Lessons from a Venture Capitalist

“Hello Sir, would you be kind enough to give me some Ten Million Shillings?”

“What for?”

“Well, I have this business idea which I think is really lucrative.”

“I see. I have 30 seconds before I get out the lift. Convince me.”

“Uhm…well…a few years back the President pointed out a potential source of employment…”

“You have 15 seconds.”

“Oh…ok…so, basically, uhm with 10 Million I can be able to market this product, and given the potential, I think I can…”

“Time up. Here’s my card, call my office and see if my PA can schedule a meeting.”

“Yes Sir. Thanks for your time!!”

*******************************************************************

I hate Venture Capitalists! No, not because of their boorish Donald Trump arrogance which makes you want to jump to the other side of the table and Scream “Just give me the money damn it!! Can’t you see it’s a great idea??” into their ears. It’s not that. I like to think it’s more of envy hate. I would love to walk into an elevator and tell some aspiring entrepreneur to pour out their lifelong dream in 30 seconds. It must be fun to be rich!!

Here is the interesting part though. Not all rich people were born millionaires. A great number actually made their way up, had to give elevator speeches more than once and somehow got the VC that changed their fortunes. I have mad respect for the John Waibochis and Michael Macharias of this region.

With all the Venture Capitalist talk that has been going on in East Africa of late, I felt compelled to try and find out what ticked these VCs. What would make some rich genius agree to give 0.00001% of his wealth to you? It all comes down to 4 reasons in my opinion:

  1. Intelligent VCs are attracted to People, not Ideas
    It was a pleasant surprise to me when a budding entrepreneur mentioned that he would rather invest in an immensely potent person with a non-lucrative idea, than invest in an idiot with a genius idea! Why? I wondered. Well, anyone can come up with a genius idea. But very few people have what it takes to turn an idea into a profitable business empire. Invest in those people, and you just doubled your fortunes. Really!!!
  2. Intelligent VCs thrive on simplicity
    I had the pleasure of meeting with Christian Abassi Bitti at the recently ended IPO48. He is the CEO of Digital Brands and in the words of one Mark Kaigwa, “this guy has Mooooney!!”. Christian said one thing to the aspirational Sakanya team which got permanently entrenched in my memory; “If your business idea is so stupidly simple that you can explain it to your grandmother and she understands it, then you have my attention!” Forget the big talk, and the complicated technology and the mind boggling formulas. Keep it simple.
  3. Intelligent VCs have fun!
    They so love what they do that they literally derive their life meaning from it. You should meet Michael Macharia. The two times I have seen this guy he looks like he just got kissed in the rain! Listen to him talk about his adventures at Seven Seas Technologies and you might mistakenly believe that being an entrepreneur is a walk in the park. It’s evident that he enjoys every single day of it, and I believe that it has hugely contributed to his success. Why would a VC invest in someone who seems so painfully uptight and anxious?
  4. Intelligent VCs have a life!
    This is the reason I so hate being referred to as a geek. For the sole reason that it’s always synonymous with having a monochromatic life and not being able to look beyond your digicam. Adventures, hobbies, family, charity…heck even fetishes!  Think about it. The three richest people in the world have stable family lives, lots of charitable activities to their name and all manner of publicly known hobbies. It’s no coincidence. Why would I give my money to someone who spends 18 hours coding, 4 hours sleeping and 2 hours in the bathroom? That’s a work machine for heavens sake!! I would rather employ him!

There you go. If you think I left anything out please share in the comments. Now go look for some Venture Capital.

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