The African Angel Academy has developed a series of case studies to share the stories of African early-stage investors. This case study was made possible by the generous support of the Southern African Innovation Support (SAIS) Fund.
Insider-Outsiders for Paystack departs from the world of angel investment to explore the learnings of other early-stage investors on the continent. Focusing on the seed fundraising round for Nigerian fintech phenom Paystack in 2016, the case study profiles the experiences of two investors: Maya Horgan Famodu of the Lagos-based venture capital firm Ingressive Capital, and Lauren Cochran of the U.S.-based Blue Haven Initiative, a family office focused on impact investment in sub-Saharan Africa. [Please note that Lauren has subsequently left Blue Haven, and is now VP of Equity and Investment Funds at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.]
In 2016, both investors are unknown quantities within the African early-stage investment world, but both also have strong commitments to becoming active participants in the African entrepreneurship ecosystem and growing opportunities for economic development on the continent. The case presents Maya and Lauren’s individual learnings about startup investment following the Paystack deal to offer practical insights for angel investors and other early-stage investors who are equally committed to long-term development in Africa.
Although Ingressive and Blue Haven are on very different missions with their investment activities, they both place priority on financial performance and take a broad view of impact. This leads them to promising enterprises like Paystack, which is neither a social enterprise nor an impact business, but nonetheless promises to create significant impact for small businesses at scale through their online payments solution.
“All you have to do is spend time in Nigeria to see the bucket of point-of-sales systems that everyone has in every store to take different forms of payment,” said Lauren. “So streamlining that process and empowering businesses to take more forms of payment more easily is, for us, clearly economic formalisation. But there are other fintech investors who didn’t necessarily draw that conclusion.”
Their reflections on Paystack co-founders Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi – their vision, character, skills, and leadership – demonstrate one of the critical success factors that leads to the company’s acquisition in 2020 for a reported US$200 million. It also demonstrates the importance of relationship-building between investor and founder in early-stage businesses when the entrepreneur’s track record may be limited and new investors may not have access to insider information or support from other investors.
“Ezra and Shola are really good people. They are men of integrity, they are kind, and extremely humble,” Maya reflected. “They are just happy people who are extremely positive, plus they are incredibly talented in their craft and having on-the-ground experience in financial services in Nigeria. So they knew what they were talking about.”
As Maya and Lauren gain more experience in working with early-stage African tech startups through Paystack and their respective portfolios, they develop critical insights about how to be supportive partners to founders, sharpen their own instincts, and navigate volatile economic cycles. As they offer their views of where African tech is headed, the case leaves readers to consider the roles and responsibilities of early-stage investors in creating a healthy ecosystem.
This is one of two case studies developed by AAA that give insight into the journey of early Paystack investors. Achieving Lift-off for Nigerian Tech follows the experience of angel investor Olumide Soyombo, Paystack’s first local investor. The case demonstrates the strategic role angel investors can play in developing the tech startup ecosystem in Africa. DOWNLOAD CASE STUDY.
What role can less risk-averse institutional investors play in the early-stage investment ecosystem?
Should angels and angel groups cultivate closer relationships with them and, if so, how?