Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Meet the Board of Advisors

A core strategic goal of our firm this year was to constitute a permanent Board of Advisors, made up of men and women with deep experience, broad perspectives and more importantly - share our values at LoftyInc. The goal was to bring to bear their expertise, connections and insights for the important work we do globally - especially in the ECOWAS region & in the Diaspora.

I'm pleased to announce the final constitution of our maiden Board of Advisors. After scouring the ends of the earth (and I mean so literally), our advisors truly are the perfect fit for the task ahead. I'm also elated to add that the members of our Board of Advisors are already providing the critical inputs to help us achieve the goals of emerging as the premier house for start-up incubation & funding in the ECOWAS region, and go-to firm for "pre-funded" project advisory services in West Africa & Diaspora. 

Below are brief biographies of our distinguished Advisors. 

Marsha Wulff

Board Member Since September 2010

Since 1997, when she helped a NYSE-listed corporation with a South African joint venture, Marsha has traveled frequently to Africa, and worked daily with Africans, facilitating economic development by linking stakeholders in entrepreneurial ventures to build indigenous African industries. She nurtures pre-qualified project pipelines, vets business opportunities, enlists expert consultants and petitions funding sources. Her business model relies on health or technology professionals who are launching businesses in Africa. She works along side these entrepreneurs, as an extension of their executive team.
She also advises US corporations entering African markets and not-for-profits seeking sustainable solutions in Africa. Prior roles include that of independent entrepreneur (1970’s), VP of Investments at Dean Witter (1980’s), Advisor to the CEO and Director of Corporate Communications at Pioneer (PXD:NYSE) as it grew from $60M to $4B (1990’s). She served as Finance Chair of the executive board of a medical center managing a budget of $200 million/yr (1990–1997). Since 2001, she has managed a private equity investment portfolio in medtech. Marsha earned her Executive MBA at SMU’s Cox School of Business, Dallas in 2001. She has lived and worked internationally in Australia, Argentina, China, Germany, Taiwan, India and Africa. She is an adjunct professor at Monterey Institute of International Studies, California. 
Marsha brings considerable experience in  social entrepreneurship and business education to the board.
Chinedu Okpareke 

Board Member Since September 2010

Chinedu Okpareke is Vice President, Energy Investments  & MD at Avaizon Consulting. Board member at Oando Holdings. An alumni of Wharton Business School, Chinedu joined Ocean & Oil Holdings in 2006 after his MBA. Prior to joining Ocean & Oil Holdings, he worked within the Global Information Services Division of Mobil Producing Nigeria for 8 years on several roles, most recently as In-country IS Project Manager on three multi-billion dollar oil & gas development projects. Before joining Mobil, he worked with Arthur Andersen & Co in their Assurance and Business Advisory practice focusing on the banking and finance sectors. He also has technical sales and marketing experience having worked in Telnet Nigeria and Symmetricom Inc. in San Jose, California.
Chinedu brings his versatile corporate relationships and board room experience to play as a board member.

Okezie Ofoegbu  

Board Member Since November 2010
Okezie Ofoegbu until recently was a Vice President of Emerging Capital Partners (ECP). With seven funds and over $1.8 billion under management, ECP is a leading private equity manager focused exclusively on Africa. Headquartered in Washington DC, ECP has six offices across Africa and a ten-year track record of successful investment in companies operating in over 40 countries on the continent. Mr. Ofoegbu joined ECP in 2006 upon completion of an MBA in Finance, Marketing and Entrepreneurial Management from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Prior to Wharton, he was Staff Infrastructure Analyst with ExxonMobil's Upstream Global Information Services. Mr. Ofoegbu graduated from the Obafemi Awolowo University with a BSc. in Computer Engineering. 
Okezie is based in the US and joins the board with strong background in finance and business development. 

