by increasing farmer incomes and creating up to 300 decent jobs for Nigerians,” Affiong Williams, ReelFruit CEO/Founder.
“Alitheia IDF is proud to support ReelFruit’s ongoing efforts to boost food production in Nigeria and positively impact communities through deliberate partnerships with local farmers, distributors, and retailers. The investment will strengthen the company to unlock further growth, upskill farmers and improve economic outcomes for thousands of women who play a significant role in the production of ReelFruit’s products,” said Tokunboh Ishmael, Alitheia IDF co-founder.
Releaf secures $4.2 million in seed funding and grants to drive industrialisation of food processing in Africa
Releaf co-Founders (Image: Supplied)
Releaf, an agtech start-up that develops proprietary hardware and software solutions that makes African farmers and food factories more efficient and profitable, has raised $2.7 million seed funding in a round led by Samurai Incubate Africa, Future Africa and Consonance Investment Managers with participation from Stephen Pagliuca, Chairman of Bain Capital and Justin Kan (Twitch). Releaf also secured $1.5 million in grants from The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) and USAID.
The seed funding will enable the development of industrial food processing technology in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven Oil Palm sector while the grant will enable Releaf to provide working capital and other value-added services for smallholders and small-scale processors. Grant funding will support the training, recruitment and retention of more women and youth in Nigeria Oil Palm sector through the creation of both digital and technical jobs.
Nigeria’s oil palm industry is dominated by smallholder farmers, with 80 percent of local market share. However, production rates are low because many still rely on ineffective processes for de-shelling, including the use of rocks and inappropriate hardware. These ineffective processes also lead to low quality palm kernels which are largely unfit as input for high quality vegetable oil manufacturing. As a result, food factories are unable to purchase these raw materials and operate significantly under capacity. On average, food factories have 3X more installed capacity than utilization, which impacts the cost of food and hampers further investment into processing capacity.
Releaf acts as a bridge between smallholder farmers and food manufacturing companies with its proprietary patent-pending machinery, Kraken. Kraken can process any quality of palm nut into premium quality (95 percent purity) inputs for food factories. Releaf’s software connects the start-up to more than 2,000 smallholder farmers, ensuring consistent, large-scale supply. While palm kernel oil production is not foreign to Nigeria, Releaf’s technology and scale means it can process 500 tonnes of palm nuts per week. The software offerings also allow the start-up to receive inbound supply requests from farmers via USSD, provide working capital financing as well as collect proprietary data on supply availability.
Speaking about the new funding, Ikenna Nzewi, CEO and co-founder of Releaf, said, “our mandate is to industrialize Africa’s food processing industry. This round of funding enables us to develop and prove our technology with smallholder farmers in the oil palm sector. Given Nigerians spend ~60 percent of their income on food and Africa’s population is set to increase by 100,000 people per day over the next three decades, we’re presented with an incredible opportunity to feed more people, reduce consumer costs, and supply the fastest-growing food market in the world. Releaf is committed to harnessing technology to accelerate the economic wealth of rural, agrarian societies throughout the Continent. We firmly believe that a robust real economy is the foundation for long-lasting and shared prosperity for Africans and are excited to deepen partnerships with like-minded organizations, governments, and firms.”
This new funding will enable better productivity and accelerate the eradication of the menial and archaic processes that are prevalent across Nigeria’s oil palm sector and the agriculture sector as a whole. It will also enable Releaf to drive more value and profitability across the oil palm value chain, as well as support direct and ancillary job creation in the farming communities of South and Eastern Nigeria.
Rena Yoneyama, Managing Partner at Samurai Incubate Africa who led the round commented, “Releaf’s novel approach to operating within the value chain with proprietary technology set it aside from many agtech startups we have spoken to. We believe the firm’s thesis on decentralizing food processing would have a strong match with Africa’s economic development landscape for the next few decades. Ikenna and Uzo are the perfect founders to disrupt this market in Nigeria and beyond. We are thrilled to back them as they innovate in providing both agro-processing and financial services to rural communities and farmers.”
Iyin Aboyeji, General Partner at Future.Africa noted, “more than 50% of the goods in supermarkets globally contain glycerine – an extract made from palm oil – a cash crop that is passed down from generation to generation. The team at Releaf is building the agro-allied industry of the future from the ground up starting with palm oil which they have developed novel technology to aggregate, deshell and process into critical ingredients like vegetable oil and glycerine. Future Africa is delighted to back Releaf to build the future of modern agriculture”
Dr. Nneka Enwonwu, Country Relationship Manager, from The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) said, “We are thrilled to partner with Releaf on their mission to improve efficiency and profitability for farmers and food factories in Africa. The founders’ vision and the team’s enthusiasm gave us confidence that Releaf will deliver real value for rural communities and create digital/technical jobs for women and youth. We are looking forward to their results and success over the coming years and continuing to support their work.”