Connect with us

Investors

Are ICO’s the death of Angels?

Published

on

Killing Angels. Are Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s) the death of early stage investing?

Imagine a startup that aims to build a decentralised cloud storage network, essentially disrupting platforms such as Dropbox and Box. The startup, not having a working product or any traction yet, decides to raise funding.  It does this very successfully raising $257 million. In the past year, this and stories like it have dominated the funding discussions thanks to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Yet most traditional Venture Capitalists (VC’s) and Angels missed out on these ‘opportunities’ and have started questioning where their role sits moving forward.

At the annual World Business Angel Forum coming up in February, you can be sure that amongst the normal topics of macro trends, impact investing and philanthropy, that ICO’s are going to be the amongst the hottest conversations both at the conference and in the hallways and bars afterwards.

With ICO’s overtaking early stage Venture Capital it is a topic that everyone is keen to understand

As opposed to equity/debt financing, ICOs are events where a startup raises funding through issuing tokens to the public. These tokens do not represent a stake in the company; rather, it primarily serves either as a securities or utility token. Securities tokens attempt to provide investors with returns for holding them while utility tokens act as “gas” for using the system the startup builds. Either way, investors aim to profit off these tokens on the various crypto exchanges. According to data from ICObench, ICO proceeds increased 141-fold, from $9.7million in Feb 2017 to $1.3billion in Dec 2017.

With more than 180 new ICOs scheduled to launch in 2018  it is easy to see why it is dominating conversations.

Of course, it is not just just early stage investors that are watching this space closely,  governments too are beginning to notice. Late last year, South Korea joined China in banning all forms of ICOs.

But for every South Korea and China, there is Switzerland or Estonia, the former known as Crypto Valley for its political stability and support for ICOs , the latter recently announcing to launch est-coin in its bid to be the global ICO hub.

The question for investors and for governments is whether this is another unsustainable bubble or whether it is some much needed innovation in a sector screaming out to get more funding into the hands of those creating value.  The lack of regulation certainly presents potential investors with another risk factor.

For those looking for a safer way to get involved, one option might be funds such as Polychain Capital and Fenbushi Capital. They specialise in blockchain vertical only portfolios. These funds also do invest in pre-sales, enjoying discounts on token prices and occupying an advisory seat on a startup’s board. This in turn provides the startup with more credibility, boosting demand and eventually prices of the tokens. It doesn’t hurt to diversify into blockchain startups if it falls within an angel’s or a fund’s thesis.

Proper Governance Models; Angels and VCs may look to invest in startups before they raise ICOs once milestones are met or come in at a later stage post-ICO when traction is gained. Alternatively, funds may be locked up in a cold wallet and voted to be released as milestones are reached. This model has not been explored yet but it could offer stability and trust.  However, looking beyond the core business and seeing who is on the Board, or what partnerships are already in place is also very important.

Either way this is a fascinating time to be involved in the scene.  If you want to be involved in the conversation then it is well worth heading to Istanbul to join the World Business Angel Forum 2018

Where:  Istanbul, Turkey
When:  18 – 20th February 2018
How:  Tickets at http://wbaf2018.istanbul/

World Business Angel Forum is an official partner of AsianEntrepreneur and supports Entrepreneurs around the world.

This article is part of the World Business Angel Forum media partnership with AsianEntrepreneur.org

If you would like more information about WBAF, please contact Callum Laing WBAF High Commissioner for Singapore. [email protected]

Investors

Georges Tchokoua

Published

on

Georges Tchokoua is connecting Africa’s fastest-growing entrepreneurs to global investors.

What’s your story?
My background is in statistical finance. I spent the early years of my career working in banking. After college in Paris, I started as a currency trader in London. After I graduated, I moved on to quantitative equity trading in New York, before going back to work as a financial engineer in London. I then decided to return to Africa to contribute to the economic development of the continent. After years spent in Morocco and in Cameroon, my home country, I realized, the majority of professionals are trained to be good employees, but there are not enough companies and jobs to absorb all these employees. I then went on to discover that, those venturing into entrepreneurship and innovation have limited access to coaching, mentoring, networking and financial resources. Upon relocating to New York, I started Africa Rising Invest. Our mission is to tap into the international marketplace from New York, in order to help unlock the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sub Saharan Africa, and connecting the continent’s fastest-growing entrepreneurs to investors, globally.

What is your involvement with Investment?
Access to early-stage investment is still mystified in many Sub Saharan African countries. Though widely recognized as the main drivers of economic growth, innovation and job creation, SMEs in many cases still remain helpless when it comes to accessing finance. They are sometimes compelled to borrow short-term (3-5 years) at 15-20% from local banks or 25-30% from microfinance institutions. Many can’t meet the collateral requirements of local financial institutions.
Here is my message to SMEs: You have other options. I recently led a kick-off meeting between an SME credit fund and a West African manufacturer of plastic products looking to raise capital to scale up. In the same vein, we have signed MoUs with various institutions interested in investing in African SMEs. Finally, I am also an expert consultant with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) for the capacity building program (including how to raise cheap capital to finance growth and the development of local content in the extractive sector), currently being implemented in five pilot countries.