No doubt, LoftyInc's Board is global in outlook (like our firm); with strong local connections and seasoned connections. We certainly have high hopes as we craft the next critical steps for our firm in 2011; and the BoA feeds that process by advising our Executive Management Team. Our ultimate goal is to position LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited to take on the challenges of implementing programs focused on creating the new 21st century economy in the ECOWAS region, with good sustainable businesses and jobs to follow; built on the critical foundations innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Michael O. Oluwagbemi II
Executive Partner
On Behalf of the Executive Management Team

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

LoftyInc Co-Hosts Leadership Network Happy Hour with VisionInvent & TWE

Expanding the market opportunities for  innovative technology companies servicing the Oil  & Gas Industry. 

LoftyInc Allied Partners and its partners, VisionInvent (Chief Host) & Tide Wind Energy hosted  The Leadership Network Happy Hour on Monday October 25, 2010 at the Aloft Hotel in Houston.  It was a very successful event.   The core objective of the event was to increase foreign market visibility for American technology companies servicing the energy and Oil & Gas Industries and this was amply realized. 

Chief Alade Ajibola, NSE President & Guest of Honor with Attendees
VisionInvent Chief & LoftyInc Exec Partner Address Attendees
Our guest of honor Mr. Alade Ajibola (President of Nigerian Society of Engineers”, member, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), and member, Governing Council of the Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring Board (NCDMB), of the Oil and Gas industry in Nigeria) was very impressed with the caliber and  innovations of attending companies. 

Cross Section of Energy Industry Attendees @ ALoft Hotel
Mr. Alade Ajibola acknowledged that it is important for American companies to seek legitimate, certified and credible engineering companies in Nigeria to partner with for opportunities in the region; so as not to be exploited or to undermine the scope of work/opportunities. 

 As a matter of fact this is now more important since the Nigeria government has made it a law for foreign expatriates to have local content service partners on their  projects. 
Mr. Ajibola stated his goal as the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers  to build an increased coalition between American innovative companies and Nigerian engineers.  He believes the coalition 
Performance Energy, TWE, Shorebase Group & Finex Partners Principals with Guest of Honor

between foreign and local engineers will bring great service to the region in a way of engineering perfection, mutual education, productivity and innovation.   Mr. Ajibola plans to spotlight the American companies that attended the event to the society of engineering firms in Nigeria, as deemed appropriate.  

Leadership Networking in Progress

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

LoftyInc's Houston Team Incubates Healthcare Start-Up

LoftyInc's Team (L-R)- Dami Agboola & Robert Reffell 
In LoftyInc's first foray to extending her start-up incubation services to the Diaspora, the Houston based incubation team led by Partner, Dami Agboola assisted by Associate Robert Reffell helped launch a healthcare management start-up in the growing healthcare delivery space: Coeur Group LLC. LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited provides total advisory, financing  and key management solutions to the concern, and holds significant stake in the same.

Coeur Group is focused on delivering physical and occupational therapy solutions to nursing home facilities and their clients. Another emerging line of business for Coeur is providing patient management solutions to key clients including home healthcare businesses and healthcare providers in the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area. In the coming year, diagnostic services amongst others will be added to the full service clinic from which she operates.

Consultation & Physical Therapy Center at the 12-bed Managed  Facility  In Houston
Staffed with capable professionals including doctors, physical therapists, nurses and medical informatics experts leveraging technology to provide 21st century healthcare solutions to the industry, Coeur Group is positioned to ride the next wave of healthcare spendings to be unleashed by the ageing population. As a testimony to the enormous potentials of the business, Operations Director Robert Reffell asserted that "within the first one week of full operations, twenty patients were signed up and three major agreements with home health companies were executed" by her principals. 
Core Investor & Board Chairman, Wole Jackson at Coeur Group HQ
Operating from an ultra-modern facility at 9889 Bellaire Blvd. Houston, Coeur Group provides a pioneer experiment overseas for LoftyInc's collaborative partnership model of start-up incubation. Entrepreneur Wole Jackson a core investor in the venture believes the LoftyInc team has brought value added insights to starting up the venture. The soon to be launched Innovation Incubation Initiative (I-3) with Africa Leadership Foundation is focused on scaling up on the collaborative partnership model for business incubation.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

LoftyInc's Exec Partner Joins World Bank Open Forum 2010

This year, the World Bank is organizing a two-and-half-day virtual Open Forum during the Bank-Fund Annual Meetings. The goal is to open the meetings up to the general public and to spark discussion and interaction on the development agenda. 

