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Find Your Fit

Title: LAN Lunch & Learn w/ Gbenga Odimayo: Find Your Fit
Event Date: Friday, 15 March 2024
Event By: Lagos Angel Network
Event Platform: LinkedIn
Host: Adeolu Adewumi-Zer, Founder and Managing Director, ZER
Guest: Gbenga Odimayo, Director of AfriFindInvest (AFI) 

Preamble: Has your #startup been struggling to #raisecapital? Are you wondering how to #connect with #angelinvestors and other active #funders? Or perhaps you’re simply puzzled as to what is the most critical #information to get in front of potential #investors. Then come discuss with Gbenga Odimayo, Director of AfriFindInvest (AFI), on how to structure an #investor deck that highlights your venture’s #identity, and a #pitchdeck that showcases your commitment to #excellence and #transparency.

The text below is a close outline of the conversation that took place between Adeolu Adewumi-Zer (AAZ) and Gbenga Odimayo (GO); and is provided in support of offering insight for those unable to attend the live event. 

AAZ: First could you share with us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
GO: Thank you Adeolu, as well as the Lagos Angel Network for the invitation. Thank you also to the listeners online for taking the time out of your lunch break. I’m glad to be a part of this inaugural lunch and learn. First, a little bit about myself and work: my name is Gbenga Odimayo. As a Nigerian, I know that I am in good company on this call. However, I am also a British citizen, which is where I was born and raised. I still remain a child of the Nigerian diaspora; as I am based in Nairobi, where I am the Founding Director of AfriFindInvest / AFI, which is an advisory boutique, helping early-stage tech startups on the continent to raise capital.

AFI is in this space due to the lack of access to capital, particularly in Africa, most especially for startups at the early stage. I recognise that these are the companies leveraging technology to improve access to goods, access to services and even employment opportunities across the continent.  That answers the ‘Why’ and the ‘What’. Regarding the ‘How’, I will elaborate on AFI’s suite of services across Founder-Investor readiness and Investor Matchmaking at a later stage on the call. Hopefully these initial points offer some context.  Once again, it’s great to be here.

AAZ: Perhaps you could let us know why the theme “Find Your Fit” resonates with you and your work
GO: In some way, my work today is a departure from the beginning of my career. I always felt that I was on the flip side of the coin having worked with various African markets, from the UK and Europe, even if not extensively in those African  markets. I’d add that the diversity of my professional experiences includes strategic communications and private banking. Nor do I have an academic background in business, favouring the liberal arts earlier on which is not typical in a Nigerian household, as we know. As you can tell, I do not easily fit into the one box. Then again, nor do startups, my core clients. The notion of finding one’s fit is therefore very relevant to me as to us all, ie. even those that don’t need to raise funds. However, FIT is especially important for those startups that do need to raise capital … 

AAZ: What brought you into this current tech space?
GO: My most recent ‘corporate’ role was in banking ,where I had a mandate to identify and capture offshore or international banking opportunities by leveraging the value proposition of safety, security, stability and execution of my Swiss employer.  I later realised that an even bigger socio and economic opportunity existed for ‘inward’ investment for Africa’s rapidly growing and urbanising populations. Around 2011, a huge democratic dividend was emerging from the digital accountability that social media had brought with the Arab Spring. Demographic dividends also meant that a new consumer class was rising up, also representing the world’s fastest-growing middle class, here in Africa. Further, six out of ten of the world’s fastest growing economies were in Africa at the time. Recently, the AfDB confirmed that 11 out of 20 of the fastest-growing economies this year (2024) are coming from the continent. 

However, rather than a purely infrastructure solution to many of Africa’s existing challenges, it seemed to me that much of the access and enablement would come from the tech sector – namely mobile phone and internet penetration, notwithstanding the well documented leapfrogging narratives. My curiosity grew into a motivation as to what role I could play in the story, even if more on the financing and business development side, versus pure Tech play.

Fast forward, tech is a big deal here in Kenya, as across the continent. That really came home to roost when I obtained my first mobile money wallet on arrival in Nairobi in 2019. I have hardly looked back ever since. Witnessing first-hand the improvement of access to goods and afforded by tech has only encouraged me to double down in my efforts. The onus was to try and support those with a local understanding of problems ripe for transformation. Witnessing people paying and getting paid, or moving goods from A to B etc on the phone is just the beginning 

AAZ: What do you define as FIT between Founders and Investors
GO: FIT is about sizing up and integrating a solution to a Problem. In short, the opposite of a square peg in a round hole. For every founder solving in payments or agriculture or logistics using tech, I am trying to solve an equivalent problem of access to capital through AFI’s consultative services and networks.

