Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Osayi Igharo was recorded in January 2020.
Osayi Igharo, Managing Partner at Ripple Venture Capital discusses startups and venture capital in Africa.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to you as well as to Ripple VC. Tell us about yourself as well as about the mission and vision of Ripple VC.
Osayi Igharo: Ripple Venture Capital is an early stage firm. Our focus right now is to partner with exceptional founders across Africa who are building solutions in data discovery and diagnostics, process automation, and operational intelligence, which covers competition monitoring or space intelligence. It’s more of a catch-all.
We’re a $10 million fund. The grand vision is to propel the continent to the forefront of innovation. We’re doing that by partnering with the absolute best entrepreneurs on the continent and giving them access to corporate partners and a large pool of high-quality mentors.
Sramana Mitra: Can you talk a bit about what’s going on in Africa? Since you are investing in this space, there must be activity. How many such entrepreneurs are there? When you say Africa, which country?
Osayi Igharo: There is a remarkable level of activity in Africa today. Just over the past four or five years, it has grown exponentially. Depending on the data source that you look at, over a billion was raised last year from over 200 deals.
In 2018, it was about half of that. The growth has just been ridiculous over the past few years. Quite recently, there has been a lot of focus on the FinTech space that has been made popular by larger FinTech startups. We’re seeing a lot of those.
The areas that we choose to focus on are products that are AI-driven. Where we see the opportunity is in drug discovery, process automation, and data security.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s drill down a bit on each of those areas. We know about what happened in Kenya around FinTech. Where are the FinTech startups?
Osayi Igharo: Most of the startups are based in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria. Those are the three largest ecosystems in the continent. We have emerging ecosystems in Ghana, Morocco, Egypt, Uganda, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon.
For FinTech startups, majority of them are out of Nigeria. Their focus is not necessarily mobile money. It’s more infrastructure-based. The infrastructure connecting the financial world in Africa hadn’t been built.
Sramana Mitra: You talked about drug discovery. Elaborate a little bit. Is it clinical trials? Where are you seeing the activity?
Osayi Igharo: This is also one of my favorite areas. The bottom line is drugs would be a lot better if more genome was included in the creation of these drugs. There’s a lot of opportunity there in gathering data and being able to use it using advanced technology like quantum machine learning to figure out how to extract the useful information from that. There’s an incredible amount of opportunity there.
Sramana Mitra: Are there startups that are working on this problem?
Osayi Igharo: Yes, there is. One of them is out of Nigeria. They’re in San Francisco right now. They’re one of the leading genomics companies on the continent tackling this problem today.
Sramana Mitra: The concentration is in Nigeria?
Osayi Igharo: With a really young tech-savvy population, Nigeria is the strongest ecosystem in terms of potential. There’s just so many entrepreneurs here solving so many problems.
This segment is part 1 in the series : 1Mby1M Virtual Accelerator Investor Forum: With Osayi Igharo at Ripple Venture Capital