As part of the Jumpstarting Jobs online discussion the forum will be focusing on youth unemployment and the real need to invest in youth. In 2009, 81 million young people were unemployed, the most ever. The youth unemployment rate is about 5 times that of adults in many countries. What needs to change to engage young people in the world economy and avoid a "lost generation?"

Speaking specifically to the question of youth unemployment and using innovation and entrepreneurship to tackle such in Session 2 of Day 1  is LoftyInc's Executive Partner, Michael Oluwagbemi who joined the forum via a pre-recorded Skype conversation on October 7, 2010. The forum continues for a second day. Hosted by Femi Oke, formerly of CNN and now of Public Radio International, scheduled guests are:

Tamar Manuelyan Atinc 
Vice President, Human Development Network, World Bank

Janamitra Devan
Vice President, Financial and Private Sector Development, World Bank
Shantayanan Devarajan
Chief Economist, Africa region, World Bank
Rebeca Moreno Jimenez
Public Information Assistant, Latin America and Caribbean region, World Bank
Christian H.M. Ketels
Director of the Competitiveness Institute, Harvard University
Riska Mirzalina
Youth Entrepreneur, Indonesia
Mahmoud Mohieldin
Managing Director World Bank and former Minister of Investment, Egypt
Radha Muthiah
Vice President for Strategic Partnerships & Alliances, CARE USA
Michael Oluwagbemi
Youth Entrepreneur, World Bank Youthink! blogger
Stephen Pursey
Senior Policy Advisor, International Labour Organisation
Kyle Taylor
Youth Entrepreneur

Sunday, October 03, 2010

LoftyInc Headlines at Social Impact Investment Summit hosted by MIIS @ Monterey, CA

LoftyInc Partner, Damilola Agboola was among members of the investment, educational and social development community that featured at an event designed to obtain commitments from silicon valley investors to a new social impact investment model. The theme of the summit was: "What It Takes:  Enterprise Development through Social Impact Investment".

Partner, Dami Agboola discusses the model at the event
The one day event was held at the McCone Boardroom on September 24 2010, of the Monterey Institute of International Studies; after an evening reception, held the previous evening at the Santa Barbara Room at the Monterey Marriott Hotel, CA. 

The purpose of the one day event according to the organizers, was to "engage key stakeholders and potential investors in a substantive discussion regarding enterprise development opportunities in low-income countries, with a particular emphasis on formation of an investment facility and its linkages with a complementary education facility for base-of-the-pyramid entrepreneurial development."

LoftyInc Partner, Damilola Agboola made a brief presentation to attendees focusing on the unique high impact business incubation model of LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited. He proposed for the model to be replicated under the auspices of a global program targeting five high growth economic regions; Nigeria, Philippines, India, China and yet to be determined East African country. While competing models were presented to summit attendees, the LoftyInc model was warmly received and plans are already under way to support the extensive roll out program in Nigeria next spring under the Innovation Incubation Initiative (I-3). 
Cross-Section of Summit Attendees
Significant dollar commitments were also obtained from summit attendees (which came from industry, social impact investment community and development agencies) towards supporting a cluster of educational institutions, business incubators and eventually an independently managed fund to support this global program.

More Pictures from the Event


Want to be a change maker? Visit this website for ongoing competitions and enter to win global competitions to bring change

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Incubators? What are those? Who needs them?

You can only imagine how many times we get those questions at LoftyInc. Essentially, we first always nearly have to explain what we do and how we do it before we establish what could be in it either for an entrepreneur, investor or potential backer.

