Fund Raising for your Startup in Nigeria ( Part1)

Raising Funding

Shout out s’awon goons
awon eruku mi
awon loni kin ma para toni keeping cool mi

~ Olamide, Awon Goons Mi~

So you have built an amazing startup, you have survived on garri and epa or cereal  or indomie ( insert austerity food of choice here) , you have a small team, you have brought a new meaning to the word bootstrapped, BUT you are seeing growth, you are earning revenues, you have customers who love your product, if you are super ambitious you have built a brand and are killing things online in your sector in Nigeria. But now you need to grow, you need money, so you create a killer investment pack, and off you go to the jungle that is “Nigerian FundRaising Scene”!

So whats it like trying to raise as a Nigerian Startup in 2015?!

First of all, things have changed since 2008-2010 which when I hear of the deals then, essentially there was a lot of “shafting”going on. However maybe “shafting” is not fair term. Some people made money, some people gave up significant percentage of their company for what some may consider little amounts. However there were winners and losers, such is life!

In 2010, something great happened though, Tiger Global ( Huge VC based in NY) and invested some of the very early startups, great news they essentially created the very first solidly financed tech companies in Nigeria.

Then they LEFT.

They have not been back since.

Apparently everyone is too small.

Class of 2012: Made notably included Konga and Jumia those guys are different from class of 2010 because they raised before they even started , funded by Rocket, Kinnevik. They started with a pile of cash. Do not compare yourself to those guys if like class of 2010 you are bootstrapped.


Then theres class of 2013 and 2014. well theres a lot of us in the class, but then there are  guys who are the top of that class. How can you spot a class leader?. They are probably allready category leaders, so Fashpa today is a leader in Online Fashion category, they are are past idea stage, they have a concept that works, traction, growth stage ventures, they probably have a CV which looks investible, probably littered with Google, McKinsey, HBS, Jumia,  Konga, JP Morgan and in some cases all 5!, they are probably bootstrapped and focusing on growth and building a team, can be found at tech cabal round table and maybe bottles on wednesday  (am joking oh) ( disclaimer startup maybe top of class without this attributes also)

Ok, so you get the picture, everyone thinks its easy for those guys to raise.. WRONG! its bloody difficult for everyone to raise ,for the following reasons!

1) There is a lot of focus on very early early stage funding:  Companies who need between 10k-50k. idea exploration. There was a flurry of accelerators and now also Tony Elumelu fund promising 10k. They will all say they have space room for growth stage startups but they are really not structured in that way. But they are great for the ecosystem they create a great pipeline and their valuations are getting there, better than class of 2010 for sure. So Today, if you have an idea, you should be able to get enough funding to get you to concept stage this is is progress!

2) There is no”angel scene” in Nigeria : Well again there are various makings of one, but not quite there, I have met a few members of the Lagos Angel Network but I dont know of anyone who has raised through them I could be wrong. There are lots of HNIs for sure but most people do not get tech or internet companies YET.. they will be soon but for now most HNIS prefer to put money in property or private jets, where they are guaranteed returns or enjoyment at least!

3) International VCS are not interested in “small deals”: Most startups at this stage are typically trying to raise between 250k and 1million and unfortunately this is too small for most global billion dollar funds. They are watching though and may or not be back when it times for your series A. I have generally been surprised with the quality of  high profile VCs who have reached out to me re:fashpa, so some myths are true, if you are doing something good, you will be found!


Its not all doom and gloom.  it is still possible to raise in Nigeria, start small, be creative, start within your network, reach out to family and friends,  again start small and you be surprised to see the puddles create an ocean, have a playlist that helps you through those long nights ( I recommend Olamide- I imagine its just me with my goons and we will make it much to everyones surprise) and be prepared to hear your fair share of NOs!

Some crazy guys I know ( am so happy to be your classmate), one startup I know raised $2 million from Nigerian “Angels” in Nigeria and another two have raised north of $1 million too for their growth stage startups, so it is possible, its just difficult, time consuming and heart breaking.


But hey nobody promised that it would be easy!



There is so much to say on this topic, I didnt even touch on valuations- Nigerian style or Chasing Investors, look out for for future posts.






Starting Up!

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Its been five months since I made the transition from paid employee to startup CEO/Founder.  It took me at least ten years  to make this move and a some additional treacherous months of over thinking and analysing on how/when/if I should bite the bullet. Today I decided to make a Top Ten list, of what I would have told myself in Jan 2014. Its amazing how far I have come and for those thinking starting up, my advice is simple. just do it!

1) You will not miss your old job even by a day. Nope as much as you think you love it now, you will strangely not miss it.

2) You will miss the free food though, the fresh juice and the friday small chops conversations while arguing over which YT video is we love that week!

3) You will love building your dream, you will work till 3am and still be excited to be up at 9am in time to go in the office! yes Crazy

4) You will find that the hardest part is building a solid team, but you will find a few awesome people who think your company is pretty dope

5) You will get upset when your first hire leaves, it will feel like you were dumped when you were 13, everyone will tell you this is silly !

