How startups can plug into global capital pipeline


Today’s views many rub different publics the wrong way given either the role that they play within a stakeholder organisation or the place that they occupy within the general makeup of our fledging startup pipeline in East Africa.

Another week, another announcement of a stellar fundraise by a startup team based in West Africa but with roots firmly in the US state of Delaware, with eyes fixed on multinational corporation status.

While deeply excited for the African collective when teams raise funds on the back of solid product and bold market ambitions, I am always keen to zoom back into my home country Kenya to juxtapose the current trending deal.

I look to see if the same opportunity was a work in progress by a different team and if yes, why the team was not visible or tuned into the same spectrum of capital access and networks. My findings were interesting but not surprising and I am open to insights from others that can give additional clarity, affirm or disapprove.

Global thinking

Right off the starting block, most startups founded by teams out of West Africa carry the ambition to go multinational.

Their home ground simply serves as an incubator for product-market fit and market-business model fit, after which expansion teams start traversing potential markets. They are loud, boisterous, and unapologetic about it.

In East Africa, I see a comfort set in within teams happy to look at a total addressable market confined to respective borders.

Better talent

My take is that West Africa has a higher number of better-skilled talent, feeding the startups with ready team members primed for the build across various disciplines.

The 2020 State of the OCTOVERSE report by GitHub, a popular code-repository service used by millions of developers and large companies, corroborates this by showing that Nigeria for example saw growth in contributors top globally by hitting 65.9 percent.

East Africa has the opportunity to level up, as it plays host to some BigTech offices that have been snapping up local expertise drying up the pool of ‘ready-to-go talent’ for startups. A great starting point would be for them to adopt the 20percent project where their local staffers can add value to startups.

Drag along

Entrepreneurial teams and local investors out of West Africa have also adopted a drag-along culture. Should a startup make headway in the global arena such as joining the prestigious seed money accelerator Y Combinator, founding teams go out of their way to help others unlock the same opportunity.

On the investment front, it is now common for a potential high-growth startup to have its entire round funded by local syndicates.

Despite the many ‘enabling environment’ challenges that we know exist these three points show a deliberate agenda to grow startups to exploit market opportunities at scale. We are best advised to replicate to reposition the Silicon Savannah.

Njihia is the head of business and partnerships at Sure Corporation | | @mbuguanjihia