On the 25th and 26th of September, I was in Lagos to participate in the first African Angel Investors Summit (organized by VC4Africa) and DEMO Africa (organized by DEMO Africa) which gathered over 300 startups and entrepreneurs from all over Africa. I was a panel speaker in the session on ‘Investing in Startups’.
In keeping with its name, DEMO Africa is fulfilling the African vision. This year DEMO Africa was for the first time hosted in Lagos, Nigeria, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Communication and Technology, the National IT Development Agency and the LIONS@FRICA partners.
This was three days of nothing but entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity. That was what DEMO Africa celebrated – the men and women who created things that became part and parcel of humanity.
DEMO Africa is one of the flagship initiatives of LIONS@frica and aims to connect African startups to the global ecosystem. DEMO Africa is the place where the most innovative companies from African countries get a platform to launch their products and announce to Africa and the world what they have developed.
With startups being created in Africa to develop real-world solutions, worthy of investment and global attention, The US Department of State, in collaboration with Microsoft, DEMO, USAID, and Startup Weekend, launched the Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) Partnership. This was in recognition of Africa’s economic emergence. The public-private alliance is aimed at enhancing and deepening the startup and innovation ecosystems of targeted fast-growing African economies.
They invest in technological innovation because they understand the benefits of a vibrant technology ecosystem to a country. As Africa’s population becomes increasingly educated and affluent, the global business community is looking to capitalize on this increase in human and financial resources. There appears to be a new optimism for future economic prospects for Africa and hence a fresh interest in the technology sector, as highlighted by Intel Capital’s recent move: The potential for growth in the technology value chain is material, given that Africa has about 15% of the world’s population, but only about 2% of that population are personal computer users.
DEMO Africa allows start-ups from all over Africa to meet VCs, investors, tech acquisition specialists, IT buyers and media from across the region and around the globe. The startups are given an opportunity to launch their products to a tech eco-system under the following categories:
- Media and Entertainment
- Transport and Logistics
- Finance and Banking
- Water and Sanitation
- Waste Management and Recycling
In just two years of running, DEMO African alumni have generated over $8 million in investment, business and partnerships from the unique mix of positioning, opportunity (networking, fundraising), training and exposure that our launch pad offers.This has been a real motivation and we are proud to participate in pushing technology in Africa to greater heights.
The Africa platform for startup funding, VC4Africa, is the largest online community of entrepreneurs and investors dedicated to building game changing companies on the continent. Entrepreneurs have access to free online tools, mentorship opportunities and private deal rooms. Investor Pro Account users can set up intelligent alerts, follow progress, conduct due diligence and connect directly with the continent’s leading entrepreneurs. The community has members in 159 countries and meet-ups have been hosted in more than 50 cities around the world.
Entrepreneurship is a key driver for the continent’s continued development. Entrepreneurship should be the main driver in Africa’s economic growth, in particular the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that provide much of Africa’s employment, income and hope for a better future. SMEs contribute around two thirds of the national income and provide the foundation for a stable middle class in many African countries. They help form strong communities and are a powerful force for poverty reduction. SMEs play a significant role in building economic stability and sustainability for the future.
As Africa enters the new millennium, it faces a challenge to provide better economic opportunities for citizens through sustained growth and alleviating the poverty that has long plagued the continent. The NEPAD (New Economic Platform for African Development) and the United Nations Millennium Goals for 2015, to which all EU countries have subscribed, have set out ambitious aims in this respect. The World Economic Forum in Davos and the G8 have also made the commitment to stimulate private and public investments in Africa.
However, it is their belief that the most meaningful impact will still come from a grass-roots level i.e. entrepreneurs bold enough to start great companies that will transform the world. At the same time, a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem emerges when entrepreneurs form strong communities. VC4Africa is a network of high potential entrepreneurs that come together in a shared mission to efficiently connect network, knowledge and capital.
VC4Africa was started as a LinkedIn group in the spring of 2008 and has grown organically into what is now the largest online community dedicated to entrepreneurs and investors building companies on the continent. The VC4Africa community has always been free for anyone to join and the entire network and its content remain open and accessible. VC4Africa can be found at VC4Africa.biz and on social media channels like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
VC4Africa as a peer-to-peer network and champion an open source approach. A core vision behind the project is that VC4Africa is only a platform within a larger social movement. Open communication and collaboration is encouraged and all members are invited to become active participants in both growing and developing the project. Every member is expected to contribute in some meaningful way.
