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Georges Tchokoua

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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]

Investors

Eva Law

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Eva Law invests in businesses and people who share something she believes in and understands well.

What’s your story?
I serve affluent families, corporations and investors in Asia. I am well connected with entrepreneurs, wealth creators and the next generation who dream big. I offer my clients solutions which are contingent to their requirements.

Apart from supporting clients with their investment, I am passionate about helping clients with things like family governance, family business growth, management and succession. Since recently establishing the Life-Quest Fellowship, I now support good causes and help them to build a dynamic economy, harmonious society and a ‘greener’ world.

I am available for talks, I welcome co-investment in any form and I am always happy to meet bright people with good ideas.

What is your involvement with Investment?
With regard to my own investment, I together with my vehicles are actively investing in technology, impact investing projects and young companies.
My daily life requires me to work closely with the buy-side parties. They are the wealth owners, the successors and the co-investors. In this role, I need to fully understand their unique requirements. I manage and facilitate the potential formation, execution, disposal and ongoing management of the investment activities either operating in-house or run by mandated external managers.

How did that come about?
I started investing in technology when the tech-bubble burst. For impact investing, I was inspired by people with vision and good hearts and that was when I engaged in the family offices network. My investment in young companies started 2 years ago when I started supporting programs relating to the incubation and acceleration of start-up companies which exhibited the potential to be successful. Being a family office specialist, it is my natural role to offer tangible support to clients to assist in arranging their investments, club deals and asset disposals.

What are some of the key things you have learnt about Investing?

  • Be patient with long-term investing
  • Buy and invest only in businesses or projects you understand
  • Make informed decisions – do due diligence and checking
  • Take diversification seriously
  • Know when to sell and when to buy
  • Maintain liquidity at a reasonable volume

What mistakes do you see less experienced investors making?
Many investors confuse historical returns with future expectations, the investment advice they receive about long term probabilities and average returns may have little or no relevance to the actual results they get.

I have seen on many occasions, investors fail to match investment styles with their own personal goals. There’s no single right answer to investment strategy that will result in financial success for everyone. Investors have to find the path that will adhere to their unique expectations, limitations, skills, resources, goals, values, and risk tolerances for achieving financial success.

Following those ‘gurus’ who have made their millions doing the “blah, blah, blah” strategy doesn’t mean it’s the right strategy for all investors. Investors are advised to be vibrant and be able to make decisions contingent on their own conditions.

What mistakes do you see Entrepreneurs making?
Not being adaptable. Companies don’t fail because of changes to the environment. They fail because their leaders are either unwilling or incapable of dealing with change. Indeed, companies don’t change. People do. It means that to stay competitive in today’s environment warrants not only the skill and will to adapt to change but also the foresight to anticipate it.

Excessive optimism. Failure to consider the downside risks will bring the business to a halt quickly. Often an enterprise or start-up expects to have its product on the market in the near future and have sales growing at aggressive rates with unrealistic margins. Sooner or later, the company will experience cash flow disaster, and most entrepreneurial businesses have no plan whatsoever for such variances. They fail not because the idea was necessarily bad but more than anything because their forecasting was poor and the capital dries up.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I receive advice from the people who surround me – my family, the church, the community. I have shared some of the advice i have received which resonates with me:

  • Don’t give up on what you want most, for what you want now. It’s about sticking to your priorities.
  • You cannot control the external world, but you can control your reaction to it. By focusing on what I can do, I can stay positive.
  • Only pack what you can carry yourself. I realize excessive pressure is no good and it won’t help your end goal.

What advice would you give to those seeking funding?
First, fundraisers should have clear expectations and well contemplated strategies. Second, qualifying the target investors/funders early so they focus their scarce resources on people likely to support them. At last, research the potential investors/funders and build a relationship with them over time. People buy from people they like, trust, respect and believe in.

Other tip: Make the pitch simple. Nobody will buy what they don’t understand. It’s very important to take the complexity of the company and industry and develop a “narrative” that helps investors and funders better understand the context. It’s basically story telling.

Who inspires you?
The people I am surrounded by.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Do what you love and create the environment that’s right for you. That is why I built the Associations, the Fellowship and my own business. I love doing what I want to do and I can help the world along the way.

