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raise fund for tech startup

How to Raise Money for your Tech Startup

After my last article about the year 2021 recap and the funds raised by tech startups across Africa, a friend asked me, “how do startups raise money?”

And then I thought to myself, why not write about it? Although two articles were jostling for me to write them, I decided to go with this because, hey, it is money and growth we are talking about here, and why not share my thoughts to help founders looking to get funding for their businesses and ideas? No bootstrapped ideas would be discussed here; this is basically about raising money through investment.

Raising money as a first-time founder is not always easy and rosy. Despite the vast investment money that tech startups in Africa have received, there are still founders who don’t know how to go about it. However, raising money is a journey, whether you are a first-time founder or a veteran.

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Before I dive into the details, I think everyone should know and have at the back of their minds that no matter the industry or sector, there is a grant or fellowship out there for you, whether you are in Nigeria or anywhere in the world. Be it fashion, agriculture, manufacturing, services etc., whatever you are doing (even at a small scale), there is something for you out there to leverage on, so search the internet, and you’ll be amazed.

While this will be predominantly about tech, I thought I needed to share that with folks out there, but here is a thing about fellowships, grants, and raises (they all have one thing in common): your books and records. Whether you want 1 dollar or 20 billion from investors, they want to see your business data and every other detail around your business (plans and execution strategies). This will enable them to assess and make a sound judgment about investing in your business (startup) or not.

With a lot of investment coming in over the years for African startups, 2022 won’t be an exemption as there will be more big deals happening this year because African innovators are just getting started. There are different types of investors and investments, and as a founder, you should be able to decide the kind of investors you want by researching them even before you approach them or they approach you.

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Raising money to support your tech startup as a first-time founder depends on the stage your startup is. There are three(3) main types:

  • early/seed-stage financing
  • expansion financing, and
  • acquisition/buyout financing

For seed-stage financing, it is a type of funding that allows a startup to fund product launch costs, get early traction through marketing, initiate important hiring, and further market research for developing product-market-fit.

Expansion financing: as the name suggests, is when the startup has already established product-market-fit and gaining traction and looking to expand. Expansion funds could have different rounds (e.g., round A could mean expanding outside Lagos, and round B could mean expanding to more states) depending on the size of expansion the startup wants to carry out.

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Acquisition/buyout financing is when a controlling share of a startup is sold to a new entity, e.g., Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp, and recently in Nigeria, the acquisition of MainOne by Equinix in a $320 million deal.

There are also different types of investors depending on these stages, hedge fund, private equity, venture capital or angel investors. Many of these investments’ companies have scouts and business analysts research and find startups building something great and innovative. Some have accelerator programs that invite startups looking to raise to pitch to them. The VC business is changing, growing, and has matured a bit.

There are over a thousand VC firms managing about $400 billion in assets under management (AUM) around the world. This has doubled in the past decade, which is a good thing. Money is flowing in this asset class, and VCs business is about deal flow and cash flow — and with Limited Partners pouring in cash, VCs can continue to make investments. In any given year, 200+ funds raise their capital, and the average fund size raised is now at $200+ million. The largest VC fund raised was Sequoia Growth at $8 billion.

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As a startup founder looking to raise money through any of these investments, one of the critical things you require is a pitch deck.

What is a Pitch Deck?

A Pitch Deck is a presentation deck used to pitch your idea or company to any number of audiences, generally, investors. Your Pitch Deck contains essential information and data about your startup stage and what you intend to accomplish with a raise.

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Whether angel investors or traditional VC firms, most investors receive several pitches daily from entrepreneurs looking to get funded. Therefore, you need to make it easier for them to consider you with your deck. Most VCs want to find the founders whose vision is to serve society’s good, and it is not an easy task. In the beginning, all founders sounded alike to them — their mission statements filled with zeal and passion. They serve up PowerPoints to VCs demand for “billion-dollar” markets. It is their job to dissect the frothy shapeshifters from the authentic forces of good.

List of Venture Capitals in and outside Africa (with interest in Africa)

This list consists of VCs that have invested in African startups; you can approach them with a pitch or position yourself strategically to be approached. African startups are getting a lot of traction lately, and there is no better time to get a slice of the investor’s pie than now and the fact that 2021 was a record year. Nothing is stopping 2022 from towing the same route for tech startups in Africa.

1. YCombinator

Ycombinator was founded in 2005 by Paul Graham, Robert Tappan Morris, Jessica Livingston, and Trevor Blackwell. YCombinatorr is a Silicon Valley-based accelerator that provides seed funding for startups in the US but has spread its wings global and have interest all over Africa today. The Ycombinator accelerator program invests $125,000 in startups twice a year for a 7% equity. Since its inception, YC has invested in over 2500 companies, and 51 of them at the moment are in Africa.

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Some of their African portfolio companies include: 54gene, Avion, Bamboo, Breadfast, Blueloop-Flux, Buycoins, Cowrywise, CredPal, Crowdforce, Dayra, Djamo, Flextock, Flutterwave, Globe, Healthline, Helium Health, Lynks, Kobo360, Kidato, Kudi, MarketForce, Mono, NALA, NUMI, OMG Digital, Oolu, Passerine Aircraft, Paystack, PetaSales, Prospa, Ramani, Releaf, Reliance Health, Saida, Sakneen, SEND, Sendbox, Schoolable, Swipe, Termii, Thndr, Thrive Agric, Tizeti, Trella, Tress, Vendease, Wallets, WaystoCap, WorkPay, and Yassir.

2. Techstars

The next on my list is TechStars, which has accelerator programs in major cities worldwide but is headquartered in Boulder, United States. Techstars is an operational investor supporting startups on an entrepreneurial journey from idea to building the most successful business possible. TechStars is built and run by entrepreneurs themselves, and they understand the complexities of putting your ideas into action and scaling them.