Regarding Founder-Investor Fit, this is often best defined by what it is not. In the well-documented cases, especially on TechCrunch, Digest Africa, WeeTracker etc, we hear of African companies that have closed stellar rounds. Of note, a FIT has to exist even before a company interacts with an investor; but still remains elusive to define and elusive as a concept. However, a more common and relevant theme is the absence of FIT ie. what is missing or what hinders the alignment piece or symmetry between Founders and Investors. This is perhaps easier to identify owed to the glaring gaps that I may see in a deck or data room from a new entrant into this fundraising space.

AAZ: What are these principal gaps, and how can they be addressed?
GO: For what it’s worth, experience has taught me that the gap between Founders and Investors cannot nearly be bridged by network effects or warm introductions alone. Since moving back to Africa in 2019, the local context has informed me of this wider problem relating to the asymmetry that exists between Founders and Investors, especially investors ex. Africa which account for +70% of investment into Africa’s tech ecosystem.

This has informed AFI’s work which is ultimately about answering
1) “what do investors look for?” – bridging the asymmetry in information between Founders and Investors via a resource centre
2) “what do investors look at?” – bridging skills/technical asymmetries via investor-ready consultancy services
3) network effects – introducing the most promising founders who are seeking to be connected to investors, globally.

AFI operates on the basis of alignment that we find for you, hence this theme of Find Your Fit

AAZ: Given the breadth and depth of experience that you bring to this conversation, it would be remiss of me not to explore your views on FIT, or readiness, especially having picked your brains privately on “Focus”, recently. Perhaps you have some comments on the subject matter. What for you constitutes FIT?
GO: FIT is in my view really still about that same focus which hinges on being ready to have a meaningful engagement with an investor. Core to this is the materials on your company and pitch, however one also needs to consider whether the investor is aligned from the perspective of their thesis and what it is that you are building.

Question/Comment 1 from the audience: Indeed, many startups looking for capital don’t prioritise the interest of investors. I know some Founders who are building something to later discover that investors have no interest in their sector or company.
GO: While this is a very valid and common observation, I always encourage Founders to focus on a significant and painful problem in a large, growing market for which they are uniquely placed to solve. Also, a cogent business model will ensure that you can extract the value of your efforts from a paying customer will enable you to scale your solution. I definitely would not exclusively build at the early stage with the investor exclusively in mind. Ultimately, the customer is king and the more that you can get that piece right, then the less your investor woes down the line.

AAZ: Coming back to you, Gbenga What is the relevance of the Deck in this FIT process?
GO: Many overlook or underestimate the purpose of a Deck in the Fundraising Process. It is the first product that you showcase to a potential investor. As the beginning, there is no middle or end if you can’t get this critical fundraising piece right. In simple terms, the role of a Deck is merely to get you to the next stage with the investor. That the two have a different title, highlights the respective role that they should play. For example, the Investor Deck which is to be shared via mail or in writing  will get you into a meeting room, while the Pitch Deck, is what the Founder pitches off when in conversation with an investor and will keep you in the deal room or otherwise.

AAZ: Talk us through AFI’s Deck Lab Offering
GO: For the investor deck, our Co. Deck Lab service is our premium service. It is a holistic solution of four stages focused on the:

Strategy ie. clarity of purpose around the Deck and your wider raise;
Structure, which slides in which order will best make the case for your Raise;
Storytelling to ensure key narratives based on content and copy; and finally
Design where we collaborate with an existing Design Partner to create a Deck with a high visual appeal.

Other variations of our service include a review and optimisation of the decks for a more express solution.  Likewise Pitch Check is a new service creating FIT through an opportunity to pitch in a simulated environment. Not only are the services responsive to Founder and Investor needs, our client Decks have raised over USD20M in the last 18 months. Rest assured you’re in good hands.

AAZ: What has best qualified you to deliver these services
GO: I feel fortunate to sit on both sides of the table. I’ve been working with entrepreneurs for most of my career and tech Founders for eight years. Crucially, I sit on the Investment Committee (IC) of a micro equity fund in Kenya, while I know what it is like to pitch to High Net Worth Individuals for big tickets and to be pitched at-

Whereas a number of institutional investors do not share the same experience of having run a company in Africa, I think that this is part of the FIT that AFI brings to the table.

