Reflecting On Our First Year at Roundtrip Afrika
A year ago I launched the Roundtrip Consulting Group to expose young Africans studying at the top universities in the US to the African tech ecosystem. The idea was to give these students an opportunity to interact with promising early-stage companies building solutions for the African continent by providing pro-bono business and technical consulting support to these startups. Our 13 consultants were meeting weekly with 7 startups and supporting them with everything from revamping landing pages, thinking through go-to-market strategies, helping identify potential partnership opportunities, implementing customer discovery processes, identifying customer acquisition channels, and more.
While we were slightly disrupted by COVID-19 about halfway through, we were still able to deliver considerable value to the founders and startups that we worked with. Gigi and Olu who are now members of the leadership team at Roundtrip were members of this class of consultants and they came on to help improve something that we all realized was sorely needed; A way to connect young Africans, particularly those in the diaspora, to the tech revolution undertaking Africa. In 2019, for the first time, the amount of funding invested in African startups crossed the $1 billion mark. This signals a continent on the cusp of a technology revolution, and it seemed ridiculous to us that young Africans had their sights set on spending their careers working at the Googles, Microsofts, JP Morgans, and Morgan Stanleys of the world rather than participating in what really could be the most impactful revolution on the African continent to date.
We wanted to do more to help young Africans see and access this opportunity. We wanted young Africans to see careers as founders of, operators at, and investors in the industry redefining startups of the next decade in Africa as financially and professionally viable. With this mandate in mind, we launched the Roundtrip Afrika Fellowship about 6 months ago to provide young Africans with a community of smart, tech-minded peers to build and explore the African startup world with. Over 9 weeks, we took 19 fellows through a tailored experience of community events, speaker events, and startup pitches. Our fellows paired up with one another to create and build startups while learning from folks like Maya Horgan Famodu, a partner at Ingressive Capital, Kennedy Ekezie, the CEO of Creft, Chuba and Chine Ezekwesili, co-founders of Akanka and design partners at Future Africa, Elohor Thomas, the CEO of CodeLn, and many other founders and investors on the continent. They pitched their companies multiple times and received feedback from folks like Kyane Kassiri, a senior associate at Lateral Capital, Tola Adesanmi, the CEO of Spleet, Hadiyah Mujhid, the founder of HBCUvc and a scout for firms like Lightspeed VP and Indie VC, and Tomi Adejana, the CEO of Bankly. All of this culminated in a Demo Day in December where our fellows pitched to a panel of judges to compete for a cash prize.
Looking back on the past few weeks, it is clear that we are starting to inch closer to the reality that we want to create. Our fellows have been featured on Benjamin Dada’s blog, one of the prominent tech blogs in Africa, for what they’re building. They have started to receive inbound investor interest. They have been hired at top early-stage startups on the continent. This is only just the beginning. We are aggressively working towards a reality where Africans across the diaspora and the continent play a major role in Africa’s tech revolution. We want more Africans to own, be employed at, and be investors in the next generation of successful African startups. This is our north star at Roundtrip Afrika and we will continue to work towards this with relentless vigor.
With love, Timi, Gigi, and Olu ❤