TechStars portfolio companies include; TalentQL, Treepz, OurPass, Rentsmallsmall, Kyshi, Payday, Lenco, and Duhqa.

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3. Tiger Global

Tiger Global is an investment firm focused on public and private companies in the global Internet, software, consumer, and financial technology industries. Founded in 2011 by Chase Coleman III, the investment company has invested and has portfolio companies worldwide.

Tiger Global’s African portfolio companies include; Flutterwave, IRokotv, IRokotv Partner, Takealot.com, and Yuppiechef.

4. Quona Capital (U.S.A)

Quona Capital is a DC-based investment firm with a total fund size of $203 million. It was founded by Ganesh Rengaswamy, Jonathan Whittle, Miguel Herrera, and Monica Brand Engel in 2015.

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Some of Quona Capital’s portfolio companies in Africa include; Cowrywise, Sokowatch, and Luleland.

5. Future Africa

Future Africa is an African VC firm Co-founded by Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, who is also the CEO, and they invest in early-stage ventures. They have a rich list of portfolio companies under their belt, and because they are based in Africa, I think they are easily accessible to tech founders in Africa.

Some of Future Africa’s portfolio companies in Africa include; Payhippo, Lami, Sudo, Kwara, Edves, Ndovu, Nexford, and Andela.

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6. FirstCheck Africa

FirstCheck Africa, like Future Africa, is also based in Africa, but FirstCheck backs and invests in only female founders. FirstCheck was founded in 2021 by Eloho Omame (an experienced investment banker) and Odunola Eweniyi (co-founder of Piggyvest).

The backstory about why FirstCheck was founded

In 2020, women-led companies received only 2.3% of over $300B in global VC funding, down from 2.7% in 2019. In 2019, only 0.27% went to Black women, and so far, in 2021, women-led companies have received just 1.6% of global VC funding. Closer to home, depending on which source you trust and how it gets measured, up to 5% of Africa’s $1.4B in early-stage funding in 2020 went to startups with women on the co-founding team

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With a $25,000 early-stage investment, FirstCheck is helping African women in tech rise above misrepresentation because raising money is catastrophically challenging for female founders. FirstCheck mission is to mitigate that with its investment fund by giving female founders their FirstCheck, as the name implies.

Some of FirstCheck Africa’s portfolio companies include; Tushop, HealthTracka, Foondamate, and Zoie Health.

7. Get Equity

GetEquity is a private marketplace for investors and companies to trade digital securities and assets privately and securely. The platform allows companies or enterprises to digitalise their assets via tokens and creates liquidity for them by connecting them to investors and syndicates who can buy and sell these assets.

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Raising money is hard, and most times, a little penny here and there is what a startup needs to stay afloat as a founder. Angel investing has been democratised by some startups worldwide. An excellent example of such a platform is GetEquity. When your product or startup gets listed on the platform, interested individuals could buy a fraction and invest in your dream as a founder.

8. Ventures Platform

Ventures Platform is headed by Kola Aina, a seasoned investor and Ventures Platform invest in founders building the Future of Africa. Ventures Platform is a discovery fund that invests early in mission-driven founders building capital-efficient platforms that democratise prosperity, plug infrastructural gaps, connect underrepresented communities, solve non-consumption, and improve livelihoods in Africa.

Currently with over 60+ portfolio startups in more than five (5) countries, VP $40 million funds are doing the lord’s work across several sectors in Financial Services and Insurance, Life Science and Health tech, Edtech and Digital Talent Accelerators, Enterprise SaaS, Digital Infrastructure Plays, Agri-Tech and Food Security.

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9. LoftInc Capital Management

LoftyInc Capital Management (LCM) is an early-stage African-focused technology fund, and Idris Ayodeji Bello is the Managing Partner. LCM has already invested in 25 companies across the continent in the e-commerce, fintech, media, logistics, and healthcare sectors. The fund is pan-African, focusing on the hyper-growth tech ecosystems in Nigeria, Egypt, Francophone Africa, including the most promising tech solutions from the large, global African Diaspora. LCM initial check sizes range between $50,000–$250,000, with follow-on of up to $1M in portfolio companies.

LoftyInc Capital Management is led by an agile team with over 70 years of combined venture operational experience and a solid 11-year track record as one of the earliest investors building and investing in the African tech ecosystem. Some LoftyInc Capital Management portfolio companies in Africa include Adwaab, Adient, Afrikea, Ajala, Akiba, Algopay, Apaya and Appetito.

10. Ajim Capital

An honourable mention on this list is Ajim Capital. Early this year, Eunice Ajim, the founder, announced the launch of Ajim Capital with a $10 million fund focused on tech startups across Africa. Ajim already has some African startups in its portfolio but wants to commit more funds into African startups this year.

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Ajim Capital is an investment firm based in Austin, Texas, USA, and some of its portfolio companies include; Lemonade Finance, Mono, Orda.Africa, WayaMoney, Payday, DuniaPay, and Mecho Autotech.

In conclusion, it is important to point out that some of these funds come with some sort of mentorship or open doors to strategic partnerships. A typical VC interacts with the portfolio founder multiple times a week and becomes intimately aware of the founder’s day-to-day dilemmas and sleepless nights, joys, sorrows, anxiety, and depression. All of these come with the package of investing in a startup, and there are a lot of other international and African based investment companies you can poach as a tech startup founder.

Please always do your due diligence, and I can assure you that with the world turning around to notice the great things we are building in Africa, the sky will be our starting point.

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Muhammed Mustapha

Muhammed Mustapha

A creative designer by day and writer by night, shaping African tech narrative, one article at a time.

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