Giving back to my Eco-System

I am reading a brilliant book by Brad Stone about Jeff Bezos, the prescient founder of Amazon called “the everything store”. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was the fifth investor in Google. I find this extremely interesting because I’m slowly but surely nursing a passion for investment especially in tech. I’m intrigued by the cycle of funding, how it happens and why it happens for some and not others. I think because it’s something that is still an enigma in my ecosystem. All deals are shrouded with absolute mystery. And it is almost never heard of for a founder to invest in another founder. It appears we are all waiting for Sequoi Capital to come save us.

But then I remembered something I read recently, a relatively new Nigerian Founder investing seed capital in another. I don’t think anything has made me as happy in recent times as reading that. Because ultimately, African businesses will grow on African capital.Which capital you ask? There are so few of us funded. We are all still basically hustling. Well, true. But I believe we can all do more that we are currently doing.

I’m in the middle of exiting the baby store and the process has taken me back to the time I was scavenging for capital. I basically started that business with the equivalent of $100 but to actually build the business, I needed more. And I talked to several people(literally begged). Anyone and everyone I could speak to, I did. Heck, I applied for the Uganda Youth Fund. I sank up to $10,000 of my own money (savings and a personal loan taken out from a bank), $3000 from a dear friend and $2000 from my mother. I was 24. I was a single mum. I was lucky. I don’t know a single 24 year old right now who can pull that off. It was a grueling time. I do not recommend it for anyone. I’m an insomniac and I think it comes from that time. There is nothing like the thought of free-falling into poverty to keep you awake for eternity. The only thing that got me through that time was the constant reminder from my parents that they had my back. I just started living on my own (aged 27) at the start of this year because I can finally be able to pay bills, pay back that loan(still paying, heh!) and have some left over for investment and “life”.

That experience truly scarred me and Zimba has been a lean mean machine till recently that we got a little bit of funding. Now, I don’t have a lot of money but because of what I went through, I try to give back as much as I can in whatever way I can. I am currently part of a group of young Ugandans trying to set up a Angel Fund because they like me believe in increasing the sources of funding for entrepreneurs in this country because sadly the people who should be doing it, aren’t. We contribute a certain amount monthly to a pool of funds in the hope that after a year, we will have raised enough to invest a significant amount as well as attract other people that would be willing to join the fund. I give my time to advise and mentor(4 years in business, a lot learned, a lot to be shared. I try as much as possible to send opportunities for funding and otherwise to people in my network. My mother (best business cheerleader ever) gave me a data modem, paid up for a year. I gave this to my CTO who’s building his own startup. (She’s going to kill me when she reads this.)

But I believe in people and not just because so many people have believed in me but because all we have is ultimately each other. So I will put my money where my mouth is as others have done for me. I hope to one day have the capacity to actually fund in a big way so many of the people I see executing brilliant ideas so wonderfully on extreme budgets. I got this from arguably the most interesting founder I’ve ever met, an extremely brilliant South African;

“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-”God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” ― Kurt Vonnegut.