What business book do you recommend the most?
I recently read Jonathan Taplin’s book, Move Fast and Break Things. It examines the “monopoly platforms” built by Facebook, Google, Amazon and others. It also discussed technology’s impact on society.

Shameless plug for your business/organisation:
Association of Family Offices in Asia (AFO) is a professional society in Asia which distinctively gathers single, multiple and virtual family offices as well as industry societies in the region. AFO offers a range of consultancy services and organized activities to facilitate collaboration and co-investment among the prestige circle.

Asia Co-Investors Club (ACIC) is a group of private investors who organize partnerships. The relevant group in ACIC establishes new ventures, buys or sells securities and real assets based on a majority vote of the members. Club meetings are voluntary, thought provoking and educational. Each member may actively participate in investment decisions.

How can people connect with you?
Connect me via LinkedIn or write to me at [email protected] or reach out to my assistant at [email protected]

Social Media profiles?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/evalaw/

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]

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Investors

Louie Pinto

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Louie Pinto swears by his tried and tested formula – the Billionaire Rule of 3.

What’s your story?
My name is Louie Pinto. I was born in the USA to immigrant parents with humble beginnings. In my 20s, I decided that I wanted more out of life and wanted to live an extraordinary life, so I decided to study the rich and wealthy. For the last 18 years, I’ve studied under some of the top mentors in the word, like Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Joel Bauer, Harry Dent, etc. I came up with a formula called the Billionaire Rule of 3, which I started to teach and apply in my own life and the lives of others. I’ve spoken to over 10,000 people in the last few years in Asia alone.
Last year, I founded GCBA- Global Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Alliance with 2 partners of mine in Singapore. We started at a coffee shop and less than 1 year later, we have thousands of members and we have impacted many of their lives.

What is your involvement with Investment?
I focus on modern wealth strategies, which include bitcoin and blockchain education. Investing in cryptocurrencies is risky, that is why I teach people to focus on crypto education. I teach people to have a small exposure to crypto, keep their traditional investments, like RE and stocks, but also use a small amount in crypto to supercharge their returns.

How did that come about?
I was first exposed to bitcoin in 2014. I did nothing. Then last year in April, I had a mentor ask me to really take a hard look at bitcoin again as a way to create generational wealth in a short amount of time. I started to share with some friends, then it grew from there. We have thousands of members all around Asia in our Alliance.

What are some of the key things you have learnt about Investing?
Well, my billionaire rule of 3. Step 1. Find the right trend. Step 2. Is it the right time? Step 3. Take massive and immediate action.

What mistakes do you see less experienced investors making?
Focus too much on not having a plan or a strategy. If you don’t have a plan, you become a gambler, and the casino is filled with broken souls and wallets. We focus on having a game plan and simple strategies to make money. Our focus is that investing should be boring, and profitable.

What mistakes do you see Entrepreneurs making?
Not spending enough time on education. One of my friends, just bought a small plane. He asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. As we were talking, I asked him where did he go to pilot school? He said he didn’t, he just watched a few videos on youtube and read a book. Now that is risky and no one in their right mind would fly with that person. But people gamble away their life savings in the markets and other investments, because they are not educating themselves first.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Define your target and keep taking steps, no matter how small, each and every day, until you accomplish it.

What advice would you give to those seeking funding?
You need to have solid proof of your results before you can start to ask people for money.

Who inspires you?
Being a new parent (my little girl is 4 years old), I really admire parents who will do anything, including giving up their dreams, to provide a better life for their children. Only just becoming a parent, have I started to appreciate my own parents even more.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Sometimes you can even surprise yourself. Last year, when I first got started, I never would have imagined that I would be speaking to thousands of people a month, sometimes up to 8 times a week, and be a leader in this field. I grew up with low self esteem and had a really bad stuttering problem that prevented me from speaking in public for many years.

What business book do you recommend the most?
There are so many that I’ve been blessed with over the years. 1) Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert K. It shares simple, but powerful ideas on gaining wealth. 2.) Awakening the Giant Within, by Tony Robbins. He focuses on mindset and taking massive action. After reading this book in my 20s, it sent me on a few different paths.

Shameless plug for your business/organisation:
www.GCBA.world

How can people connect with you?
Facebook
Email – [email protected]

Social Media profiles?
https://www.facebook.com/louie.pinto

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]

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