In my privilege during this pandemic, I’ve found some solace in being able connect with friends and loved one from anywhere in the world, finding an opportunity to create and communicate impact while earning an income and be a sponge to new information. However, I’ll admit that it hasn’t been easy to have my home be am accommodation, restaurant, office and shopping mall one-stop shop, without it taking a considerable amount of effort to adapt the diet and exercise of my mind and how to embrace this new normal caused by COVID-19. I am no wellness instructor to yoga master, but I will share five old and new habits that have been helping me adapt, and resources to experts whom you can engage.
In the business of COVID-19, it’s not only industries that are being disrupted and forced to either pivot or shut down, but its employees and anyone who is currently in the capacity, as an independent consult or full time content creator being impacted. At present, I’m consulting on a number of projects, in the process of creating my Design Thinking Social Impact course and working with brands via my social media platforms, so the work has to get done, one way or another, and these are the list of five habits that have been helping me.
I learnt of this term through my former manager, Max Pichulik, in one of our conversations on “What podcasts are you listening to this week?” where he discussed how he collided with it. A term coined by Cal Newport in his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World; deep work is explained as “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive abilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate”. Blocking 2-5 hours of at least three times of the five days of the week, has done wonders for me in my work and cultivating my discipline. Behaviours that have aided in ensuring this happens efficiently include blocking the time in my calendar, switching off my internet (and ensuring that should the work I do require the use of it, I collate the information before hand) and schedule it either in the morning or evening, where I know I’m more productive. Here’s an excerpt from the book to get you familiar with the concept.
Sleep, Nap and Sleep
As Pastor Sarah Jakes Roberts says, “Sleeping is my ministry”, and I am an obedient congregant of that church. I love sleep and can talk about it until I grab the attention of a non-believer. I’m also insomniac, which means that my sleeping patterns don’t allow me to nap but either operate on 2-3 hours of sleep or a full 12+ hours at a time and be efficient. The most important take-away from this paragraph besides my paradoxical love for sleep and being an insomniac, is that sleep is a form of self-care and is a sign of your body communicating that you’re tired – listen to it. Yesterday, I slept at 05h23 and woke up at 07h10 and over the weekend, I’ll most likely sleep at 22h30 and wake up between 13h00 and 14h00, so I know which days of the week, and times of day I’m able to be functional and productive. Figure out what works for you and take it from there.
Cut off time
It can be so tempting to want to overly commit to your work, and in the process lose the boundaries that you have set to have the peace of mind and withdraw from work. I’ve made it a mission to complete my consulting work by 17h00 and 18h00 the latest (and only for a call that can’t be translated into a meeting), and the other hours before and after this time, is dedicated to creating work into my other income streams. A tool that helps with this is the built-in screen time manager with anything digitally that could distract me, and unapologetically revert the next morning.
The idea of working from home does not mean working from your bed. Yes, I’m talking to you (and past me). I have ;created a routine which unashamedly starts with snoozing my alarm with 3-4 times, prayer and meditation, making up my bed and getting ready for the day away from the comfort of my bed. This could be the lounge, kitchen, or the desk office in the bedroom – but separate your work station from you bed. A Fast Company article details some reasons as to why a routine is scientifically backed to be a good thing to develop a habit of, even conducting business during a pandemic. I also ensure that, even if I wear sweatpants or jeans, that I always wear a smart casual top and jacket or coat for those Zoom meetings and Google hangouts. A routine sets the tone of your day, make sure that you honour you day with the audacity of showing up in your full self.
I’m currently in the process of renovating my bedroom to ensure that I get the right space that will facilitate the inspiration to adapting a diet for my psychology that will work for it. I didn’t really pay much attention to it because I spent most of my time in hotels or Airbnbs, and now that I’m on lockdown, I’ve realised that maybe painting my room purple and getting colourful curtains was not the best interior design choice I’ve made. Back to the point, and that is, whatever room I’m working in, facing or having my side to the light is important to me, and thanks to one of my favourite interior designers and architects, this is a great video of how lighting affects your mood (and to end, the productivity).
I truly hope that sharing how I have adapted and continuously do so, has helped you shed some light on what you can do to make the most of how to take care of your wellbeing and administer this progress through a system that is tailored for you.
How are you adapting a healthier diet for your mind while you continue through the business of COVID-19? Let me know in the comments section, I’d love to engage and learn from you.
