Nosa Omusi, Monday December 4th 2017

Last week Wednesday, the MEST Incubator Lagos held the second edition of its MEST Lagos Talks - a series which brings in relevant players in the tech ecosystem to share know-how, insight, experience and perspectives about technology, entrepreneurship and business.

The speaker for this session was Victor Asemota. Victor is one of the earliest and most influential players in the African tech ecosystem and is the Founder of SwiftaCorp, MFISA and several other companies. He is also a Google Launchpad mentor and a board member of fast-rising tech startup, Flutterwave.

The talk was titled “The Future of Startup Funding”. Here are some key takeaways.

The future of startup funding and entrepreneurship are linked

The future of startup funding is tied to the future of entrepreneurship. Startup funding and entrepreneurship are therefore dependent relationships and must be viewed as such. Startup funding is changing to match the evolution in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs who want to be successful at raising money must pay close attention to these trends so they can position themselves to take advantage.

Startups must begin to focus on building communities, not ecosystems

Asemota spoke about his preference for the word community as opposed to the word ecosystem. He explained that in a community there is greater emphasis on sustainability and cooperation. Many African startups are “a fish in a desert” because they are trying to survive but do not have the necessary environment or habitat to thrive.

He said he was happy with MEST’s work in creating an oasis where startups can be better prepared and equipped to face the harsh realities of entrepreneurship in Africa. He added that for startups to truly thrive on the African continent, they must work together to create synergies that will help them rise above the challenges they constantly have to overcome.

[caption id="attachment_5940" align="aligncenter" width="665"] Victor Asemota spoke emphatically about the importance of building Communities[/caption]

Startups must be passionate about gaining knowledge, not money

Asemota explained that the most important thing is knowledge and not money. The ancient empires which grew and thrived did so because they invested in knowledge. As global competition rises, startups must make a priority of constantly equipping themselves with relevant knowledge.

Greater investments in knowledge will cause startups to better understand the needs of their markets and the dynamics at play. This knowledge will also help them scale faster as they can anticipate challenges and put together plans to surmount them.

Startups must become less reluctant to give up some control

Studies have shown that companies which gave up some control often do better than those who do not. By giving up some control, startups can easily have access to greater expertise and capabilities and ultimately, greater funding. Many startups are reluctant because they are too focused on building “kingdoms as opposed to communities”.

Startups must carefully chose the problems they choose to solve

Startups must build their business on needs, which are relevant to their community. The more relevant the need, the easier it will be to raise funding and generate demand. Relevant needs also make it easier to get government support because it aligns with some of their strategic objectives such as employment and commerce.

Startups must invest more in data

Startups need to invest in data. Investors are now swayed by data, and not pitches, because it gives a clear and accountable picture of what is truly happening. The advent of cloud computing now gives better access to evaluate the true value of any business. A lack of data also prevents entrepreneurs and investors alike from seeing obvious correlations and utilizing opportunities.

Startups must become more innovative than ever

Startups need to seek ways of using tech to enable informal chains and systems. These include credit and thrift systems, apprenticeship and other traditional systems. By taking advantage of unstructured, pre-existing markets and ways of doing things, they can achieve more with less. This is because it is easier to leverage on an existing culture than to try and create a new one.

Entrepreneurs need to invest more in their personal brands

Entrepreneurs must invest more in their personal brands to be differentiated from the crowd. As the ecosystem widens and new players enter daily, it has become more difficult to tell one company from the other.

Entrepreneurs who differentiate themselves are more memorable and thus more relevant to potential investors. Some startups have attracted funding simply because people liked the founders or the way they did certain things.

[caption id="attachment_5941" align="aligncenter" width="665"] Victor Asemota after his talk on The Future of Startup Funding[/caption]

This edition was a huge success, and the knowledge shared went a long way to help us understand  the dynamics of Startups, Entrepreneurship and Funding. We hope to see you at the next edition!

MEST Incubator Lagos organizes regular conversations around relevant topics that are aimed at adding value to the entrepreneurs navigating the startup landscape. We will be launching a new talk series, MEST Lagos Tech Conversations, this wednesday with a conversation around cryptocurrency. Click on this link to find out more about the series and sign up for the event.