In 2014, Nigeria’s economy (GDP) became the largest in Africa, worth more than $500 billion, and overtook South Africa to become the world’s 26th largest economyFurthermore, the debt-to-GDP ratio is only 11 percent (8 percent below the 2012 ratio). By 2050, Nigeria is expected to become one of the world’s top 20 economies.The country’s oil reserves have played a major role in its growing wealth and influence. Nigeria is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank and has been identified as a regional power in AfricaIt is also a member of the MINT group of countries, which are widely seen as the globe’s next “BRIC-like” economies. It is also listed among the “Next Eleven” economies set to become among the biggest in the world. Nigeria is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the African Union, OPEC, and the United Nations, among other international organizations.
Lagos, a port and the most populous city in Nigeria, is the second fastest-growing city in Africa and the seventh in the world.The population of Lagos, according to the Lagos State Government, is 17.5 million. These figures are however disputed by the Nigerian Government and judged unreliable by the National Population Commission of Nigeria.] The latest reports estimate the population at 21 million, making Lagos the largest city in Africa.
At the 17th Congress of EBAN, congress delegates asked the new board to look for new startup markets where they could co-invest with local business angel networks. The EBAN Board decided to look for new startup markets to create an opportunity for its member business angels and for local startups to receive the investments. As a result of a short survey, two new markets were taken onto the agenda of the EBAN Board: MENA Region Startups and Africa Startups.
EBAN President Candace Johnson immediately acted on this demand. She participated in the Europe-Africa Economic Forum in Brussels and met with BenWhite the founder of VC4Africa. The first step agreed with VC4Africa was to initiate the founding of ABAN – Africa Business Angels Network, who would provide a pipeline for European business angels to invest in the startups of Africa. It was very clear that without an umbrella organization, it would be impossible to co-invest in African entrepreneurs.
For this purpose, EBAN could incubate the process of founding ABAN for a year and could transfer the know-how to newly formed ABAN.
Here you can learn more about EBAN’s support package: EBAN & AfricaBAN – Baybars
The nearest time to announce this initiative and invite investors and business angel networks from Africa was the 23rd of September, when the first African Angel Investment Summit would take place with the participation of potential angel investors of Africa.
EBAN Board decided to send Vice President Baybars Altuntas as the representative of EBAN to the summit to word the willingness of EBAN members to invest in the startups of Africa and support to ABAN, if founded.
I was scheduled to leave on the 4.10 flight of Turkish Airlines on the 23rd of September. I flew with a one-day delay because of the late delivery of my visa by the Nigerian Embassy in Ankara. However, it was a nice flight in the business class of Turkish Airlines. We arrived in Lagos on time but I couldn’t leave the airport on timeJ because I had no yellow health paper. The embassy in Turkey had somehow not informed me about that requirement. I spent a little bit of time with the police and overcame the issue with an entrepreneurial approachJ That was not a very good welcome but as an entrepreneur I know that we should always concentrate on seeing the glass half full.
I spent another hour to find the driver who was supposed to pick up me from the airport, but he was nowhere to be seen. To be honest, I was a bit nervous in the middle of the night, alone at the Lagos airport, since there was no light on the roads and the distance from the airport to the hotel was 60 kilometers. Imagining myself in a car on a road without any light in the middle of the night in a city I didn’t know didn’t make me feel very confident.
Then, an airport staff member helped me find a reliable taxi for approximately 50 dollars. The taxi driver was a good guy, but the way he drove, combined with the environment between the airport and downtown, gave me my first impression of Lagos. When I arrived at the airport, I had realized that I was on an adventure. The trip from airport to the hotel made it even clearer that I was really in for a bigger adventure than I had expected.
We arrived at the hotel at midnight. I stayed at the Lagos Oriental Hotel, on one of the islands of Lagos. Lagos city has three islands, each connected by a bridge. The event was also in this hotel. There was a reception of the Nigerian Stock Exchange Market the night I arrived, but everybody had already left. If I had arrived a little bit earlier, I would have had an opportunity to meet with the president of the stock market and try to learn what good things were happening at the stock exchange market for startups.
EBAN had prepared a startups investor manifesto to highlight the importance of stock markets for access to finance for startups. That was something I had wanted to share with the Nigerian stock market’s president, but he had left before I got to the hotel.
Lagos Oriental Hotel
The hotel was one of the best in the region and there was no problem with the service. I understood from local visitors at the hotel that it was a center for important weddings, receptions, and meetings.
If you go to Lagos, you should stay at this hotel. The rate per night for a single, including breakfast, is 45,000 RD (approximately 300 dollars). I suggest you request a beach-view room because the side facing the road is a total disaster. You can’t sleep because of the sound of vehicles. I had to change my room on the second night for that reason. This hotel has an excellent guest relations manager. He is extremely helpful, so please note his details. If you pass my greetings to him, I am sure he will remember me.
