Future Females Invest

Country: Mauritius
Date founded: November 2020
Number of members: 6
Number of investments: 0
Number of deals assessed: 3
Number of deals to be assessed: 5
Website: www.futurefemalesinvest.com

 

The Founders

After a stint as a global IT consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers Zulaika Sunthbocus returned home to Mauritius, where she founded successful IT consultancy and software development company, Spoon Consulting. In this role, Zulaika interacted with young tech experts and entrepreneurs for 15 years – so when she left her company, she was already considering turning this access into angel activity. Her friend Aysha sent her the link for the AAA programme with the note “Why not?”, and the two of them ended up doing it together.

In 2019, Aysha Tegally merged her company, Future Females Invest, with Tori Abiola’s Women of West Africa Entrepreneurs (WOWe). Together, they aim to build an ecosystem of support for African female entrepreneurs, including connecting them with finance offered by investors. Aysha’s experience on the AAA programme gave her the impetus to create an investment vehicle of FFI’s own, with her friend Zulaika.

 

About the group

The Future Females Invest angel group started in August 2020 with monthly meetings of about 14 women, which over time resolved to a core group of six. These women were recruited from Aysha and Zulaika’s networks, including a women entrepreneur association and business contacts. The core group includes women with backgrounds in finance, pharmaceuticals, marketing and IT. By March 2021 this group was signing a mutually agreed-upon MOU and beginning to assess a pipeline of potentially investable businesses.

The Future Females Invest angel group is an extension of Aysha’s FFI structure: “Both FFI and the angel group will work closely together to come up with a win-win outcome.” The existing Future Females Invest network, which is active in several African countries, is the source of the startups and the angel group contributes the finance, mentorship and expertise to support the growth and sustainability of the selected businesses.

“The solidarity and community of the group has helped us deal with these frustrations,” Zulaika says, smiling. “Our WhatsApp group is named Women Power!” 

Deals and Deal-management

Sourcing of relevant startups has been slow-going, with entrepreneurs operating in a challenging environment especially in light of Covid-19, says Zulaika. “People are not as fearless as they were, as bold as they were,” she says. “It’s so uncertain.”

But she is confident things will improve. “The MRIC, the Mauritius Innovation Research Council, has put out a call again this year – last year they had more than 200 projects.” FFI also looks beyond Mauritius: one of the founders of the FFI training and mentorship academy, Tori Abiola, is Nigerian, so the group is reaching out to contacts there as well as Kenya and Tanzania.

The fact that the founding team has to be at least 50% female is not a significant limiting factor in sourcing, says Zulaika, noting that more startup teams include women than ever before. 

In March 2021, FFI announced a programme in collaboration with Accenture to train and coach two Mauritian women impact entrepreneurs: the Enterprise Studio is a 3-month programme to help these women meet their business goals. These types of activities help build up a pipeline for FFI investments.

While they haven’t yet made an investment, momentum is growing. In their six months, the FFI angel group assessed three deals and by May 2021 had gathered five more deals into the pipeline.

“With this group we have proven that there are people in Mauritius who want to have a positive impact on the country,” says Zulaika proudly. “We’re given confidence by the passion of the young people here and across Africa. We are confident that even if it’s difficult, they will do something amazing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

How African Angel Academy helped

 “The FFI Fund is a direct outcome of the AAA programme,” says Zulaika. It complemented the more active role that she had already started taking in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. “I had an idea to become an angel and AAA helped me put it into action. I was very grateful for the opportunity and want to stay engaged to learn more.” 

The best part of it – the cherry on the cake – was the mentorship programme,” says Zulaika.

FFI’s AAA-assigned mentor Laila Macharia sits on a variety of boards, including those of Absa and Africa Digital Media Institute, and has been an active angel investor for seven years. Laila was particularly helpful in supporting the group to draft their MOU (including procedures as appendixes), providing the template but also asking the six women challenging questions, helping define their mandate and give them a common vision for their group.

Says Laila: “FFI’s needs played to my strengths because what they most needed was input around their own ideas from someone who had deeper experience with different kinds of groups. My hope was that we could align expectations and objectives and then distill that into structures they can use long-term. We achieved that.”