A few days ago, I did an Instagram Live session with Annette Oppong, a Senior Associate at KPMG, podcaster for Diaspora Talks and Partnerships for Foundervine, an inclusive startup community supporting and building businesses. The session engaged the impact of the pandemic in South Africa on business, technology and the relationship with xenophobia; and inspired this article. In observing some of other conversations and articles that have been happening around the topic of the healthcare crisis, I wanted to introduce a five series of articles that will provide thought leadership into, what I call, The Business of COVID-19. Every month, I’ll focus on an aspect of business that has had to react or be proactive to how we do business, this May, we focus on the theme of Pivoting.
Whether you’re in Italy, Singapore, Canada or South Africa like me, you’ve experienced or seen from large to small businesses having to pivot their businesses and doing so through different models. We will unpack THREE ways to model, how this adaptation will influence your business decisions and the current and (potentially) long term impact of your enterprise?
“Adapt – make something suitable for a new use or purpose, modify; become adjusted to new conditions.”
Per this Oxford dictionary explanation, to adapt is employed in business studies to explain how a business’ product, market, or the way it operates can be modified to a new use or purpose, per the economic conditions. But Vuyo, you may ask, is this not pivoting? Or rather, what’s the difference between these two terms? Let’s dig in.
Pivoting addresses the HOW of adapting. When a business pivots, they are taking an informed business decision to do so based on the measured evidence because the market has changed, and in this case, the market has been affected by the pandemic of SARS COV-19.
“Pivot – to pivot is to turn or rotate, like a hinge. When you’re not talking about a type of swivelling movement, you can use pivot to mean the one central thing that something is depending on.”
The Business of COVID-19 has meant that enterprises have had to pivot to adapt. To pivot, means to change the core of the product when it is not meeting the needs of the market. This Cambridge Dictionary definition stood out for me because it speaks on centricity and dependency. The mechanism of pivot innovation and its dependency of the affected market is what can make or break the business.
New Product PPI
Before this pandemic infected now, over 5 million people, and impacted millions more, the saying used to be “How the mighty have fallen”, but now, it’s “How the redundant have fallen” and you could fill in many other adjectives with this term too. Aside from the hospitality and travel industry which has been affected because of global travel bans, many other industries have been affected because of the product’s reliance of people moving from the comfort of their own home. This has enforced companies to develop new products completely out of what they’re usually capable of doing to stay open. In Canada, INKSmith, which is an edtech startup specialising in making design thinking and technology tools for kids, has now had to move to manufacturing face shields and has, as a result, ended up hiring up to 100 new employees to meet demand.
In a study by the Erwing Marion Kauffman Foundation, two of the findings expressed that “over half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list, and just under half of the 2008 Inc. list, began during a recession or bear market.”; and “Job creation from startups is much less volatile and sensitive to downturns than job creation in the entire economy”. Companies like Airbnb, Microsoft and General Electric were created during an economic downtown, such as the one we’re currently living through. Will yours be one of them?
Innovation is not limited to new product development, it’s about finding new processes to improve a company’s efficiency and effectiveness, as well as gain momentum on its competitive advantage. Startups have been pivoting incrementally through either product expansion or new products via their core models. A prime example of what has been happening across delivery services businesses like Netflorist which moved from only delivering gifts to now exclusively groceries or Exclusive Books who is now delivering its books on UberEats. Bottles, an alcohol delivery service, also adapted to this, and are now grocery providers.
This century presents the age of the weaponizaton of data through its licensing, yet COVID-19 has given us an ultimatum to either digitize or go home, stay at home and not be an economic participant. Due to the advisory of physical distancing, this has meant that some PPI has had to be digitized to adapt to the new market. Online classes have become (sometimes to a parent’s nightmare) the norm for schooling, gyms and fitness instructors are moving their classes to zoom rooms and more conferences and summits are being moved online. Keeping with this trajectory, products that were already online like Zoom has seen a surge in daily users to 300 million, and influencers have had a much more captive and larger audience than ever before and securing more deals.
So, what does this Pivot Product Innovation (PPI) mean for your business going forward?
The long-term stain that COVID-19 has imprinted is Pivot Product Innovation (PPI), the mechanisation of market capitalisation and continued democratisation of economic participation. Millions of new challenges have emerged, and old ones worsened, and millions of opportunities are inserting themselves through new and incremental product development as well as digitization. You have been disrupted; with what PPI will you respond with for your business? Make your move!