Mr. Doyin Adegoke
+234 (0) 1280 66 00
Following a nice breakfast near the lobby, I moved to the convention hall where DEMO Africa would be held.DEMO Africa hosted 40 entrepreneurs from 12 different sectors and the winner would go to Silicon Valley to represent Africa Startup ecosystem. The event was under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Communication Technologies. Dr. Johnson, the Minister, made a nice welcome speech, announcing to the Nigerian entrepreneurs the good news of a support fund of about 9 million dollars available for incubation centers. After her speech, I asked for an appointment with her to convey some details about early stage investment markets. She said she would be at the reception later that day, so we could meet before the reception in the hotel.
The US Consulate and the LIONS@FRICA were the main partners of the event and we had an opportunity to listen to the video message of US Secretary of State John Kerry for the opening ceremony of DEMO Africa.
You can find the whole programme of DEMO Africa 2014 here:
I was a panel speaker in the afternoon of the 25th September:
Investing in Startups in Africa
2pm – 2.30pm
- Nicole Wordard, CEO, Nexus Group Global
- Eghosa Omaigui, GP, EchoVC
- Amrate Abdella, Director, Startup Engagement & Partnerships, Africa Initiatives, Microsoft
- Baybars Altuntas, VP, EBAN
Takeaways from me were as follows:
- 25% of angel investment money in the world goes to funding IT and mobile technology startups. Foreign angel investors are primarily interested in investing in IT and in mobile technologies abroad (cross border investment) because they feel more confident about following the business online. So 75% of the needed finance for startups is covered by local angel investors. Africa needs more local angel investors to fill the equity gap in the African startup ecosystem.
- Investors’ approach to the startups does not change from continent to continent. It changes from sector to sector, so there is no special approach for European angel investors in African startups.
- Angel investors invest in entrepreneur first, then the business idea. If both happen at the same time, that is a plus for the angel investor.
All entrepreneurs, angel investors and other early stage market players of Africa came together for the DEMO After-Dark Reception at 7pm. That was an excellent networking opportunity for everybody in the startup community. A local Nigerian dance show was marvelous. Around 8pm, Dr. Johnson, the Minister of Communication Technology, arrived at the reception. I held a very beneficial meeting with her and she agreed to come to Brussels if there is a launch for the ABAN – African Business Angels Network. I was very pleased to hear her positive remarks about EBAN and me in her speech to the reception guests.
2nd Day – 26 September, Friday
You can find the full programme here:
We made the first founders working committee meeting of ABAN from 1pm to 2pm as a lunch discussion in the restaurant part of the hall. Participants of this meeting were Ben, David, Miguel, Nick and Victor. At the end of the meeting, we decided VC4Africa would invite all relevant parties in Africa to be founding members of ABAN and to participate in the first founders meeting to be held in Helsinki on the 17th of November. An invitation letter would be prepared by VC4Africa and following the confirmation of the relevant parties who have their signature on the letter, it would be delivered with a deadline for feedback from the addressees.
By 5.45pm, I was on the main stage to give a speech about why we need ABAN and why EBAN wants to support such an organization.
Then I met with the following people from the angel investment ecosystem and they all confirmed their willingness to be founders of ABAN:
- Suleyman, President of Lagos Angels
- Tomi Davies, Lagos Angels
- President of Africa Incubation Center
18.22: Now on stage: Jeffrey J. Hawkins, Jr., US Consul-General, Lagos, Nigeria, to announce the 5 DEMO Lions.
18.14: “Let’s get to the awards!”
18.13: Now on stage: Neal Silverman, Senior VP of DEMO global.
18.13: A traditional dance performance.
17.56: In November there will be an EBAN conference in Helsinki, where all investors who were present at DEMO Africa are invited to join – the ABAN
17.55: 75% of startup investments should be provided by local angel investors, because this is in sectors where local monitoring is necessary.
17.54: EBAN would like to reach out to African angels to be able to co-invest in African entrepreneurs together with local angel networks. EBAN got in contact with VC4Africa, and a plan was formed to examine if an African Business Angel Network can be incubated.
17.51: EBAN would like to support new African business angel networks.
17.51: When looking for business angel networks in Africa, EBAN was very surprised not many could be found. Lagos Angel Network is one example, but not much others are formalized.
17.50: Last year 17th EBAN congress in Ireland, where most investors asked to look for new markets with new hot startups.
17.50: EBAN represents 20,000 business angels in Europe. Business angels are crucial for startups to get finance.
17.48: Video Show: There are many misconceptions about business angels. All old men? Only successful in the US? Business angels only mean money? Wrong, wrong, wrong.
17.46: Now the last presentation: Baybars Altuntas, Vice-President of EBAN, the European Business Angel Network.