How did that come about?
My tenure in Africa was a wake-up call. Over 95% of Africa’s economy is driven by SMEs and entrepreneurs. However, there are only 29 exchanges on the continent, representing 38 (out of 54) nation’s’ capital markets. Access to early-stage investments is nonexistent in most countries. Therefore entrepreneurs face many funding gaps during their journey. With few crowdfunding platforms, nascent incubation and acceleration centers and almost no technoparks, many are left over-relying on government grants. But these grants are limited. The amount of money in world capital markets are virtually unlimited. Thus, my partners and I founded Africa Rising Invest to connect entrepreneurs from Africa to investors from anywhere in the world. We hope to make it easier for young techies in Silicon Mountain (“Africa’s next tech hub”) in Buea and Cameroon for example, to seamlessly tap into resources coming from Boston or Singapore.

What are some of the key things you have learnt about Investing?
Humility is extremely important. Investing in general, and investing in startups in particular, is a continuous learning process. It’s very tempting to overestimate your startup selection skills and think you have a special touch. But remember, technologies evolve much faster than feedback loops in venture capital.

Artisanal gold mining – Shire, Northern Ethiopia

What mistakes do you see less experienced investors making?
Many less experienced investors expect a quick return based on good looking business plans forecasting profitable exits within 3-4 years. But behind every startup failure, there are good looking slides and spreadsheets. The reality is usually different. Angel investment is a long-term commitment.
Some less experienced investors invest in early stages with no additional capital for follow-on rounds. As the startup expands, it will require more capital. By participating in the subsequent rounds, it’s an opportunity to set the company valuation. Otherwise, as an early investor you will be diluted and end up in a position too weak to control the terms of the deal.

What mistakes do you see Entrepreneurs making?

  • Most entrepreneurs tend to think VCs invest in technology. Wrong. VCs invest in businesses and people they believe can deliver; they don’t invest in ideas and technologies. Your technology is only one of many critical elements required to build a successful business.
  • They tend to focus on what maximizes their ownership more than the drivers of enterprise value: Valuation, not your percentage of ownership is everything. You will have to be diluted if you want to raise capital.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Remember the last time you were preparing a presentation to speak before an audience. How long did you devote to polishing your body language and refining your voice as opposed to perfecting the words? Did you know, 55% of the meaning, people take away from any communication is based on body language, 38% on voice and only 7% on the actual words spoken? Mastering your communication skills, especially the three Vs of communication: Visual (what people see), Vocal (how it sounds), and Verbal (the actual words spoken) is key. To echo the President Gerald R. Ford, “If I went back to college again, I’d concentrate on two areas: Learning to write and to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”

What advice would you give to those seeking funding?

  • Fundraising is a complicated process. Have a plan, arm yourself. Be open to listen and adjust. Invest in your financial education.
  • Research and diligence of your target investors, just like they diligently research you.
  • Summarise your info memo or your business plan in: (i) a 10-15 page presentation, (ii) a one pager, and (iii) a 2-3 minute elevator pitch. Investors usually don’t have long attention spans. It takes time and resources to read a 50 page business plan. You may not need it.

Who inspires you?
Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian economist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa (UBA), Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to drive Africa’s economic development by enhancing the competitiveness of its private sector. As a premier pan-African-focused not-for-profit institution, the Foundation is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of entrepreneurship and excellence in business leadership across the continent, with initiatives such as The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP). I still vividly remember what he told me during the African Development Forum in Casablanca, Morocco last year: “African private sector has to be the generator of the continent’s economic development.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The concept of agglomeration: This is a unique type of collaboration where a group of SMEs from the same or similar industries can join forces and list publicly on a global exchange. It is a huge opportunity for small businesses to grow faster through using the public markets. As a “co-operative of entrepreneurs,” it is a unique innovation that can be leveraged by African SMEs to leapfrog their development curve. It can be extended to lending, microfinance, nano finance and more. Cooperation and collaboration, not competition is a crucial concept in how we download and redistribute the limited financial resources available in this world. I am eagerly looking to source potential candidates on the African continent.

What business book do you recommend the most?
“From Business Cards to Business Relationships: Personal Branding and Profitable Networking” by Allison Graham. It is well known that your network is your net worth. Most professionals (including entrepreneurs) are usually not well equipped to take advantage of profitable networking. The whole process of attending events, getting business cards and building successful business relationships is an art, which can be intimidating if not mastered. It is almost never taught in schools. But how do you build that network? This book teaches you the practical way of realising your dreams by effectively connecting with the right people, at the right time.

Shameless plug for your business/organisation:
We are committed to helping the next generation of African entrepreneurs to access global finance and to scale their business to realise their vision. We structure innovative financial instruments suitable to our global network of investors. Sub-Saharan Africa is our market. The global financial marketplace is our capital reservoir. We are sector agnostic. Examples of startups we assist include the multi-award-winning EduAir (Formerly Kwiizi): An innovative solution designed to offer access to high quality digital education to schools and universities where there is no internet connection. The solution designs portable and open media libraries in the form of Boxes, giving access to a heap of educational content and offering an integrated communication system where learners can make video calls within the local network deployed by the Box.

