I am very happy to be writing this post, brimming even! Today we’re adding two new members to our DFS Lab team and nearly doubling in size.
Beyond having found and hired two exceptional individuals who will add immeasurably to our team’s capabilities (more on them below), we are also moving in some exciting new directions.
To help you make sense of our new direction and our new hires, it’s helpful to take a look back at the first phase of DFS Lab. We invested in over a dozen companies, some of whom went on to attract investments from leading venture capital firms like Accel, 500 Startups, NYCA, Anthemis, Omidyar Network, Y Combinator, and Accion. We’ve been impressed by these companies as they have gone from little more than concepts to having raised over $20 million in seed funding and a cumulative valuation of over $65 million. Two were accepted to Y Combinator in the past year or so. This has been a good base for us to build on. We learned a lot and are excited by what our portfolio companies are doing.
Despite these successes, when Stephen and I began reviewing our progress in early 2020, it still felt fundamentally limited. We were capital constrained (there were more good companies knocking on our door than we had capital for) and we were feeling the limits of the standard accelerator model (money + advice and connections) in really helping break down the structural barriers startups face. So we decided to go in some new directions and bring on some new team members as we did so.
First, the new directions. We raised a new fund (read more here) and will be investing in more companies per year than we have before. We’ll also be expanding the support structure to help African founders create great companies. We recruited a scout network of founders from many of the market-leading tech companies to help us find and support the best new companies in their geography (see the DFS Lab Venture Scouts here). We’re exploring a revised thesis, new financing instruments, approaches to community-building, content creation, and more — all intended as ways to give entrepreneurs the tools they need to build impactful companies and products. We’ll be sharing more detail on these plans soon.
When we began mapping our new direction, we knew our team needed to grow in important ways. When a company comes to work with us, we roll up our sleeves and help with everything from hiring, fundraising, marketing, user testing, negotiating partnerships, and more. Our support is often global in nature — e.g. raising money from foreign sources, understanding relevant models in China or Indonesia, and getting startups featured in TechCrunch. It helps to be based globally and travel often. But we also get a lot of requests for support that require local knowledge and experience building actual startups on the ground in Africa — e.g. the best Kenyan bank to work with, how to get a USSD short code, and so on. We’ve always seen ourselves as a bridge between these worlds for both our investors (mostly outside of Africa) and our entrepreneurs (mostly African) so we made it our primary goal to add more experienced startup builders from Africa to the team. Hence, we’re proud to welcome Osarumen Osamuyi and Joseph Benson-Aruna, the two newest members of our DFS Lab family. They bring deep experience and knowledge honed in Nigeria, but relevant across African markets. And for our portfolio companies looking to enter Nigeria, we’ll be well placed to help.
Osarumen Osamuyi joins DFS Lab as Head of Venture Growth, leading our post-investment support. He brings years of experience investing in, helping grow, and analyzing African startups across many markets. We previously collaborated with Osarumen on our Sufficient Balance content series and the market analysis in his own publication, The Subtext, has been unparalleled. Our founders will benefit from his experience as a startup mentor at the Google for Startups Accelerator as well as his previous investment role at Ventures Platform. They will also benefit from his deep knowledge of other markets outside Nigeria from his work on the international expansion team at Africa’s Talking. Osarumen’s keen strategic sense, and ability to provide honest, actionable advice make him a special addition to our team. We’re more than excited to introduce him to our community.
Joseph Benson-Aruna joins DFS Lab as Head of Product, leading the development of our investor and founder support platforms. He’s a founder who has been at the helm of product design at many of Africa’s leading startups; most recently at Spleet. Joseph is also a Y Combinator alum as the former COO of Wallets, and led User Experience at various startups including Carbon, TeamApt, Interswitch, and Jobberman. Our founders will undoubtedly benefit from Joseph’s keen eye for UI/UX and product, especially at their early stages. We think he’s one of the best product builders on the continent and can’t wait to see him bring that experience to our portfolio companies and the larger community.
Adding Joseph and Osarumen to our team is really exciting for us as well as for our portfolio. As our team continues to grow, we will be bringing on folks from other African markets to strengthen our work. With these new directions and new team members there will be new and exciting updates to come, so stay tuned.