In the inaugural article launching our new Limitless series on young African women who are changing the game in male-dominated industries, we profile Maya Horgan Famodu, a 30-year-old, Lagos-based, Nigerian-American entrepreneur who is bringing a whole new approach to spotting and investing in Africa’s most promising early stage ventures.
She appeared on the Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 list in 2018 in the technology category. She has been photographed shepherding Silicon Valley tech moguls across Africa. She has invested, through her venture capital firm Ingressive Capital, in leading African startups including the genomics company 54gene and Paystack, the Nigerian fintech leader now valued at more than USD 1 billion.
The venture capital scene in Africa is growing fast: African startups raised a meagre USD 400 million in 2015 compared to the USD 2 billion that came into the continent in 2019, according to Africa-focused fund Partech Africa.
“If you don’t have a strong finance background, or family money, or large savings,” Maya said in a recent TRUE Africa interview, “many people think you can’t actually become an investor.” At a time when many people are looking to invest in African technology companies, because of huge returns in some of the continent’s frontier markets, new approaches to investing in Africa’s future are now actively discussed.
She wants to show that you can start from anywhere. And she’s showing the blueprint on how to do it as a woman.
A daughter of a white American mother and a Nigerian father, Maya was raised mostly in Minnesota. As an investor, she has made it her mission to debunk the myths around what it takes to succeed in that part of the finance industry. She wants to show that you can start from anywhere. And she’s showing the blueprint on how to do it as a woman.
In the interview, she said that it’s actually about putting one’s capital to work, even if it’s only USD 2,000 in savings that get invested in a few companies. She also recommends pooling capital together with a group of friends, because it can start with saving just a couple hundred dollars each month, and investing that money.
Maya feels that there are a million routes to get started.
“Even if they don’t have money, or a stupendous CV, a budding investor can get started as an advisor to a team member in a business (s)he happens to believe in,” she adds. The investing game is multifaceted, but the barriers to entry are not as high as one would imagine. Maya feels that there are a million routes to get started.
Maya started her career in private equity research at JP Morgan bank. At 23, she tried launching a USD 50 million fund to invest in African tech. This was back in 2014, before tech in Africa was cool. The questions she’d get from investors were about whether Africa had internet access, whether there were any developers that were actually from Africa, or whether any of the startups had made serious money.
There were a lot of hurdles to jump. Maya didn’t get very far when she tried launching that fund. Instead, she launched an advisory firm. Ingressive Advisory was the first real company she focused on. The goal there was to assist global investors who wanted to look at potential investments on the African continent.
After assisting top American technology companies as well as leading US-based VCs and startup incubators such a Y Combinator and Techstars that were looking to make investments on the continent, she leveraged key data points, her local and international networks, and her on-the-ground experience to secure her first financial commitments for Ingressive Capital Fund I, a USD 10 million fund.
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Ingressive has been deploying capital since then, and they’ve just made their 33rd investment. Maya believes they will close Fund I out with 35 investments, ahead of launching Fund II, which will be a USD 50 million fund centered around the same strategy. But she makes it sound simple. Her advice? “Identify the opportunity.”
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With thanks to Africa No Filter who made this series possible.