No. 253 – Tuesday Reads

Low Covid-19 death toll raises hopes Africa may be spared worst – So far, African countries have avoided the devastation the US and Europe have experienced from Covid-19. The nervousness in my chest won’t leave for some time, and I pray that Africa countries continue to navigate this virus as best they can. It’s been encouraging to see several African leaders take aggressive measures to contain the virus. Hopefully, this amplifies the sense of urgency in developing infrastructure that furthers the resilience of Africa’s people. If Africa gets through this pandemic relatively safely, that doesn’t mean its countries will get through the next one in the same shape.

Ghana government to invest in healthcare infrastructure – President Akufo-Addo announced that the country will be building 88 100-bed hospitals across the country. This is good news, though you have to wonder where the money is coming from. China has put untold amounts of money into projects across Africa, and will leverage that diplomatically. As African countries make their way toward a post COVID-19 world, it’s imperative China isn’t able to make incursions on their independence because it has put billions of dollars into shaping their economies.

Covid-19 has blown apart the myth of Silicon Valley innovation – One of my favorite lines in scripture is “do not think too highly of yourself, but think with sober judgement.” I’m very curious to see how how Silicon valley culture evolves post COVID-19. Hopefully, it finds a path forward in it’s foundation in early Silicon Valley like Genentech that shifted science and life.

Why You’re Not One of the World’s Great Investors – There’s a great book on hedge fund manager Jim Simons called The Man Who Solved the Market. In it, you’ll see how this man used algorithms and math I’ll probably never understand to find trading opportunities. There’s a benefit to creating your own lane and not trying to find your fortune in someone else’s. Simons did that. He was a math professor before getting into the hedge fund world, and built a completely different way of approaching trading. As I continue this journey towards venture investing, reminders like these to keep doing me are helpful.

Antitrust After the Coronavirus – Matt Stoller put together an interesting piece here laying out the dangers potentially ahead of us in big corporations consolidating their industries with the help of the financial world. He calls for pause on merger activity and an act that would outline a path for breaking up companies that gain power due to pandemic. He also calls for a systematic process of working through that disappear due to pandemic situations situation. I’m with him. Corporations don’t have all the answers, just like governments don’t. They’ve got their own respective roles in making this thing work.

Perhaps a random aside, but has anyone heard from Haven? Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway made a big splash last year announcing this new business that was supposed to reimagine health care. Why have we heard nothing from them?

No. 250 – Saturday Reads

When Tailwinds Vanish – This is a very interesting piece by John Luttig. He argues that the opportunities for new internet startups to hit home runs is diminishing as the internet matures. As winning in the internet economy becomes a zero-sum game, he points to incumbents as the ones more likely to win what’s left of growth opportunities. Further, venture capital isn’t being used for research and development, but for expenses like sales. Considering this, he believes there needs to be another layer on top of the internet economy that enables companies to get the financing they need without tapping into venture capital – Sand Hill Sachs, as he calls it.

The piece is quite thought provoking, but I think John is looking at the internet too narrowly to say there’s a small window for anymore big wins. Look at areas like the transfer of food from the industrial portion of the supply chain to the consumer portion. This COVID-19 situation has put a big spotlight on the lack of dynamism in how that transfer works. New York City doesn’t know how many people in public housing have COVID-19. Stock exchange IEX has coiled up 38 miles of optic fiber to prevent high-frequency traders from having a leg up on their competitors. These all highlight problems that can be solved on the internet. There’s opportunity for companies to get big wins. Maybe Silicon Valley just isn’t the place for the fresh thinking needed to see them. Maybe there needs to be some more diversity of thought.

Chinese start-ups are being starved of venture capital – with worrying omens for the west – The fallout for VC in China isn’t looking pretty right now. It’s an interesting with the tenor a lot of US VCs are trying to roll with claiming that “we’re open for business. ” Those Q2 numbers on how the US VC ecosystem fared will be interesting to take a look at!

Black Founders Remain Optimistic About Survival Despite Running Out of Money (SURVEY) – TPInsights founder Sherrell Dorsey surfaced some encouraging insights from founders in the TPInsights membership. In particular, it was great to see a good number of founders have enough cash to hold on for three more months.

Franchising in Africa during the coronavirus (COVID-19) era – Kendal Tyre shares some nice insights on franchising opportunities across Africa. He definitely got the wheels turning, particularly in thinking about my post last Sunday.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala gets International appointment – I’m glad to see Dr. Okonjo-Iweala in this role. She should be IMF managing director, but that’s water under the bridge. More vim to her as she aims to get a bunch of different stakeholders to work together in putting out the resources we need to handle this virus.

No. 182: 3 Thoughts: Shellye Archambeau | Africa’s 2018 VC Activity | Pollution Inequities

Take Bigger Risks: Shellye Archambeau, Former CEO, MetricStream

I’ve seen Shellye Archambeau’s name around and have been intrigued to learn more about her story. Her appearance on Masters of Scale gives a great peak into how she’s navigated her way through Silicon Valley.

What stood out in particular was her telling about a Bible her family has passed down that contains her family tree for ten generations. She credits that Bible along with her family’s culture has given her a sense of her ancestors and where she comes from that. That shaped how she developed her vision.

I’m so big on the importance of knowing where we come from being a mental block for black folks in the Diaspora, but haven’t given a lot of thought to how to make sure those coming after me know where they come from. I will give that some thought.

2018 was a Monumental Year for African Tech Start-ups with US$1.163B raised in equity!

It’s pretty amazing to see the traction startups are getting, but there’s a long ways to go. Just yesterday, $1.93b in deals were announced globally.

