Top of mind: Happy Sunday!
A big welcome to our new subscribers and immense gratitude to existing subscribers who continue to share this newsletter. I see you. I appreciate you!
It’s been an eventful week – Elon Musk’s presence on Twitter’s board might not be the kumbaya we expect; Nigerian-born Tope Awotona has built a billion-dollar empire, and African startups are breaking the bank.
Let’s get to it.
3 big things:
- Elon Musk’s Twitter play
- Tope Awotona is a billionaire
- African startups raise big money
Elon Musk is Twitter’s new king
The short: Elon Musk joined Twitter’s board after netting a 9.2% stake – making him Twitter’s largest shareholder.
A series of
unfortunate events: Twitter has had a dramatic year. First, Jack Dorsey announced his exit from Twitter to focus on Bitcoin. Then, new CEO Parag Agrawal took over with a dramatic re-org leading to high-profile departures. Finally, Elon Musk showed up and bought a majority stake just when we thought the tide was over.
Backstory: According to SEC filings, Musk had acquired a stake in Twitter weeks before asking his 81 million Twitter followers if they considered the platform a champion of free speech.
However, his failure to publicly disclose he had acquired a majority in Twitter early enough could cost him about $100,000 in SEC fines – but he’s worth $288 billion, so no biggie.
Sneaky moves: Musk had been actively buying shares on a daily basis since January, with the largest purchase of 4.8 million shares in February. By April 1st, Musk had grossed 73 million worth of Twitter shares, consolidating his power as an active investor. But what does this mean for Twitter’s future?
The play: Before disclosing his purchase, he mused about launching a new social media platform. But, given Trump’s poor luck in launching Truth Social, we now know it’s way easier to alter an existing platform than to create a new one.
Musk’s presence on the board could significantly influence Twitter’s content policies given his recent online remarks. In the past, Twitter’s content policies have led to the public exile of users like Donald Trump and other controversial figures. Industry pundits predict that Musk’s stance on free speech might result in Twitter refiguring its content policies to allow for more free expression – which could re-admit the crazies and isolate a percentage of its current users.
But… Twitter is not exactly the beacon of great content policies. I wrote about its hate speech problem a few weeks ago, so if Musk’s board seat influences its current policies, Agrawal would be spending a lot of time having tough conversations at Congress.
New product experimentation: Musk is already playing around with introducing an edit button – a feature Twitter users have been requesting for ages. If launched, it would give users the ability to edit published tweets.
I’m pro-no-edit button and would campaign for that with my dying breath. I understand most social media platforms come with edit buttons, but it’s a different ball game on Twitter. It’s a landmine out here. An edit button strips off accountability, and if you thought misinformation was a problem on Twitter, wait till an edit button becomes a thing.
Nigerian-born tech entrepreneur Tope Awotona becomes a billionaire
The short: Tope Awotona, CEO of scheduling app Calendly, made the Forbes billionaire’s list a year after his company crossed a $3 billion valuation.
$3 billion problems: Who would have thought scheduling meetings was a $3 billion problem? Awotona had the idea for Calendly after he repeatedly failed to schedule a meeting with a business client years ago.
A trip to Ukraine: Awotona saw scheduling meetings as a recurring problem, especially amongst friends and colleagues – and no solution in sight. So, he cleared out his savings and poured $200,000 into Calendly, beginning with a trip to Ukraine to meet software developers. Now, the 9-year old company helps you set up meetings with people by sending a personalised link, and they choose a time and date to meet. Pretty genius.
By the numbers: Calendly raised $350 million in venture capital funding, which valued the company at $3 billion in 2021, with Awotona retaining a $1.4 billion stake based on Forbes estimates. The company has 10 million users with clients like Ancestry & Lyft – and raked in an impressive $100 million in revenue last year. Sheesh.
Final thoughts: I’m an avid user of Calendly, and it’s amusing that scheduling meetings was once a problem. But, it highlights the power of solving simple things.
And, of course, the Nigerian in me is proud that this generation’s most successful African-American tech entrepreneur has Nigerian blood in his DNA.
African startups raise $1 billion in 7 weeks
The short: According to stats from Africa: The Big Deal, African startups have crossed the $1 billion mark in fundraising in just seven weeks.
The big four: One of my 2022 predictions was that African startups would raise $10 billion in funding this year. If VCs keep up this momentum, that number could be achieved before the end of the year.
Predictably, a large percentage of this funding went to the ecosystem’s big four countries – Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa & Egypt – with Ghana and Tunisia staking a claim.
This figure is a significant milestone as it took almost a year to hit this number in 2019. It also signals substantial growth in the inception of Africa’s ecosystem across major industries – health, fintech, web3, etc.
Final thoughts: These numbers still raise valid scepticism about Africa’s valuation bubble – however, numbers don’t lie, and it’s an exciting time for brilliant founders and companies to receive the resources they need to execute.
However, it’s too early to judge the returns on this significant investment. So let’s talk again at the end of 2022. See what revelations the tide reveals.
That’s it for the week. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this week’s issue. Please respond to this email or find me on Twitter @fatuogwuche 🙂
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See you next Sunday!