Sunday, August 21, 2016

On Giving Back To The Ecosystem

Hey dolls,

 Been awhile, no? A lot has happened. I don’t even know how to recount it all. A lot of good, an extreme amount of great and some bad but we take it all in stride. What finally got me to write; paying it forward. I am reading a brilliant book by Brad Stone about Jeff Bezos, the prescient founder of Amazon called “the everything store”. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was the fifth investor in Google. I find this extremely interesting as I’m slowly but surely nursing a passion for investment especially in tech. I’m intrigued by the cycle of funding, how it happens and why it happens for some and not others. I think because it’s something that is still an enigma in my ecosystem. All deals are shrouded with absolute mystery. And it is never heard of for a founder investing in another founder. It appears we are all waiting for Sequoi Capital to come save us.

But then I remembered something I read recently, a relatively new Nigerian Founder investing seed capital in another. I don’t think anything has made me as happy in recent times as reading that. Because ultimately, African businesses will grow on African capital.Which capital you ask? There’s so few of us funded. We are all still basically hustling. Well, true. But I believe we can all do more that we are currently doing. 

I’m in the middle of exiting the baby store. (More on that in several blog posts later, figures crossed). And the process has taken me back to the time I was scavenging for capital. I basically started that business with the equivalent of $100 but to actually build the business, I needed more. And I talked to several people. Anyone and everyone I could speak to, I did. Heck, I applied for the youth fund.  I sank up to $10,000 of my own money (some of that a personal loan taken out from a bank), $3000 from a dear friend and $2000 from my mother. I was 24. I was a single mum. I was lucky. I don’t know a single 24 year old right now who can pull that off. It was a grueling time. I do not recommend it for anyone. I am an insomniac. And I think it comes from that time. There is nothing like the thought of free-falling into poverty to keep you awake for eternity. The way I got through that time was the constant reminder from my parents that they got me. I just started living on my own at the start of this year because I can finally be able to pay bills, pay back that loan(still paying, heh!) and have some left over for investment and "life".

That experience truly scarred me and Zimba has been a lean mean machine till recently that we got a little bit of funding. Now, I don’t have a lot of money but because of what I went through, I try to give back as much as I can in whatever way I can. I am currently part of a group of young Ugandans trying to set up a Angel Fund because they like me believe in increasing the sources of funding for entrepreneurs in this country because sadly the people who should be doing it, aren’t. We contribute a certain amount monthly in the hope that after a year, we will have raised enough to invest a significant amount as well as attract other people that would be willing to join the fund. I give my time to advise and mentor. I try as much as possible to send opportunities for funding and otherwise to people in my network. My mother (best business cheerleader ever) gave me a data modem, paid up for a year. I gave this to my CTO who’s building his own startup. (She’s going to kill me when she reads this.) 

But I believe in people  and not just because so many people have believed in me but because all we have is ultimately each other. So I will put my money where my mouth is as others have done for me.  I hope to one day have the capacity to actually fund in a big way so many of the people I see executing brilliant ideas so wonderfully on extreme budgets.  I got this from arguably the most interesting founder I've ever met, an extremely brilliant South African; 

"There's only one rule that I know of, babies-"God damn it, you've got to be kind.” ― Kurt Vonnegut.

No comments:

Post a Comment