Essentially, simply explained by perhaps the most robust article on incubators we have found, “Imagine a place where you can focus on getting your company off the ground. A place with affordable rent where office equipment and administrative help are provided, and managerial and business advice are close at hand. If you imagined such a place, would you be dreaming? Maybe not, if you can hook up with one of the small business incubators springing up worldwide”.The essential goal of an incubator is to create an ecosystem of innovation that feeds off on itself at the lowest risk possible. 

i-hub in Kenya (a nascent incubator) is focused on innovation in East Africa

LoftyInc is one of such incubators especially focused on West Africa & her citizens in Diaspora. Nearly every incubator does it differently. Behind the essential day to day running of an incubator is a model to develop a pipeline of entrepreneurs and deals, raise and invest funds and ultimately to exit and return above market rate (and in LoftyInc’s case, social impact) to investors. The backbone of LoftyInc’s model is the collaborative framework that essentially seeks to develop teams around unique ideas, while turbo charging them with some seed funds.

LoftyInc’s first permanent facility is set to be completed by the end of the year. This facility is being built at the brand new ALF Campus at Ikeja, Lagos State- the commercial hub of Africa’s largest country-Nigeria and involves substantial capital investments by the backer- Africa Leadership Forum and LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited. It will come with floor space and equipment to accommodate networking sessions, offices for start-ups, administrative offices for incubator facilitators as well as adjoining classrooms and theatres for training. The first session of the ideally named IdeasLab will commence in the first quarter of 2011 at this facility.

Who needs an incubator? If you have an idea but need a team or space and essentially can’t afford to hire or rent. If you have a business idea, but can benefit from a network or business skills that can be acquired through the incubation process. If you have a business idea, but you need technology licenses which an incubator may be in position to acquire on your behalf. LoftyInc also provides limited funding to her entrepreneurs in exchange for equity or in loans provided by our partners. Of course, this ultimate reward of funding is for those entrepreneurs whose ideas have been refined through the LoftyInc process and have succeeded in building a team around such exciting ideas. Basically, we shall support every good idea that has been proven through the fire and trials of the IdeasLab.

Read More:

How to fund a start-up: A Crash course on incubators, angels, venture capital and private equity


LoftyInc's Partner Blogs for World Bank's Youthink!

Executive Partner, Michael Oluwagbemi joins a global panel of six to blog on World Bank's youth initiative outlet- Youthink! The site is essentially designed to collaborate the global views of young leaders and entrepreneurs on important issues in the socio-economic development space. Views expressed on the blogs are those of the writers only. You can read Michael Oluwagbemi's contribution at this link.  He discuses technology, innovation and entrepreneurship through his submissions. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

LoftyInc Pays Courtesy Call to Monterey & MIIS

The Executive Partner of LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited visited with LAPL's key overseas Education Partner- the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), Monterey California on August 23, 2010. Mr. Michael Oluwagbemi on a courtesy call and familiarization tour of MIIS, met with the Dean of the Graduate School of International Policy and Management at MIIS and Professor of Strategic Management, Yuwei Shi in his office.
LoftyInc Exec. Partner (L) at Dean Yuwei Shi's (R) Office on Courtesy Visit

MIIS is LoftyInc's overseas education resource partner, and would provide some training/mentoring resources to the newly created IdeasLab platform in Nigeria. Specifically, during the visit - MIIS committed to sending student interns (volunteers) trained within the Innovation Scouts Program in place in her Graduate Business Curriculum, to Nigeria during the first IdeasLab window. The Innovation Scout Interns of LoftyInc's I-3 Program (in partnership with Africa's premier think tank-  ALF), will be entrusted with mentoring and providing technical input to IdeasLab participating entrepreneurs and incubated businesses during the program. The interns will also serve the dual purpose of advocating to Global Investors on behalf of the businesses they advise under incubation.

LoftyInc will assist with logistics of the relocation and stay of the MIIS graduate student interns during their attachment program in Nigeria, and will also source for indigenous professors to train MIIS students in California in a one week period very early next year prior to deployment. Discussions with a prestigious business school in Nigeria is under active discussion and at advanced stages to partner with MIIS in this regard.

