Opeyemi Awoyemi, one of Nigeria’s well-known series founders, is back with another outfit. This time it’s not a technology company – Awoyemi co-founded the online job site Jobberman (which was acquired by ROAM Africa in 2016) and Whogohost, a bootstrapped hosting platform – but a venture studio instead: Fast Forward Venture Studio.
Awoyemi taking this route is quite interesting, especially since many African founders launch syndicates or venture capital funds after or during their entrepreneurial journey. But if anything, he and his co-founder, Omolara Awoyemi, bring much-needed operational expertise to scale a venture studio, a rare feat in these parts. After leaving Jobberman, Awoyemi, the company’s managing partner, was a senior technical product manager at Indeed. On the other hand, Omolara, its operating partner, has worked as the country manager of Jumia’s fintech branch in Nigeria and was a senior program manager at Facebook.
With roles like these, including angel investors, it’s inevitable to brainstorm ideas and name opportunities based on trends and headwinds within the tech space (for example, Awoyemi co-founded a digital bank for migrants last year that has since has changed from serving customers to businesses). However, with little or no capacity to pursue these ideas individually, establishing a venture studio and bringing skilled hands to execute these projects was the way to go.
This is how Fast Forward works, as Awoyemi explained in an interview with londonbusinessblog.com. It starts with an “impact-oriented” idea that Fast Forward can build a solid business around. The idea selection of the venture studio company is grand. According to the founding partner, the company is excited about those it believes can influence at least 10 million people and generate at least $10 million in annual recurring revenue in 3-5 years.
Once the idea is established, the venture studio finds an experienced operator they believe can achieve product-market fit, scale the product and lead the business. Fast Forward acts as co-founder of the company.
Once the parties are aligned, FastForward offers the operator or founder $100,000 – and added value such as co-founder recruitment, technical support, initial product strategy, growth side execution, administrative actions such as accounting and legal affairs – in exchange for up to 20% of the company.
“We support entrepreneurs from day one, so almost exclusively we are the first money in the business. Lara and I are entrepreneurs who have scaled businesses in Africa, so we see ourselves not only as investors, but also builders,” said Awoyemi, who last year launched a digital bank for migrants that has since moved from serving customers to businesses. . “We understand the market and believe that the best way to capitalize on some of these opportunities, which even most people don’t think about, is to put entrepreneurs at the center. The ideas can come from us, but they are a dime a dozen; the real thing is the execution.”
Fast Forward is interested in the following sectors: B2B and B2B2C services, infrastructure fintech, e-commerce, future of work, edtech, healthcare, logistics, deep tech, blockchain and globally scalable SaaS from Africa, just to name a few. to call. FastForward plans to work annually with 10 ideas within these sectors and spin-off 3-5 companies that will receive follow-up funding from other investors and be accepted into accelerators such as Y Combinator and Techstars.
Here are some of the startups in her venture studio portfolio. bumpa is a social trading platform for over 100,000 small businesses (Lara is a founding member); it recently integrated with Meta and is currently closing a seed round. AltSchool is a Techstars supported platform for learning coding and other technology related skills. TalentQL, a subsidiary of AltSchool, is a platform that connects tech talent with employers (Awoyemi is a co-founder). Dojah is a YC-backed identity verification and KYC platform for African businesses that are also in the process of closing. And Buzzline, a mobile operating system for solo entrepreneurs.
Fast Forward also operates a syndicated fund that selectively invests $20,000-$50,000 in some of the studio’s companies — Bumpa is the sole recipient, according to its site — in the pre-seed phase. The fund, which also consists of deals made by its partners before it was founded, has invested in startups outside the venture studio, such as Casava, Convoy, Odiggo and Reliance Health. “The early stage fund is there to close opportunistic deals and follow up companies in the venture studio,” Awoyemi noted.
In addition to the progress made by FastForward Venture Studio, another compelling result for the studio is that it has started logging exits and returning to beta, despite a generally exit-light tech space. It’s one of the points Awoyemi made when he argued that venture studios are typically better placed to help founders succeed than incubators, accelerators, and funds. For Fast Forward, Awoyemi noted that startups also have the advantage of being able to piggyback on partners’ backgrounds and relationships with previous international employers, as well as venture partners whose role includes providing investor relationships, strategic communications and support to portfolio companies. . Jake Bright, the former African correspondent for londonbusinessblog.com, is one of the venture partners.
“First, we are more hands-on than funds and incubators or accelerators. We supported entrepreneurs and operators while working closely with them on our ideas,” said the managing partner. “The returns are also much higher in terms of liquidity. It is better for donors, but also for us. With all the checks we’ve written so far, we generally already have 64x multiples on invested capital, which many small funds or startup funds can’t boast of.
However, it’s worth noting that while several venture studios have questionable advantages over other investment entities, the model has not been particularly successful and has become less attractive to founders and operators. Still, FastForward hopes to be an outlier whose lessons others can take. And if recent industry activity londonbusinessblog.com has covered is a harbinger of things to come, the model may be making a comeback. For example, in the past few months, Adanian Labs, a Kenya-based studio, said it aims to build 300 startups over the next five years, and Purple Elephant Ventures, another Kenya-based studio, has raised $1 million in pre-seed funding to fund annually. to build about four startups at the intersection of tourism, climate and technology.