6) You will find People Management and finding talent much more difficult that you thought and wonder why no one talks about it, you will discover a new found respect for your manager and wish you hadn’t given her/him such a hard time

7) You will obsess about your company day and night, all conversations about anything can be linked back to life at fashpa

8) You will wonder how your friends and family put up with you, because you work all the time and you will forget birthdays. Shoutout to YF! I love you sorry for forgetting you and pampers bday this year!

9) You will stretch the truth at interviews about work life balance, because the truth is you dont have one, but that just sounds bad, so you will say you manage the two well!

10) You will genuinely be happy  about starting the F***k up and  building your dream, even on those bad days when you just want to run home and hide





By Tai Solarin, Jan. 1, 1964

I am not cursing you; I am wishing you what I wish myself every year. I therefore repeat, may you have a hard time this year, may there be plenty of troubles for you this year! If you are not so sure what you should say back, why not just say, ‘Same to you’? I ask for no more.

Our successes are conditioned by the amount of risk we are ready to take. Earlier on today I visited a local farmer about three miles from where I live. He could not have been more than fifty-five, but he said he was already too old to farm vigorously. He still suffered, he said, from the physical energy he displayed as a farmer in his younger days. Around his hut were two pepper bushes. There were kokoyams growing round him. There were snail shells which had given him meat. There must have been more around the banana trees I saw. He hardly ever went to town to buy things. He was self-sufficient. The car or the bus, the television or the telephone, the newspaper, Vietnam or Red China were nothing to him. He had no ambitions whatsoever, he told me. I am not sure if you are already envious of him, but were we all to revert to such a life, we would be practically driven back to cave dwelling. On the other hand, try to put yourself into the position of the Russian or the America astronaut. Any moment now the count, 3, 2, 1, is going to go, and you are going to be shot into the atmosphere and soon you will be whirling round our earth at the speed of six miles per second. If you get so fired into the atmosphere and you forget what to do to ensure return to earth, one of the things that might happen to you is that you could become forever satellite, going round the earth until you die of starvation and even then your body would continue the gyration!

When, therefore, you are being dressed up and padded to be shot into the sky, you know only too well that you are going on the roughest road man had ever trodden. The Americans and Russians who have gone were armed with the great belief that they would come back. But I cannot believe that they did not have some slight foreboding on the contingency of their non-return. It is their courage for going in spite of these apprehensions that makes the world hail them so loudly today.

The big fish is never caught in shallow waters. You have to go into the open sea for it. The biggest businessmen make decisions with lighting speed and carry them out with equal celerity. They do not dare delay or dally. Time would pass them by if they did. The biggest successes are preceded by the greatest of heart-burnings. You should read the stories of the bomber pilots of World War II. The Russian pilot, the German pilot, the American or the British pilot suffered exactly the same physical and mental tension the night before a raid on enemy territory. There were no alternative routes for those who most genuinely believed in victory for their side.

You cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs, throughout the world, there is no paean without pain. Jawaharlal Nehru has put it so well. I am paraphrasing him. He wants to meet his troubles in a frontal attack. He wants to see himself tossed into the aperture between the two horns of the bull. Being there, he determines he is going to win and, therefore, such a fight requires all his faculties.

When my sisters and I were young and we slept on our small mats round our mother, she always woke up at 6a.m. for morning prayers. She always said prayers on our behalf but always ended with something like this: ‘May we not enter into any dangers or get into any difficulties this day.’ It took me almost thirty years to dislodge the canker-worm in our mother’s sentiments. I found, by hard experience, that all that is noble and laudable was to be achieved only through difficulties and trials and tears and dangers. There are no other roads.

If I was born into a royal family and should one day become a constitutional king, I am inclined to think I should go crazy. How could I, from day to day, go on smiling and nodding approval at somebody else’s successes for an entire lifetime? When Edward the Eighth (now Duke of Windsor) was a young, sprightly Prince of Wales, he went to Canada and shook so many hands that his right arm nearly got pulled out of its socket. It went into a sling and he shook hands thenceforth with his left hand. It would appear he was trying his utmost to make a serious job out of downright sinecurism.

Life, if it is going to be abundant, must have plenty of hills and vales. It must have plenty of sunshine and rough weather. It must be rich in obfuscation and perspicacity. It must be packed with days of danger and of apprehension.

When I walk into the dry but certainly cool morning air of every January 1st, I wish myself plenty of tears and of laughter, plenty of happiness and unhappiness, plenty of failures and successes. Plenty of abuse and praise. It is impossible to win ultimately without a rich measure of intermixture in such a menu. Life would be worthless without the lot. We do not achieve much in this country because we are all so scared of taking risks. We all want the smooth and well-paved roads. While the reason the Americans and others succeeded so well is that they took such great risks.


Tai Solarin (1922-1994) was one of Nigeria’s foremost social activists his legacy includes the famous Mayflower School, Ikenne and Mollusi College Ijebu-Ode. This article was published in Daily Times Newspaper of January 1st, 1964.