This Millennial Is Leading Africa’s Tech Revolution | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

Maya Horgan Famodu (center)

Sasha Pedro of Harambe

A startup pitch competition on Ilashe beach or a co-investment session meeting on a yacht. Welcome to Lagos, Nigeria, a hotbed of African tech startups and entrepreneurs.

Nigerian-American Maya Horgan Famodu is solving a big problem for Silicon Valley: Investors want to invest in Africa, but lack the know-how or local partners to help them get on the inside. Enter Famodu. She is the 26-year-old gatekeeper between tech investors and the Africa entrepreneur ecosystem.

Famodu describes the continent of Africa as the “last frontier market”. Raised in an entrepreneurial family between the US and Nigeria, Maya grew curious about how to redirect the surplus of capital and resources from the US to the continent. With her years of experience in private equity research, Maya learned early on the impact that an underdeveloped financial infrastructure has on a business, and created a way to bring the West and Africa together. She launched Ingressive as the problem solver.  I reached out to Famodu to find out more.

Let’s start from the top. Why Africa?

I saw an opportunity to leverage international networks cultivated from a background in private equity research and within banking, and direct underutilized capital from the West to Africa’s most promising entrepreneurs and technology ecosystems. It was an easy sell once we got started: now is the time: valuations are a fraction of Silicon Valley assets with same traction yet hold equal if not greater upside as they’re pioneering industries with little competition. There is first movers’ advantage, and an opportunity to impact 1 billion African people.

The first market entry trip we did in 2015, we had partners from 500 Startups, Techstars, Glickman Trust and a host of private investors and businesses join us, leading to two joint ventures and a direct investment. I knew we were on to something.

How do you help corporates and investors to establish and operate their Africa strategy? Tell me about one of your clients, as an example.

With Y Combinator, we provided market entry services to help them increase Nigerian companies in the program. YC invested in about 25% of all startups that were showcased during our market entry trip, and their applications from Nigerian founders spiked by 200%.  All have gone on to raise significant capital and continue rapidly scaling their businesses.

I first heard about your Tour of Tech initiative, a few years ago. There are a lot of tours that bring people together for marriage, business, food, or more. These typically result in high-stake outcomes. What are some of the outcomes of Tour of Tech you can share? What happens during a tour?

Investors join us for a week of deep-diving into the technology ecosystem. They sit in curated meetings with dozens of founders, visit the tech centers, meet pre-vetted co-investment partners, attend a conference or two, and meet leading executives in banking, telecommunications, and other sectors that will need to be leveraged to support portfolio companies.

Corporate travelers experience a curated tour to meet their company’s objectives. Typically, focus groups with target demographics, meetings with on-ground partners, select conferences and more.

The purpose of these trips is to get deals done.

Why Lagos for your conference? Is it unique among African countries when it comes to the numbers of tech startups and technological advances?

We host an annual conference in Lagos, which is the largest city in Africa of 20 Million people, the tech giant of Africa, a leader in venture investment, and home to several billion-dollar tech unicorns including AIG and Interswitch. Nigeria is the wealthiest black nation with a population of nearly 200 million people, and hosts potential and active acquirers including Google, Uber, Intel, GE, Microsoft, IBM and Ringier, Visa, among many others.

This last year, we had about 750 attendees.

What are some of your personal reasons for starting Ingressive? How does it help you grow, understand the world better?

As far as my perspective on the world, living with my family in Nigeria has allowed me to develop a frame of reference outside of my formative American one. It’s changed the way I see business, analyze opportunities, see solutions.

Traveling between two worlds, I see the West attempting to adopt practices of African countries, and African countries attempting to rapidly develop to be like the West. It keeps me acutely aware of the models that do not work in both private sector and policy as we pioneer industries on the continent.

As far as how it helps me grow, I live in a world of extremes. I’m in Silicon Valley, discussing mining resources on mars, blockchain and VR to teach empathy, and then I’m in Lagos, focusing on a completely new set of transformative and disruptive opportunities that will save millions if not billions of lives.

Why are you moving into venture capital? What was the trigger that got this started?

It was a combination of triggers: being asked by our clients to manage their funds, seeing the returns of our clients, and being a part of the deal sourcing, diligence, and investment process. Ingressive has technology programs at every major university in Nigeria.

One cannot ignore the opportunity. The World Bank recently cited “…the rate of return of foreign investment in Africa is higher than any other developing region in the world.” With 3 of the 5 fastest-growing economies in the world by GDP, it would be unwise to miss out.

What’s next for Ingressive?

Ingressive is focusing on crossing the continent this year. We are building heavily in East and South Africa.

We are also launching a few new programs and partnerships including open source collaborative projects between Silicon Valley engineers and African hackers, our annual conference in September, and a space for the tech community in Lagos.

Ingressive Capital is committed to backing Africa’s top tech-enabled founders, helping them build high growth businesses on the continent, and democratizing access to technology through our investments.

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