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She Leads Silicon Valley Dollars To Silicon Sahara

By Rosalind McLymont

I first learned of Ingressive International in January 2016, when I shared a panel with its founder and chief executive, Maya Horgan Famodu, at the 19th Annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit organized by the RainbowPUSH Coalition. We spoke at the summit’s International Investment Forum on global economic expansion opportunities as they pertained to Africa. Famodu, a Nigerian-American, focused on Africa’s tech sector. At the time she had just returned from one of her Silicon-Valley-Meet-Silicon-Sahara investment missions to Lagos, Nigeria.  

At less than half my age, Famodu impressed me then and has continued to do so since. She describes her work. “What we do is guide local capital to African entrepreneurs. We have a global database of about 2,000 investors who are interested in and focused on Africa-based opportunities. To engage them we lead semi-annual investor tours.”

On a recent “Tour of Tech,” she was accompanied by the likes of the heads of Techstars, 500 Startups, Glickman Trust — multi-hundred-million-dollar funds specifically focused on venture capital. “We take them to the continent, meet with ministers, co-investors, African leaders, and hundreds of tech founders and then help them by providing the financial vehicles for them to invest,” Famodu says.

Proclaims Glickman Trust’s Joseph Glickman on Ingressive’s website: “Within the sphere of the African technology start-up environment, Ingressive has major connections with a powerful and supportive network. You’ll go from lunch galas with premier businessmen and women, to private pitch competitions, and finally back up to the hotel rooftop looking out onto the Atlantic. You’ll learn more form this immersion than you’d ever figure out from the remote vantage of the United States.”

In Africa, Ingressive has embraced the pan-African financial services start-up, Interswitch, which is looking to be the “unicorn” of Africa, meaning the continent’s first technology company to go public. Based in Nigeria and preaching financial inclusiveness, the firm holds about 18 million of the 25 million credit cards currently operating in that country.

“What’s so exciting about the development of the technology ecosystem and the growth of these sorts of companies is, they reinvest their capital into the local ecosystems and that’s how you really develop technology ecosystems. Interswitch has already developed a $10-million fund that they’re reinvesting strategically in local financial services startups,” Famodu explains.

Hello Tractor, an agriculture technology company that manufactures mini-tractors equipped with a GPS antenna, also caught Ingressive’s attention. Hello Tractor not only uses data from the tractors to alert their owners when maintenance is needed, but they also use their location data to provide tractor services to farmers. A farmer in need of a tractor contacts Hello Tractor; Hello Tractor contacts the nearest tractor owner; the owner goes to the farm in need and performs the desired services for a fee.

“[They] have an Uber-like platform for tractor financing and tractor-sharing. It really interesting looking at these burgeoning agriculture sectors and financial services sectors,” Famodu says. “The other thing that’s interesting to note about the recent development of Africa is the leapfrogging — the ability… to go from zero percent connectivity to 650 million mobile users; to go from no phones to smart phones; and also, in the oil and gas sector, seeing no security on pipelines…to go to drone last-mile delivery, drone security. So we are, of course, bullish on the technology sector in Africa at large. The opportunities are endless.”

As part of its Influencers Salon Series focused on Black Diaspora innovators, Ingressive partnered with the Metro Atlanta Chamber, ChooseATL, and the ATL Fashion Tech Collective, to organize “Fashion + Tech: A Night with Pioneers” in Atlanta in September, promising attendees “exclusive access to pioneers building and reinventing the fashion industry.” Guest speakers included Africa- and African American-focused fashion investors, founders, and the Atlanta fashion community. Among them were Monique Woodard, partner at 500 Startups, who discussed her $25 million fund to invest exclusively on Black and Latino founders; Kelechi Anyadiegwu, creator of Zuvaa, an online store selling African-inspired clothing to customers globally.

Established just over two years ago, Zuvaa was on track to earn $2 million in revenue in 2016. New York-based Anyadiegwu says she drew on her skills in social media marketing and building online communities to create the company; and Okey Nwoke, founder of ATL Fashion Tech Collective with a mission to bring together the Atlanta fashion and technology communities “to encourage collaboration, promotion, and innovative partnerships in design, retail, brand awareness, and social engagement.”  

During its Tour of Tech 2016 in November, Ingressive and Starta, a support platform for start-up founders and entrepreneurs in Africa, launched High Growth Africa Summit 2016. During two days of master classes in Lagos, operators from Silicon Valley, Britain and Africa shared with tech founders strategies, tactics and growth tools for launching, scaling and funding high-growth businesses in Africa.

“The world is ready for African tech,” Famodu said in an interview with Nigeria’s TechCabal. “The question now is which investors will win the market first.”

 

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