LoftyInc will also be participating in a Social Impact Investment Summit to be hosted by the Monterey Institute on September 24th , 2010 to promote a global program modeled on education-investment funds partnership to spur innovation global centers of excellence including but not limited to China, India and Nigeria. Partner, Dami Agboola as well as Advisor, Marsha Wulff will be representing LoftyInc at this event and presenting.
Dean Yuwei Shi (L) and LoftyInc's Advisor Marsha Wulff (R) share some thoughts during the visit

MIIS' input to the IdeasLab was described by the Managing Partner and Incubation Program Director, Wole Odetayo as "central to achieving the objectives" of the initiative proposed alongside our strategic partner, Africa Leadership Forum. The physical location of IdeasLab is under construction, and recruitment into the program will resume soon. For more information on the IdeasLab email ideaslab@loftyincltd.biz

MIIS-GSIPM Facility at Beautiful Monterey; MIIS is a Graduate School of Middlebury College

LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited is a Start-Up Funding & Incubation Firm based in Lagos Nigeria. With a Global Team of Professionals aiding the innovation and entrepreneurship process, LoftyInc specializes in start-up incubation, capital formation and funding. LoftyInc also offers project and management advisory services as well as capital & real sector research for multinationals, investors and institutions in the frontier market where it operates.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

LoftyInc & ALF Signs Strategic Partnership Agreement to Spur Innovation

On Friday, LoftyInc's Managing Partner, Oluwole Odetayo and Africa's premier think-tank the Africa Leadership Forum, Executive Director - Ayodele Aderinwale, MFR - inked a strategic partnership agreement at ALF's sprawling Ota's campus that calls for establishment of a permanent high impact business incubation platform. The strategic initiative is to be known as the Innovation Incubation Initiative, also to be known as I-3. The challenge which the partnership agreement seeks to tackle is that of spurring the next wave of innovation from the emerging economies of Sub-Sahara Africa.

ALF was founded in 1988 by Ex-Nigeria President, General Olusegun Obasanjo in response to  ALF was founded in 1988 by Ex-Nigeria President, General Olusegun Obasanjo in response to a number of very pressing challenges facing post-independence Africa. Today, it is led by indefatigable new generation of Africans, and has on its board (of Conveners and Exco) prominent African leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former South Africa & Mozambique first lady, Graca Machel-Mandela. ALF operates from a sprawling campus in Ota Nigeria, and also runs one of three Central Bank of Nigeria's entrepreneurship development center in Lagos, Nigeria.

The I-3 program objective as stated in the agreement, is to: 

  1. Identify and develop high impact business founders and innovators in a business incubation system known as “Ideas Lab
  2. Develop a pool of investible equity fund to support ideas emerging from the IDEAS LAB to be known as The Entrepreneurship Development and Growth Equity Fund, “The EDGE Fund
ALF and LoftyInc will be joining forces to provide resources to the physical facility that is expected to train up to twenty-five entrepreneurs within each funding window starting from first quarter next year (each funding window is to run from 9-24 months) . ALF and LoftyInc will also serve as co-managers of the EDGE Fund which is expected to take equity stake in incubated businesses, and generate above market rate return to private sector and developmental partner investors. 
LoftyInc's Managing Partner, Wole Odetayo (Left) & ALF's Exec Director Ayo Aderinwale (Center) & LoftyInc's Ayokunle Akinrotimi (Right) after the Strategic Partnership Agreement Signing Ceremony held at ALF's Ota, Nigeria Headquarter on Friday

Incubated businesses in the Media Entertainment Technology (MET), Energy & Environmental Systems (EES), Consumer Products (CP) and Life sciences and Wellbeing (LSW) Sectors are expected to be funded with a combination of equity, loan and convertible loans through instruments structured by I-3. Mentors to assist in managing the IdeasLab and shepherding the incubation process will be trained in the Monterey Institute of International Studies, California and will be in Nigeria as soon as the program is launched. 

An ultra-modern incubation facility to house our innovators is under construction in Ota, and shall be complete in the fourth quarter. The recruitment and identification of potential innovators for the first funding window has since begun. Contact us at ideaslab@loftyincltd.biz for more information or to forward your business plans/profiles for consideration. 


LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited is a Start-Up Funding & Incubation Firm based in Lagos Nigeria. With a Global Team of Professionals aiding the innovation and entrepreneurship process, LoftyInc specializes in start-up incubation, capital formation and fundin. Also, LoftyInc offers project and management advisory services as well as capital & real sector research for multinationals, investors and institutions in the frontier market where they operate.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Building an Innovation Eco-System..where it was Absent

As LoftyInc sits at the precipice of signing another significant agreement with a truly crucial partner, and beginning the wholesome process of initiating a true innovation and entrepreneurship eco-system in West Africa, an article recommended by my mentor, Marsha Wulff of Wulff Capital/Afroceuticals, provides guidance as we chart a course truly untraveled before in the region we have chosen to stake our claim: West Africa. 

"How to Start an Entrepreneurial Revolution" was published in Harvard Business School's HBR (Harvard Business Review). In Marsha's own words, here are the lessons (for us, our partners and our benefactors):

" It basically says: 
- It is a mistake to do too much that makes launching ventures easy, 
- It's best  to permit region-specific flexibility, 
- Engage private sector diaspora for advice/networks/expertise, 
- Inspire entrepreneurs with success stories, 
- Change public opinion with media releases, 
- Prioritize resources for ventures with rapid global potential, 
- Don't rely on formal business incubators to grow businesses, 
- The best policies and laws back off from encumbering enterprises, 
- If at first you don't succeed, try again, soon!"

The first agreement we executed back in May, 2010 with Project Diaspora USA creating alongside with Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), California's Graduate School of International Policy and Management and  the Biz Spring Program provides a networking platform that is particularly crucial to attract external resources to business of innovation incubation. For us at LoftyInc, it also provides us critical linkages to other regions on the sub-continent and allows us to share best practices. 

BizSpring (moniker, Adwuma Mbomu - in West Africa), allows us to bring innovators, innovation centers (universities, research centers and think tanks), funders (Venture Capital, Banks & Devt. Orgs) as well as government together to explore creating the necessary ecosystem that will enable entrepreneurs and innovative ventures flourish. Specifically, it will also supply the much needed capacity building resources from the ground zero of innovation itself: Silicon Valley. To us, it is about as much about doing good as it is about a strategic business objective. It will be nearly impossible to create the pipeline of venture capital deals we envisage our organization executing in a decade if we do not invest in creating this eco-system. 

Since Program Inception in May, we've succeeded in linking up with a number of institutions and private sector interests; the roll of which will be provided soon as we formally launch the program sometimes this Fall. 

To avoid the pitfalls enunciated in the article referenced above, it is about as necessary to harness local resources as well as localized institutional muscle to achieve this objective (Creating an Innovative Entrepreneurship EcoSystem). This goal is addressed by our soon to be announced partnership with a major Pan-African think-tank...actually, the pioneer of them all. We hope that this critical partnership will lay the foundations for not only building capacity as the first does, but to move pin pointedly towards creating the funding mechanisms for the would-be entrepreneurs that will be seeded within the creative new incubation bios that LoftyInc's team have designed to be the first (and the best) of its kind in the region. This bios will be known as the IDEAS LAB. An Equity Fund to back this laboratory of Ideas up is also in the works. 

Stay Tuned...

LoftyInc specializes in venture incubation & early stage funding of businesses in the ECOWAS sub-region. It was founded in August 2008 specifically to pursue early stage business development for emerging enterprises. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

In their footsteps....

CNN finally figured that not all  Nigerians resident in Houston are fraudsters ( reference their reputation hit- How to Rob a Bank, that insinuated that much). Profiling business man, Kase Lawal a native of Ibadan and born in that ancient city (representing IBD), he moved to the US in 1971. Studying variously at HBCUs Texas Southern University, Houston (Chemical Engineering) and my Alma mater Prairie View A&M University (MBA). He worked in Shell until 1986 when chance sitting in a plane brought business success to him. He made it big in the 90s when the IBB administration decided to support indigenous businessmen make entry into exploration and production in the oil and gas industry.

