Unlocking mentor-driven capital for founders in Ghana, Morocco and Tanzania

VC4A believes Mentor-Driven Capital is core to unlocking the continent’s potential. Not only is the pool of entrepreneurial talent coming up across Africa expanding, the number and the quality of ventures are improving over time. Access to hard (money) and soft (experience, network and expertise) capital is critical for ventures to grow. Where any startup requires cash to operate, it is the application of soft capital in smart ways that secures a greater impact and return on investment. 

Over the past years, VC4A applied its Mentor-Driven Capital approach to different acceleration programs across 8 different African countries, and trained hundreds of startup mentors. Under its current collaboration with the FMO Ventures program in Ghana, Morocco and Tanzania, VC4A provided mentorship training to over 40 mentors active with its partnersAnza Entrepreneurs,Impact Hub Accra andLa Startup Station.

Learning from the best mentors

After an introductory session on the concept of Mentor-Driven Capital, the mentors attended masterclasses on mentorship hosted by Ayman Ismail, Umulinga Karangwa and Sewu-Steve Tawia.Ayman Ismail, associate professor at the American University of Cairo and founding director at the University’s Venture Lab elaborate on the four values that mentors can bring to startups, being insights, perspectives, experience and contacts. Furthermore he stressed how important it is that mentors withhold their judgment about a startup: ”a startup is not looking for a mentor that will tell them whether they have a good or a bad business idea.” Instead, Ayman mentions that mentors should make use of four different tools: active listening, questioning, reframing and storytelling.

In her sessionUmulinga Karangwa, fund manager and member of different angel investor networks across Africa, focused on what it takes to establish angel investor networks and how startup mentors can transition to become angel investors. Participating mentors had many questions about what it takes to make a first investment and build out a portfolio as an angel investor. One of the lessons that Umulinga shared:

To build a sustainable angel portfolio, don’t invest in too many different sectors and ideally, you focus on investments in sectors or themes that you know.

FinallySewu-Steve Tawia, who recently set-up the health-tech oriented Jaza Rift Ventures Fund, touched upon the soft skills side of mentorship, stressing the importance of understanding the profile of the entrepreneur, and elaborated on the difference between mentoring female founders versus male founders. He is building this wealth of knowledge on the experience with the 24 investments he has made to date as an angel in different startups across Africa. To understand the character of the founder, Sewu-Steve goes a long way and often uses Myers-Briggs assessments to get to better know a founder. He also mentioned that mentorship should always be driven by the needs of the entrepreneur. According to him, a founder always knows better as he or she is passionate about the business and driven to make it a success. “I am not supposed to know this thing better than a founder”.

Mentors putting their learnings into practice

The group of participating mentors from across Ghana, Morocco and Tanzania especially appreciated the practical nature of the learning track and the openness of the experts involved.Daniel Kwaku Merki, founder of Boxplay Ventures, expert with GIZ and Ghana Investment Promotion Center and venture partner with Impact Hub Accra’s Betaraise program, indicates: ”I appreciated the interactive nature of the masterclasses and the willingness of the experts to shine a light on mentoring and angel investment from different perspectives, including advice on personal finances, time management and much more.”

Already during the learning trajectory,Kiko Kiwanga, founder of venture builders Taotic and Anzisha and mentor with Anza Entrepreneur’s Investment Readiness program applied some of the lessons learned to the mentoring that he does with different Tanzania startups. He mentions: “I have already updated my mentorship playbook with respect to whether or not and how to share my ideas in mentoring early-stagestartups. I used to think that sharing my ideas, and it’s often a lot, would be a distraction, so I always tend to keep them to myself. But now I realize there is no harm in sharing my ideas when I frame it in the right way” 

Want to know more about VC4A’s work on Mentor-Driven Capital? Check out theVC4A Mentorship Development page.