How can people connect with you?
Website: www.africarisinginvest.com
Email 1: [email protected]
Email 2: [email protected]

Social Media profiles?
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/georges-tchokoua

This article is part of the World Business Angel Forum media partnership with AsianEntrepreneur.org

If you would like more information about WBAF, please contact Callum Laing WBAF High Commissioner for Singapore. [email protected]

Continue Reading

Investors

Emmanuelle Norchet

Published

on

Emmanuelle Norchet works with Golden Equator Capital. Her focus is on technology investments across the southeast region in the online travel, media and entertainment, digital health and financial tech sectors.

What’s your story?
I am currently working as an investment professional with Golden Equator Capital, a private equity and venture capital fund manager, with a strong focus on technology, headquartered in Singapore. I joined the firm to look at technology investments across the Southeast Asia region, with a focus and interest for sectors such as online travel, media and entertainment, digital health and financial technology. The firm currently has 11 investments that are active across 2 technology funds. Our portfolio can be found here: https://www.goldenequatorcapital.com/portfolio-2/.

Prior to joining Golden Equator Capital, I worked with Nest, an early venture capital firm focusing on B2B technology plays in sectors such as healthcare, financial services, automotive and insurance. In my early days at Nest, I gained operational experience acting as general manager for Investable.vc, a first-to-market equity crowdfunding platform in Hong Kong set up to help early stage companies get access to financing through a community of over 800+ accredited investors and subsidiary of the Nest Group. I started my career working at a Chinese law firm in the field of inbound and outbound direct investments. I hold a Bachelor of Law, a MSc in Finance and I have been admitted to the Bar of Quebec, Canada.

What is your involvement with Investment?
As part of the investment team, I am involved with sourcing, identifying new investment themes, due diligence on new potential investments, presenting those opportunities to our investment committee, and finally working closely with portfolio companies to help them with their expansion strategy, corporate partnerships, customer acquisition and fundraising post-investment.

How did that come about?
After working with a startup and an early-stage venture firm, it made sense for me to move to Golden Equator Capital and focus on the technology sector in the Southeast Asian region. It is the right timing to focus on the region as we are starting to see more successful companies raising larger rounds from international players such as KKR, Expedia, JD.com and Alibaba.

What are some of the key things you have learnt about Investing?
There will always be some risks and some hurdles along the road, but ultimately, you have to believe in the team you are investing in and their ability to adapt as they continue to grow the business. As the technology sector is evolving quickly, our founders also need to have the ability and drive to move fast and adapt to the new market needs. A clear vision and good synergy between the founding team is important.

What mistakes do you see less experienced investors making?
They have usually seen enough companies, founders and business models to be able to see the big picture, trust their instincts and not doubt their decisions.

What mistakes do you see Entrepreneurs making?
One of the biggest ones that I’ve observed with early stage companies is for the founding team to focus or spend too much time on fundraising, resulting in less attention and focus on business and product development. The other mistakes would be the lack of focus, inability to delegate and building a clear organisational structure, resulting in the inability to do one thing well and affecting the execution.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
As cliche as it sounds, I would go for, “focus on what you can control.”

What advice would you give to those seeking funding?

  • Don’t use buzzwords in your deck or presentations
  • Be clear about the vision and the focus of the company
  • Keep presentations short and to the point, leave most of the time for Q&As
  • Enquire about the fund mandate to ensure alignment (geography, sector, stage)
  • Don’t focus too much on the valuation in the early days
  • Speak to the portfolio companies of your potential investors to better understand their personal experience working with them

Who inspires you?
Many of the local entrepreneurs that have managed to build amazing companies from scratch. Some examples are:

  • Ching Tse-Tseng, founder and CEO of Vault Dragon
  • Joseph Phua, founder and CEO of M17 Entertainment
  • Lingga Madu, founder and CEO of Sale Stock
  • Ethan Lin, founder and CEO of Klook
  • Rosaline Chow Koo, founder and CEO of CXA

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
All of the challenges that JD.com had in their early days to get their company off the ground. I would recommend the book, “The JD.com Story.’

What business book do you recommend the most?
The one I mention above and also, some other interesting reads are:

Shameless plug for your business/organisation:
If your company is looking to join our business club at Spectrum (https://www.spectrum.global/), please contact [email protected]. If you are a startup at the Series A or B stage in the region, please feel free to contact us at [email protected]

How can people connect with you?
[email protected] or [email protected]

Social Media profiles?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/emmanuelle-norchet-b2001ba/

This article is part of the World Business Angel Forum media partnership with AsianEntrepreneur.org

If you would like more information about WBAF, please contact Callum Laing WBAF High Commissioner for Singapore. [email protected]

Continue Reading

Trending