Collins Onuegbu, founder of Lagos based technology investment company Sasware, ICT company Signal Alliance, and a member of the Lagos Angel Network, recently joinedVC4Africa’s investor network as a Pro member. VC4Africa connects local and global networks of angel investors interested in Africa’s greatest startups. “Nigeria and Africa are full of budding entrepreneurs with smart ideas”
Please introduce yourself and how you got involved in the African investment space?
“I’m the Founder and Executive Vice Chairman of Lagos based ICT Company Signal Alliance. Having founded this company and after running it successfully for 18 years, I recently left the CEO post to focus on a new role allowing me to invest in and develop technology startups – initially in Nigeria and later in Africa. We have recently set up a vehicle to focus on this, called Sasware.
I’ve always thought of myself as a serial entrepreneur and investing in other people’s ideas is a way to fulfill my desire to be part of the ever-changing tech space. Until recently, the local investment space in technology hardly existed. But the landscape has changed allowing people like me to get involved in helping build the next generation of technology companies.
Sasware will invest in companies that we can provide not just startup capital but mentoring. We are focusing on technology and technology enabled ventures. Our strategy is co-entrepreneurship, working closely with companies we invest in early to refine strategy and go to market together. And Sasware will also be doing internal incubation for Signal Alliance, to enable us to invest in new areas that will grow and diversify Signal Alliance.
Last year I joined the Lagos Angel network, a network of investors set up to provide early stage investment to young startups in Nigeria. This network was founded in 2013 by Tomi Davies, one of the greatest Techpreneurs in Nigeria in the past couple of decades.”
What are the elements that have to come together for you to back a deal, and how do you find entrepreneurs who match your criteria?
“The first step is to define the space you want to play in. You cannot invest in all good ideas. For now we have limited ourselves to the tech space because I have experience in technology going over 20 years.
We also evaluate the company’s capacity to scale. There is no need of investing in any idea that cannot scale and provide return to investors. Once you set up your criteria for investing, building a deal pipeline is not that difficult. Nigeria, and Africa, are full of budding entrepreneurs with smart ideas that if harnessed will create wealth for Africans and grow the continent.”
How did you learn about the VC4Africa platform, and how do you presently use it?
“I first saw VC4Africa on Twitter. I followed the site for a while before meeting a representative at the last Angel Fair West Africa, hosted by the Lagos Angel Network in March. I registered on the site, became a VC4Africa Pro user – and a mentor – and have been active on the site since then.”
Have you already seen or connected with some interesting entrepreneurs?
“Through the VC4Africa mentoring platform, we have met a few companies we have signed to mentor. We see the potential to invest in one of the current ventures we are mentoring. Mentoring provides us a way to understand the entrepreneur, and also assess the business while providing needed support to the company. We will always prefer to invest in a company that through the mentoring process allows us to understand the founder and assess investment compatibility.”
What are your tips to other SME investors active in Africa? And what would you suggest to other investors who wonder what VC4Africa can do for them?
“I think VC4Africa is doing a great job in providing a platform that brings together investors and young entrepreneurs. Such a platform is necessary for Africa at this point, with focus on the potential of Africa as an investment destination. As we see successful deals from the platform, I suspect that the site will be the foremost destination for both investors and young entrepreneurs in Africa and beyond to find each other and provide mutual value to each other.”
Looking at your portfolio, what are milestones you hope to reach in the coming period?
“We’re presently working on some projects for Signal Alliance, focused on building internal businesses within the company. And with the pipeline we’ve built for Sasware we’re currently going through the process of evaluations. Our intention is to make a couple of investments before the end of the year.”
Are you planning to attend the DEMO Africa 2014 tech innovation conference in Lagos in September?
“Yes, I will be participating in DEMO Africa wearing different hats, as an investor using the Sasware platform and as a member of the Lagos Angel network. I am excited this event is happening in Nigeria and will help deepen the pipeline of investable startup in the Nigerian tech space. A look at the 40 finalists shows interesting companies that made the finals from Nigeria and I look forward to meeting some of these young entrepreneurs. You never know what is possible but Sasware will be happy to deal if we find any one that fits our profile.”
VC4Africa is the largest online community connecting Africa’s SME entrepreneurs and investors. Join as an investor to get priority access to leading SME ventures across Africa. Also check out our special package for DEMO Africa, Africa’s most exciting tech event, this September.
Collins Onuegbu has founded Lagos based investment company Sasware, ICT company Signal Alliance, and is a member of the Lagos Angel Network. He was one of the finalists in the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2013 and his company has won numerous awards.