This brings to mind this great conversation between Ian Bremmer and Keyu Jin. China and African countries are not apples-to-apples by any means. There have to be lessons in the China story, though, that can guide countries to chart their own path deliberate, yet accelerated growth. I think making big investments in developing R&D ecosystems in each country’s strong industries is the way forward.

GenNx360 Capital Partners acquires majority stake in Miller Environmental Group

This deal stood out initially because GenNx360 is founded and run by black folks. Then, this morning I thought about this study showing the racial-ethnic disparities in who causes and consumes pollution. The study essentially showed that minorities cause less pollution but consume more of it. The GenNx360 deal feels somewhat symbolic of an effort to take the reins of addressing that.

No. 138: How Does Africa’s Innovation Economy Tap Into Africa’s Wealth?

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend who is raising a fund for her Lagos-based startup. At one point in our conversation, she shared the effort she has had to go through to get people she has met with in Silicon Valley up to speed on what is happening in Nigeria’s tech space.

This has been a refrain from a number of entrepreneurs and investors who are already tuned in on what is happening in Africa’s innovation economy. Fortunately, the tide seems to be trending towards Silicon Valley getting more hip to what is happening in Nigeria, Kenya, and to a lesser extent South Africa (Cape Town-based Naspers has led some massive investments that I am sure Silicon Valley investors have noticed.)

While we chatted, my mind went to some research I saw this weekend on Africa’s high net worth individuals. Capgemini’s annual World Wealth Report pegs the wealth of the 150,000 high net worth individuals across Africa at $1.4 trillion for 2016. These are people who have at least $1 million in investable assets, excluding primary residence, collectibles, non-durable goods like sweet potato pie, and durable goods like automobiles.

This is serious capital. I wonder what percentage of this wealth has gone into Africa’s innovation economy since 2009. The Capgemini report highlights three industries that are going to drive wealth accumulation globally through 2025 – financial services, technology, and healthcare. There are startups across Africa doing interesting things in all three of these areas, yet the challenges of getting Africa’s wealthy to invest in the continent’s startups has been a conversation for several years now. I think we’re trending to those conversations being fewer and fewer.

There are several people working to build a critical mass of wealthy investors across Africa committed to investing in Africa’s innovation economy, and these initiatives are gaining real traction. Further, some African governments have developed initiatives to support innovation economies within their borders. Two years ago, I watched Something Ventured, and it really got me thinking about how African governments could level up their involvement in Africa’s innovation economy. I’ll share where I’m at on that at some point.

In the meantime, what is your assessment of Africa’s wealthy investing in Africa’s innovation economy?

No. 50: Three Podcasts That Will Make Your Daily Commute Amazing

While working on #NewRulesAfrica last year with Cherae Robinson (Be sure to check out her app Tastemakers Africa), I discovered that there are interesting people who interview other interesting people and post those interviews on platforms like iTunes and TuneIn Radio – for free. I now listen to at least five hours of podcasts a week during my commutes to my daughter’s school and the amount of insight I have gotten into the worlds of authors, other entrepreneurs, and investors has been amazing. I used to listen to Bloomberg Surveillance and Taking Stock with Pimm Foxx on the Bloomberg Radio+ app during these listening times, but find the podcast deep dives much more rewarding.

The Leaders

Here are three podcasts that I think you would find worthwhile to check out:

This Week in Startups – Jason Calacanis is a media entrepreneur and angel investor. He has invested in at least 90 startups, including Uber. He has no qualms about making his feelings known about certain companies like Google and Secret, which I appreciate. He opened my eyes to the value of listening to podcasts. Start with his interview with Angela Benton, founder of NewMe Accelerator. I listened to his interview with Chamath Palihapitiya at least four times.

The Entrepreneurs Library – Wade Danielson interviews business authors about their books, getting them to walk through what each chapter of the book is about, portions of it that a reader should definitely take a look at, and solicits their recommendations of other books to read. He probably could improve as an interviewer, but I do like that he gets out of the way and lets the authors do all the talking. His interview with Robert Galford on his book, The Trusted Advisor was really good. Galford flips the script on “name it and claim it”.

Marketplace – I have listened to Kai Ryssdal for years now, though my consumption was dependent on my ability to get in the car at the right time. The episodes are equally entertaining and informative – providing you with a snapshot of what happened that day and of broader issues like gentrification.

Runner-Ups

Here are a few more that I listen to, though I am not blown away by every interview like the two above:

Eventual Millionaire – Jaime Tardy brings on a lot of entrepreneurs who have bootstrapped and hustled their way to high revenue generating businesses.

The Strategic Entrepreneur – I met Michael Williams years ago through a mutual friend and was thrilled to discover his podcast.

Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast – Some pretty insightful interviews here on issues like the United States’ criminal justice system.

Freakonomics Radio – The show’s deep dives on issues like education are pretty eye-opening.

HBR Ideacast – The content is typically pretty solid. Check out the interview with Boris Johnson, London’s mayor.

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders – These are interesting fireside chat conversations with some of the leaders of Silicon Valley.

A16Z Podcast – Andreesen Horowitz is one of the top venture capital firms in the United States, despite their relative youth compared to stalwarts like Sequoia Capital.

The School of Greatness – This podcast may move up to the “you should definitely listen to this” list, for the sole reason that Lewis Howes takes the time to affirm each interviewee at the end of every episode. He nearly brought Baratunde Thurston to tears.

Start With Why – This is another one that may move up. I appreciate Simon Sinek’s laser focus on gaining clarity on why one does the business she does.

The James Altucher Show – I enjoyed James’ interview style for a long time, then I noticed that I felt like he was pushing his “Choose Yourself” framework onto other people’s work during the interviews and lost a bit of interest.

The Tim Ferriss Show – For a while, I really enjoyed the podcast. Tim did a few shows where he did not interview anyone, and I lost interest.