EUNICE AJIM: “MORE AFRICAN ENTREPRENEURS NEED TO EDUCATE THEMSELVES ON WHAT VCs LOOK FOR IN COMPANIES”

Eunice Ajim, founder of Ajim Capital

It is her mastery of the art of successfully raising funds that has made her a disruptive African Venture Capitalist. The Business Insider Africa’s Serial Entrepreneur of the year 2022, Eunice Ajim, a Cameroonian-American entrepreneur is creating the blueprint that has influenced the African venture capitalist in the tech industry. Her journey began as co-founder of OpenTeams and founder of DataGig, with responsibilities ranging from start-up funding and management to leading a $10 plus million-dollar revenue tech startup. Today, she is a funding Partner at Ajim Capital, an early-stage VC fund backing world-class African tech entrepreneurs. Her expertise in the tech industry is solicited at various high profile conferences and keynote events. We’ve had the pleasure to discuss with her as she breaks down the contrivance of Ajim Capital.

Inspire Afrika: What is Ajim Capital? What are the services it provides?Eunice Ajim : Ajim Capital is an early-stage venture capital firm capturing the massive opportunity in under-capitalized markets across Sub-Saharan Africa. We believe these markets represent the best opportunity for risk-adjusted returns in early-stage investing. We invest in pre-seed & seed-stage tech startups across Sub-Saharan Africa with check sizes up to $250K. We look for B2B & B2B2C startups with solid teams, post MVP (Minimum Viable Product), and post traction, solving some of the most challenging problems on the continent across eight verticals: FinTech, HealthTech, EdTech, Logistics, Mobility, Marketplaces, B2B SaaS, and AgriTech.

What was your motivation behind the creation of Ajim Capital?
I always had many business ideas on how to better Africans’ lives but knew there was no way I’d start all those companies and be successful. As I grew two tech startups in the US, I learned how impactful venture capitalists are towards developing an economy, given the number of resources they provide. After angel investing my own money for some time, I decided to launch my own VC firm focused on the continent. I believe in impacting Africans by providing access to capital, knowledge, and a global network. I want to change not just how Africa is viewed by the rest of the world but also the lives of Africans. By helping startups to raise money, we’re helping them provide jobs; those jobs provide a better standard of living for the average African and hence a better economy.

What are the various accomplishments of Ajim capital since its creation?
We have grown a pipeline of over 1700 startups in just seven months since we launched. We have made three investments across PropTech, Logistic, and FinTech, and we’re in the process of finalizing three more companies that are unannounced. We are proud of the portfolio we are building and the impact these companies have on the continent. We are also democratizing access to knowledge about investing in Africa and running a startup. We’ve organized several community events, both online and offline. This month, we also launched a podcast, Live the African Dream. It is a podcast aimed at gathering the next generation of curious investors, entrepreneurs, and tech leaders to spark conversation around the topics they are passionate about.

What are the eligibility criteria?
We look for what we like to call the 5 Ts:
Team: Solid founders who are committed to the startup and each other. They have the background, experience, specialization, skills, and desire to execute their vision.
Technology: Regardless of what the product/service is, is it a good offering that solves an urgent market problem (people have it now), pervasive (lots of people have it), and valuable (they will pay to solve it)?
Traction: They need to show initial indications of product-market fit that generates at least $5k – $50k/MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) at a 10% MoM.(Manufacturing operation management)
Temperament: It’s not enough to have a great team. They must have the character to attract, hire, train, and retain great people.
Timing: How large is the market they’re serving, and is the timing right? Do they have the right team with the temperament to capitalize on this market opportunity?

How do companies or startups usually get funded? What’s the procedure?
We accept all deals the same, whether it’s a cold pitch or warm intro. We will analyze and assess them all equally through this process:

  1. Website Submission: Founders can add as much or as little info as they have.
  2. First Review: Our Associate reviews when new website submission comes in. The startup is moved to the next stage if it’s the right fit.
  3. First Meeting: Check the Team, Temperament, Timing, Tech, and Traction, and decide whether to reject, put it on hold, or move to the next stage.
  4. Second Meeting: Gross Profit (GP) review for product-market-fit, resilience, market opportunity, and if we can provide value.
  5. Final Review: Due Diligence & Recommendation; At this point, we do our research and due diligence, then circle back with the team if we have further questions or concerns.
  6. Decision made whether to invest or not.
    This process can take between 4 to 8 weeks from when a startup applies to our website.