Finally, AFI’s consultative steps have drawn upon the design thinking that I have leveraged during my early career work in strategic communications. For this reason, my commercial and liberal arts caps are blending around the Deck services.

AAZ: Will AI render deck consultancy services redundant in your opinion?
GO: AI is not just an individual game changer … it is changing the rules of the game itself.

You can take new inputs in new directions faster than ever before, with greater outcomes. For me that can mean AI as an enabler, particularly for research purposes and a tool for managing volumes of inquiries. Most of us using Chat GPT and other generative AI tools know that the current iteration cannot exclusively be relied on to tell your very human story to a human investor audience. So I don’t see it rendering these services obsolete for now. I see the opportunity to grow the deck services with AI in this space. AFI is keeping in step with these changes 

AAZ: You speak of Storytelling. Could you elaborate?
GO: Ultimately, nobody invests because of a pitch deck. But you invest because you believe what the company will become, or will deliver, and therefore you need to believe the story, particularly in the early lifecycle. You must be able to sell the story properly. It’s about yourself, that opportunity you’re going after and how convincing you can be.

That in a nutshell is my take on storytelling

AAZ: Are you able to share any Deck Dos/Don’ts for Founders listening?
GO: Regarding the Deck, I still maintain: get the right support if you need and can afford it. It could be your best investment. There are also a number of free templates if the price point is outside of range, however structure alone won’t cut it, nor will the many freelance design offerings alone.

Over and above, remember that you are telling a compelling story. The adage goes that if you don’t have a story, you don’t have a vision.

Never put yourself as the hero of the story/pitch … it’s you ‘and’ the investor Knowledge, Capital, Networks, coupled with your team, that will enable a startup to hit scale.

Always frame your ask near to the top … and have a strong call to action at the end. Articulate what support you need and clearly outline how much of your businesses you are willing to give away in order to get that financial/non-financial support in achieving those milestones.

AAZ: I especially agree with the last point. I see a number of pitches in which a Founder finishes and there is a lingering question of “what next.” It is important to be clear about your ask and be clear about how and why the investor should be convinced to help you on that journey. How about tips regarding Fundraising overall?
GO: Be relational not transactional ie. share updates with investors even when you are not raising. In this element, social media is a tool to use or lose. 

Secondly, be persistent, albeit via a bootstrap or a leaner fundraising ask, always have a Plan B around your Raise.

Finally, traction is often elusive at the early stage but does not always have to come in the form of revenue – think about customer experiences, customer discovery and pipeline. ie. what you have done and why that might get an investor excited.

Relax into the role. In sport, the best golf swing or tennis stroke comes at the point of greatest relaxation of the hands. This game is a marathon, not a sprint and you and your company must try to avoid burning yourself out.

Ultimately, try to relax, and be you. That’s what’s got you into the room. That’s what will keep you in the room.

Question 2 from the audience: Gbenga, what is your view on the perception of some that foreign investors see governments and/or corruption as a deterrent towards investing in Africa even in these verticals.
GO: In the process of seeking to disrupt or transform, startups tend to avoid spaces in which government and or regulation play an important role. Let’s remember that these are companies in their early lifecycle, hence vested interests are inevitably more limited. Given that +70% of investment comes from outside of the continent, I see the commitment as a marker of those foreign investors that see the opportunity and are willing to participate over the long term.

Question 3 from the audience: In terms of timelines for investment, what type of period would a foreign investor be committing to in an African startup?
GO: The lock up period of capital in VC can be viewed as a deterrent for many investors that do not have the right demographic. I know of some funds, such as Launch Africa, that offered a 5-7 year time horizon for their Fund I in order to create value for investors. However, the VC Fund lifecycle sits approximately between 8-12 years and often falls at 10, which gives startups the time to build i.e. grow and scale, provided that they can establish the right FIT in their early stages in order to better navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

AAZ: Do you have any closing remarks?
GO: Yes, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you, Adeolu, likewise the Lagos Angel Network, for having me. Although now might appear to be a doom and gloom scenario, there is strong reason to believe that an absence of so-called tourist investors and lower valuations can be a good opportunity for Founders to engage with the right investors focused on the long-term African opportunity. It also creates a vacuum for Angels and other early-stage investors to come in and leverage their local networks and capital for B2B corporate introductions and the like.  To the Founders, I wanted to leave a lasting rallying cry … to keep building.

Thank you