You can watch the video I used during the speech:
Here is my PowerPoint presentation: EBAN & AfricaBAN – Baybars
Following my speech was the awards session of DEMO Africa 2014. The US Consul in Lagos was also present in the awards ceremony and he made a highly aspirational speech for entrepreneurs. The winner of the grand prize of DEMO Africa 2014 was the team from Zimbabwe. Their prize was a flight to Silicon Valley to represent Africa at DEMO Silicon Valley in 2015.
My observation about the pitchings is brief: There is no real difference between the quality of business ideas and pitching skills of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, Europe or Asia. I’d like to congratulate all of them with all my heart and believe that they will be the real drivers of the economic change in Africa.
Dear Doyin from the Oriental Hotel organized a 3-hour sightseeing tour for me, which cost 6000 NG (37.5 USD). Unfortunately, there is no travel agent in Lagos organizing city tours so you have to organize it by yourself. I looked forward to seeing the city’s traffic, the harbor, and the zoo in three hours. The city is full of cars and buildings and it has a lovely view from the bridge when you look at the seaside. It was a bit rainy, and because of the traffic jam I had time to talk with the young driver. He had studied banking and finance at the university. He claimed to be a very good football player, so I advised him to send me his profile because I have a friend in Turkey who recruits new players for major sports clubs like Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Tranzonspor, Besiktas.
Seeing a 91-year-old turtle in the zoo’s entrance area and monkeys on the trees was a spectacular experience. One thing I found interesting in Nigeria is that you always have to sign a paper before you do anything. Even when parking in the garage of the zoo, you have to write all your information in a notebook and sign it.
Our 3-hour tour ended after just two hours and I arrived back at the hotel around 1pm. When I entered the hotel, I saw an announcement about the JCI’s meeting at the second floor. Because I know the JCI community in Turkey (I have been invited to speak at many events of JIC and I have been a jury member of JCI’d TOYP – Ten Outstanding Young Person Award for the last three years), I naturally wanted to see what was happening on the second floor.
A man in the front of the meeting room asked me what I was looking for, and I explained that I just wanted to see what was happening at this JCI meeting since I know the JCI community in Turkey. Then he wanted my business card. I was about to leave the second floor but then he told he was the president of JCI Kinoli and would appreciate it if I could address the participants of the meeting.
I told him I would have to change my clothes since it seemed like a serious meeting and that I could be in the room by 3pm and leave at 4pm because I had to leave the hotel at 5pm. In the meantime, I had a meeting with Ben, David and Miguel until 2pm, so I didn’t have much time. Following the meeting, Miguel prepared an immediate press release about ABAN and agreed to invite all relevant parties to EBAN’s Helsinki Winter University on the 16th of November.
You can find the press release here:
I immediately brought my video and presentation from my room and uploaded them on the computer in the JCI meeting. We checked the sound system and everything was perfect. Then I went down to the pool bar to meet with the VC4Africa team and invited them to my speech in the JCI meeting at 2pm. Our meeting ended around 3pm, and I dashed back to my room, changed my clothes and I was ready and in the conference room by 3pm.
My speech was about the rising steps of the entrepreneur. I tried to explain the roadmap stages of a successful entrepreneur. Following my 20-minute speech, I said goodbye to all participants and gave an interview to TUbee TV Channel about entrepreneurship.
Junior Chamber International (JCI) is a non-profit international non-governmental organization of young people between 18 and 40 years old as members in about 80 countries, and regional or national organizations in many of them. It has consultative status with the Council of Europe, with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and with UNESCO. It was founded in Mexico in 1944. It encourages young people to become responsible citizens and to participate in efforts towards social and economic development, and international co-operation, good will and understanding.
It publishes JCI World, a quarterly magazine, in six languages It holds an annual conference, the JCI World Congress, in November of each yearand regional annual meetings, the JCI Area Conferences.
JCI Ikoyi is the local chapter of JCI in Lagos. 2014’s JCI Ikoyi President is Jasper Ogbonna. Doris Okpara was the convention director. She has done very good work. Her daughter and son were lovely. This year’s 19th Anniversary Convention gathered with the following theme at the Oriental Hotel: ‘Active Citizenship: A Tool to Economic Growth’.
Here you can find last year’s event:
Unfortunately, none of the POS machines at the reception worked, so I had to take cash from an ATM to pay my bill. A taxi was waiting for me because Turkish Airlines had announced before arriving at the Lagos airport that they would close boarding two hours before the flight time, so I had to be at the airport at 8.20pm at the latest. Due to the traffic jams that occur on Saturday, I was advised to leave the hotel at 5pm. It took 30 minutes to check out of the hotel because of the non-working POS machines!
It was a wonderful organization for African startups and I appreciated the way all sponsors and partners support the entrepreneurship in this continent. Congratulations to the African startups! Congratulations DEMO Africa! Congratulations VC4Africa!
Welcome ABAN – African Business Angels Network!