BY TOM JACKSON
Nigerian Olu Oyinsan credits Flutterwave’s seed round with being the inspiration for him returning home from the United States (US) to launch VC firm Oui Capital.
Having started his career in commercial banking with Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank, Oyinsan moved to Boston for business school and then worked as a consultant at Forrester and then in Silicon Valley Bank’s early-stage practice supporting tech startups across the East Coast.
In 2017, however, he set in motion a return to Nigeria by working on deal origination and due diligence across Sub-Saharan Africa with Ingressive Capital, before starting his own fund, Oui Capital, in 2018.
He partly credits the success of payments company Flutterwave for encouraging him to make the leap.
“During my time at SVB, I started to notice that there was increasing activity in the ecosystem. Notably at the time was Flutterwave, which had recently raised their seed round. I realised the time was right to get involved back at home, so I made the move back,” Oyinsan told Disrupt Africa.
He said he has always been an entrepreneur at heart.
“In university, I was president of an investment club that pooled money together to invest in publicly traded stocks. In 2014 I started a company that helped people share their Wi-Fi with their neighbours, which failed,” said Oyinsan.
Oui Capital resulted from “many hours of deep thinking” on what he thought the ecosystem needed at the time.
“There was a trend in venture funding on the continent: Series A rounds were usually oversubscribed by local and International venture investors, but very few wanted to take the risk of seed and pre-seed funding rounds,” Oyinsan said.
“In fairness to international investors who didn’t know the market well, these deals seemed pretty risky. At the time, you could literally count the number of companies on the continent who had the capacity to absorb a US$20 million cheque. We went into the market with a mission to create more of these types of mature, de-risked companies every year by leveraging our local knowledge and hands-on experience.”
Funded by “visionary” LPs around the world with whom the company’s mission resonated, which include a mix of high net-worth individuals, senior professionals and some bigger VC funds interested in seeing its deal-flow before anyone else, Oui Capital launched its fund in January 2019. Focused on fintech, mobility and platforms, so far it has invested in four companies, including Nigeria’s AWA Bike and MVXchange, and Oyinsan is optimistic on how those investments will turn out.
“AWA Bike is changing the face of micro-mobility on the continent, in a very environmentally sustainable way, while MVXchange is rethinking how trade is done, especially in the oil and gas and maritime industries. Both are growing very fast at the moment,” he said.
Aside from money, Oui Capital also offers startups access to its “Mentor’s Pool”.
“We have a pool of 21 mentors and counting who dedicate between one and five hours of their time each month to helping out portfolio companies for free. They are carefully selected and have diverse skills and experience in many critical expertise areas. They are spread around the world and majority of them are also investors in the fund – which means our interests are aligned,” said Oyinsan.
“When we were designing the strategy for our fund, we spoke to almost 100 founders around the continent on what the challenges really are at the seed stage. Of course, access to early stage capital that understood the market was number one. The other thing we discovered was that the teams desperately needed advisory talent and mentors that they could hardly afford yet. This is why we put together the Mentor’s Pool for our portfolio.”
The African tech space, he said, is so exciting that he “jumps out of bed every morning when I remember we’re building the future”.
“The African tech ecosystem is undergoing an economic transformation similar to the Asian boom of a decade ago that created many valuable companies that changed lives. There are so many correlations in terms of number of deals, amount of capital being invested and market demographics that I’m so excited to just be part of the times,” said Oyinsan.