LEBO MOKGABUDI is the Director of Eaglequest Africa, who is currently working on a project to develop emerging payment solutions for corporate clients of Standard Bank Group. The mission of Eaglequest Africa is to help organizations in Africa to develop viable financial inclusion solutions for consumers and small businesses as well as digitize value chains in Africa. We have developed solutions for Women Development Bank Trust, led by Mrs Zanele Mbeki (previous First Lady), Gemalto and Multichoice. We have also helped international investors to understand the landscape of Fintech Africa and conducted investor-readiness programmes for Village Capital, an organization that helps fintech start-ups scale and engage with investors.
She is also the Winner of Inspiring fifty in STEM, 2018 - an Initiative of the Kingdom of Netherlands.
8 TIPS FOR START-UPS ON INVESTOR MATCH-MAKING & PARTNERSHIPS
Entrepreneurs in Africa are resilient, intelligent and generally understand the dynamics of their value chain, therefore should not allow themselves to be bullied by investors. Some investors have been known to leverage their power of capital to influence the entrepreneur to abandon their existing shareholders or pressure them to access markets beyond the pace of their team, which would affect sustainable growth. Start-ups should stand their ground and understand that raising capital can be a 12-month game of many dates, courtship and eventually the right marriage.
Start-ups should perform a due diligence on investment firms to assess the size of the fund, readiness to invest, investment theses and integrity of the investment team. Some investors have been known to waste the entrepreneurs’ time and have them pitch incessantly, without the intention to invest. They are unfortunately merely seeking access to working business models in the African economy and using the start-ups to help them understand the market. Start-ups should apply wisdom to sharing their pitch decks or business models with anybody that they seek as a partner.
Grant funding is usually measured by impact, e.g. quantity of people that get access to a certain product/service, however this may not necessarily translate to the number of customers willing to pay for that product/service. Start-ups who accept grant funding should ensure that the metrics set by the development financing institution are aligned to metrics that will result in a sustainable business model and revenue growth i.e. The balance of registered users vs usage and paying customers.
Partnerships with banks take time due to the internal processes within the bank. It is important to set expectations up-front, define a partnership roadmap with the bank that outlines the roles and responsibilities of each party, frequency of communication, deliverables and timelines. Start-ups should take time to assess the technical capabilities within the bank, integration constraints and capabilities as well as the compliance requirements. The complex hierarchical structures within a bank or any large corporate can cause fatigue of engagement, therefore it is important to understand the role players in the organisation; who is the gate keeper, who is the decision maker, who is the influencer, who signs the check and who’s head is on the block to ensure that the solution is implemented. Start-ups should prepare themselves for a process of approximately 6-8 months to complete the partnership.
A successful partnership requires the creation of value to both parties involved. Entrepreneurs may engage with a bank to access their customers; however the bank is seeking additional revenue streams, access to new markets, or merely running a competition for the perception of innovation. It is important for the entrepreneur to be clear of the bank’s intentions and speak to the objectives that they seek to meet. Accept the reality and play to win.
Startups should seek investors who are willing to share their business network to invest in the growth of the start-up. Investors who will liaise with their private sector network to seek competitive pricing from suppliers, offer access to market opportunities or enable ease of customer acquisition. Start-ups should seek investors that become business partners with the entrepreneur and go beyond merely investing capital
The reality of starting a business in Africa presents various uncertainties, such as the instability of the political environment, (e.g. elections in Kenya brought the economy to a halt in 2017) and the volatility of the economic environment (e.g. challenges to extracting funds from Angola). The infrastructure or lack thereof presents challenges to scalability of great businesses outside of urban areas (e.g. low mobile infrastructure outside of Lagos and no electricity). Start-ups have a responsibility to educate their potential investors of the dynamics of their chosen markets and make them aware that although there are insurmountable opportunities for growth, the speed to market and rate of scale cannot be compared to the rates experienced in Silicon Valley.
The recruitment / hiring strategy for start-ups is fundamentally different to that in the corporate arena; entrepreneurs need time to find the rhythm of what makes a great team in the environments in which they operate. How will they attract talent, how will they incentivise talent and how will they retain talent during the troughs of the business cycle. Attracting talent that have the privilege of sacrificing guaranteed corporate salaries is like searching for a needle in haystack, as educated and skilled individuals in Africa are faced with the responsibility of providing for their families. Entrepreneurs and investors should work together to grow productive teams and create cultures that harness innovation.
4 TRENDS TO FOLLOW IN THE DFC INDUSTRY
INTEROPERABILITY: The first phase of FinTech investments was largely money transfer offerings, mobile payments and mobile acceptance innovations. The next will be interoperability of these payment offerings and cross-border payments and processing capabilities.
IDENTITY: I have observed the surge of companies that are trying to solve for identity management such as biometric identification and selfies as a reputable form of identity.
BIG DATA: The next wave of DFS lies in Big Data, gathering data insights and the use of machine learning and AI to innovate in financial services. The use of social data and mobile transaction behaviour to offer lending and usage-based insurance solutions are slowly gaining traction.
BLOCKCHAIN: Blockchain solutions for Africa are present on discussion forums however have yet to see successful implementation of blockchain uses cases for Africa. Large corporates are testing blockchain use cases in trade finance, deeds registrations and smart contracts.
To contact Lebo, feel free to reach her on Lebo@eaglequestafrica.com.