How does Ajim Capital ensure the development of a startup?
Right now, Ajim Capital is still a reasonably small team with limited resources. The best value add we provide to our portfolio companies is access to our network and ensure they can close their fundraising round. As an operator, I’ve helped provide them with resources, mentorship, and guidance when needed. As we continue to grow, we aim to launch an advisory firm to help our portfolio companies in different areas of their startups, such as fundraising prep, marketing, sales, and product development. We want to see them succeed and do everything we can to help them grow and scale.

What makes Ajim Capital unique from other VC firms on the continent?
The first thing would be the fact that I’m a 2x founder. I’m one of the few VCs on the continent that has started and scaled a tech startup, so I use a lot of my operator experience to spot the best deal flow and help our portfolio companies on their journey.
The second thing is that I have experienced both sides of the market. A considerable amount of funding going into African startups comes from the US. I was born and raised in Cameroon, so I understand the challenges of growing a startup on the ground, but I’ve also successfully grown a VC-backed company in the US, so I know US standards.
The third thing is our community approach; we’re not just investing in these startups. We put a lot of time and effort into educating the community on how to launch and grow their businesses, best practices when fundraising, and so much more.
The fourth thing is that I’m not just focusing on English-speaking countries. We’re also looking for opportunities in francophone Africa. Many francophone founders come to us because they know we understand their market.

What do you think the Cameroonian and/or African business environment can do better to encourage the creation of more VC firms like yours?
For Founders: I think more African entrepreneurs need to educate themselves on what VCs look for in companies and understand that not all companies are VC backable. The continent faces a lot of challenges, and those challenges are opportunities. If you can find a problem and think, I can make this better, faster, cheaper, or fixing this problem would make a significant difference in the lives of my consumer, then you have a potential startup. Next, you want to consider how many people in Cameroon and other neighboring countries have the same problem. Is this a $1M idea or a $10B idea? How easy would it be to scale? Again, I am speaking very lean on what it takes to build a company that’ll encourage more startups to grow.
For Investors: We need more Africans that are capital allocators. VC firms don’t have to come from foreign countries; we can create local VC firms in our respective countries. I think educating our fellow Africans about the importance of VC investing and showing them how VC investing is one of the most profitable asset classes beating Real Estate most of our parents are so used to. In essence, when more startups are created, more VC firms will automatically find their way to those countries because VCs want to make a profit, and if your startup looks viable, you’ll attract the right investors.

What’s the piece of advice you would give to a young Cameroonian entrepreneur?
I believe we live in the most incredible time for entrepreneurial growth and opportunity in history. It’s never been easier to get started, and it’s never been easier to grow a business. The ability to reach tightly niched markets on a global basis is simply unprecedented. There are so many resources available to entrepreneurs online that it’s hard to fail. I’ll tell them never to give up on their dreams. It will be hard work, but you must remember that after the rain and thunderstorm, there’s a rainbow on the other side. Remember to stay true to yourself and your values. Be prepared for when the right opportunities come knocking at your door.

What’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
I love sharing the stories of investors, founders, and innovators on the continent. This is why I created the podcast. I believe entrepreneurs are the future of our economy. They’re driving the African narratives, creating jobs, and building value in the world. That’s one of the reasons I’m passionate about Ajim Capital; it’s all about helping entrepreneurs.

In 5 years, what’s the vision for Ajim Capital?
Our vision is for the average African to live their African Dream, find freedom, discover their purpose, and make a difference. Our vision for the next 5 years is to be one of the leading funds investing in African startups. The goal is to have over $100M Assets under management (AUM), invest in 200 startups, and create 2000 jobs. We want a portfolio of companies making a positive impact on the continent.

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