Top of Mind. Happy Sunday! I had the honour of speaking to the brilliant women behind the female-focused angel fund FirstCheck Africa.
I hope you enjoy reading Eloho Omame & Odun Eweniyi’s story as much I enjoyed writing it.
In today’s edition:
- Eloho Omame & Odun Eweniyi’s ambitious goal to invest in African women
- Flutterwave’s US expansion
- Apple angers privacy experts over new child abuse policies
3 big things…
Eloho Omame & Odun Eweniyi talk FirstCheck
Light bulb moment: What happens when an ambitious idea is spun off of coffee conversations between two friends? – an announcement on the launch of FirstCheck Africa – a female-focused angel fund built to back the next generation of audacious female founders at “ridiculously early” stages of their startup journeys.
Why this matters: Less than 5% of billions of dollars in global venture capital funds went to women-led startups in 2019. This contributes to the gaping absence of women founders within Africa’s most successful startups.
Eloho & Odun are fixing that by funding ambitious African women in tech with their first checks of up to $25,000 to help them raise capital to launch technology companies.
7 months in… I spoke to the co-founders, who are slated to make a big announcement on Monday, August 9th, about the first cohort of FirstCheck Africa.
The toplines from our interview:
On the moment that sparked FirstCheck: During a coffee date in 2019, they bonded over the disproportionate presence of women in Africa’s tech ecosystem and talked about creating a fund to support women.
A year after that, the tragedy of the #ENDSARS protests led the two friends to another coffee date, where they realized that the pandemic and protests fueled the urgent need to support African women.
Eloho: We talked about this idea many times and we both had a consciousness, an impetus, for doing something for women and entrepreneurship. We were lucky enough to find each other and this idea. We worked on the idea from October 2020 to January 2021. On January 18th, we decided to announce this venture, and we put out a statement shortly after.
Naming the fund was the easy part. Eloho wondered what name would be befitting for this idea. Odun quipped: “You’ve said the word “first check” many times, so let’s call it that.“
On the challenges women face in tech:
Eloho: I realized that when it came to speaking about women and entrepeneurship, the conversation focused more on developing women through capacity-building programs and not conversations about women building high-growth technology ventures or creating wealth. I didn’t understand the need to constantly mentor women. The issue is capital. Give women more capital.
I investigated the reasons for lack of VC funding for women, and the excuse I always heard was “women aren’t as ambitious as men”.
On what backing “ridiculously early” startups looks like:
Odun: We informed people at the beginning that this was an experiment and we weren’t sure about the volume of applications we would get. One of the best parts of announcing this was receiving 200 applications and over 2000 emails from interesting people, founders and investors wanting to support our fund.
We listened to over 50 pitches in the last 7 months from brilliant women who are building competitive startups. For some, we gave great feedback on how to improve and assured them the door is always open for them to come pitch again – this will help people know what FirstCheck is looking out for so they can improve.
On inspiration and influences:
Eloho: We love the Hustle Fund, based in Southeast Asia and we are inspired by their work in democratising access to capital for founders. We love the Female Founders Fund – they just raised $57 million in their recent round and they are the biggest female focused fund in the world.
Odun: For us, we know some of these global funds don’t come to African women. It’s a space FirstCheck is uniquely occupying and we are excited about supporting female founders on the continent.
On ambitions for the next five years:
Eloho: We’re excited about growing our portfolio and for the flywheel to come in effect, where we see the companies we invest in do better. We want to grow into a bigger fund to support our mission to back women. We would like to grow into a fund that raises millions of dollars to invest in more women and support the creation of the next generation of female founders.
The Scoop: I turned on my charm to get some details about tomorrow’s announcement. It worked only 50%. What I can tell you, dear reader is FirstCheck is backing “more than one and less than six” excellent female founders building phenomenal companies from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, etc. The announcement will be published on their medium page.Final thoughts: I’d bet on FirstCheck to be Africa’s largest female-focused tech VC fund. FirstCheck will signal to global VCs that backing female-led companies should be the rule and not the exception.
Flutterwave is expanding to the US
The Short: Africa’s latest unicorn Flutterwave announced its expansion into the US, with the appointment of Silicon Valley veteran Jimmy Ku as its Head of US growth.
Big picture: Africa’s fintech ecosystem is an industry built on the mantra “innovate or die.” In an unfriendly environment beset by regulatory bottlenecks, Flutterwave’s US expansion is a smart move.
In March, Flutterwave collaborated with payments leader Paypal to allow African businesses to receive payments through Paypal’s 377 million global users channel.
This collaboration signals the first sign of Flutterwave’s bullish global outlook.
What it means: The US expansion makes sense for a startup to IPO play. Flutterwave’s presence in the US market will give retail and institutional investors confidence in the company’s future.
The US market will bolster the company’s valuation to cement itself among global fintech industry leaders.Final thoughts: I’m excited about Flutterwave’s expansion into the US market. Fintech startups will look to Flutterwave as a successful proof of concept. I’m rooting for their success and excited for what this means for Africa’s tech ecosystem.
Apple could breach user privacy with new child abuse policy
The Short: Apple announced new policies to fight Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) in a new update to take effect at the end of the year. Privacy experts have viewed this policy as a huge mistake and a violation of user privacy.
Sounds harmless, right?: Apple routinely works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to review and alert law enforcement of potential child abuse imagery sent over email.
The system also scans your iCloud photos for child abuse images, whether or not you sent the photos.
Bad publicity for Apple: Over 4000 organisations and individuals signed an open letter asking Apple to halt the launch of this surveillance program. The letter states that, while child sexual abuse is an ongoing problem, the tool which monitors photos shared or saved on a user’s iPhone could lead to invasive surveillance by governments, with little oversight.
Tech and privacy experts like Edward Snowden and Head of WhatsApp condemned Apple’s move as the wrong approach and a setback for global privacy.
Final thoughts: Though well-intentioned, photo surveillance is a complicated system that could make it easy for governments to exploit Apple’s new technology. Users can bypass this policy by not backing up their photos to iCloud, which is tough because you need that extra storage layer to safeguard important memories.
I applaud Apple for tackling the issue of child sexual exploitation on its devices. However, it must figure out a way to do this without grossly undermining the privacy of its users.
If you were inspired by the feature on Eloho Omame & Odun Eweniyi, wait till I tell you we have an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session with them today for our Big Tech This Week conversation on Twitter Spaces!Join us by setting a reminder here
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It will go live next Sunday!
That’s it for this week. Have a delightful week. See you next Sunday!
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