Lessons from Lawal?

1. Luck is preparation meeting opportunity ; step out of your comfort zone. Resigning from Shell, getting started gave him the head start when IBB introduced his policy. Few people get rich earning salaries.

2. Be opportunistic...act very fast (he sent his proposal in for the tobacco trade)

3 Give back (public service, charity) is a key way to even broaden your network and enhance your profile/opportunities

4. Think big, and don't limit yourself to where you come from. This double HBCU degree holder, employs the Ivy Leaguers..it doesn't matter now. Reference...school of hard knocks have produced more CEOs than all universities less one.

5. Chaos and no regulations, offer the highest risk-reward promise for a budding entrepreneur . Take a chance. Take risk. Write your own rules.

6. Never forget where you come from...need I say more?

I disagree pointedly with Mr. Lawal upper class explanation of the Niger Delta crisis; but that is a total philosophical and experiential disagreement. In any case, I am confident he is just at the beginning of his life work if he maintains his laser focus on the industry he has come to dominate. Hope he doesn't think himself off, like they (Nigerian businessmen at the top) typically do. Expand, Globalize, Enhance.

Now is this CNN redemption in our community?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

East African Strides in Innovation & Venture Capital

This blog roll is to review some recent strides in innovation on the East side of the continent. Most of the activities being centered around Kenya and Kenyans. My Tanzanian, Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundi brethren need to pull their weight (Okay, I kid)


iHub – Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community – is here! It’s an open space (actually physical..and of course virtual too) for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers and designers. It is part open community workspace (co-working), part investor and VC hub and part incubator.

The iHub will have a redundant 10Mbs connection, hardwired and WiFi, and it’s freely available to any tech person in Nairobi to use once they become members. Membership is free, our only requirement is that you are indeed involved in the tech space as a programmer, web designer or mobile application developer.

The new iHub’s location is going to be on the 4th floor of the new Bishop Magua Centre on Ngong Road (directly opposite the Uchumi Hyper). It’s said to be an amazing location, with quick access to public transportation, food and the rest of Nairobi. It launched in March 2010.

This is clearly designed to be a network support infrastructure..more ups to its facilitators.  This is a smart way of applying grants/aids. 


According to their website,

Ushahidi, which means "testimony" in Swahili, is a website that was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. Ushahidi's roots are in the collaboration of Kenyan citizen journalists during a time of crisis. The website was used to map incidents of violence and peace efforts throughout the country based on reports submitted via the web and mobile phone. This initial deployment of Ushahidi had 45,000 users in Kenya, and was the catalyst for us realizing there was a need for a platform based on it, which could be use by others around the world.
Since then we have grown from an ad hoc group of volunteers to a focused organization. The team is comprised of individuals with a wide span of experience ranging from human rights work to software development. We have also built a strong team of volunteer developers in primarily in Africa, but also Europe and the U.S.
Ushahidi has had an excellent press...especially on CNN. It is its application in a wide range of disasters in Haiti, Chile and Kenya that has brought it fame and Press. Am still not clear on what the sustainability of the project is beyond grant in aids. I mean commercially. 

Fanisi Ventures 

Fanisi Venture Capital Fund is a venture capital fund established in Luxembourg to work with competitive and sustainable East African businesses, whose ambitions are to grow and run their operations to global best practice standards. 
Ayisi Leads Fanisi

Founded in 2009 by the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (Norfund) and Amana Capital Limited, the Fund focuses on a segment of the market that has to date been outside the ambit of most venture funds in the East African market. Fanisi makes equity investments of $0.5 million - $3 million per transaction in high growth businesses, including start ups and early stage companies, and is committed to working with East African entrepreneurs to build world class businesses with significant development impact on the economies in the region. 

The fund is rumored to have raised up to $100m from global investors including IFC ($7.5m) and plenty of others. The fund is led by Ayisi Makatiani  


Clearly, the new innovation paradigm drives the concepts emerging in East Africa..see diagram below..my only worry is that disorganized chaos will not become an organized tyranny...you know what I mean? Microsoft Style.