In February, I had honoured the invitation of moderating the Investor Forum at the annual Timeless Women’s Conference in Kigali, Rwanda which is one of the leading women empowerment conferences in Africa, and truly a Pan-African experience. Garnished with high-level speakers such as former First Ladies, Members of Parliament, Executives and Impact -driven Entrepreneurs, it was a convening that invited an opportunity to measure and see how Africans and those in the diaspora can do so in engaging discussions, and through that, create shared value.
Traveling to Rwanda for the first time, it certainly lived up to the expectation of it being one of the technology capitals of Africa. The moment I landed at Kigali International Airport, I was met with the warmest of service at the counters and my visa processed on arrival without any hassles. Before I knew it, it was time to get on stage at the two-day event, and moderate the investor forum which highlighted about Investing in Africa through themes including and not limited to Policy and Regulation, FDI and DFI, SMMEs, Digitization and Inclusive Capital Deployment. If anything to come out of the session, it’s that capital and innovation can’t solely be reliant on the private sector, government has to not only be visible in and during elections, but throughout the year, and so its work.
“Intra-Africa trade has been historically low. Intra-African exports were 16.6%
of total exports in 2017, compared with 68% in Europe and 59% in Asia,
pointing to untapped potential.” – World Economic Forum
“According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), under the African
Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), intra-African trade is likely to
increase by 52.3% by 2020.”– United Nations
Taking the above statistics into considerations, the engaged conference and traveling to one of Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Hotspots and one of the five fastest-growing economies on the continent, inspired me to analyse and share the concept of CSV through the diaspore lens, and through the channel of lessons learnt through my few days in Rwanda.
An academic concept coined by Harvard Business School Professors Michael Porter and Mark R. Kramer and was introduced in 2011 in the Harvard Business Review article ‘Creating Shared Value.’, this concepts looks at the core of wealth creation through shared value. CSV asks the question of how do you capitalise the very capitalism to trade, scale and share in profits and social impact by not trading off the one for the other?
CSV has been proposed to be achieved in THREE ways, and that is by Reconceiving products and markets, Redefining productivity in the value chain and Enabling local cluster development. Let’s take a look at how we can enable. Nurture and catalyse the principle of CSV and dive into examples and proposals of such an effort:
- Reconceiving Products and Markets
The first of the three keys of CSV in unlocked in creating new products and services or markets that will serve the socio-economic needs identified. This is the opportunity for intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs to activate value through the channel of new product innovation, and/or integrate them in products and markets that already exist.
Market-creating innovation (innovation that doesn’t rely on post infrastructure society and the financial markets it’ll create) that will help close the infrastructure financing gap in the range of US$68-US$108 billion. We need to propel further access into education for this opportunity and retain young people as per Whitney Houston (I believe the children are our future) – we need to let them lead the way. We need to center the youth in these dialogues, we encourage that.
Examples of such innovations are crowdfunding platforms as open innovation tools for co-creation, startups changing the course of African innovation and a COVID-19 investor matchup tool for startups (piloting). These examples continue to call upon the power of collaboration, creating new products (new or incremental) and a desire for a new market.
- Redefining Productivity in the Value Chain
Creating new products is great, but how do we ensure that efficiency is created, monitored and evaluated on par with the excellence that the product is created with? The value chain in Africa disrupted by one of few mechanisms, that of which includes the role of government in actualising the full potential of its nations. Looking at channels to access, use and manage resources, energy, suppliers, logistics innovatively and to full potential, and more productively is a unique opportunity as it is a challenge. African leadership is more than unfortunately regarded for the moral decay in leadership. Africa needs to become deliberate about the type of leadership that the continent requires to continue to open the runway for investment. Transformational leaders who are thinking generationally.
The difference in policy and regulations is that sometimes the policy frameworks doesn’t gel as well as with the outcome of the policy. We need to ensure that the AfCFTA and its compliance will bear the fruit that the projections of impact are highlighting. Government must lead prioritize in creating an enabling environment where better policies and regulations can be established for not only the multinationals but the SMMEs – creating Startup Acts and executing AfCFTA (now delayed due to COVID-19).
- Enabling Local Network and Development
Over the course of the years, we’ve witnessed and some participated in the FDI and particularly the investment in education, youth and technology as we’ve seen with Andela, Africa Netpreneur Prize (with Alibaba and Jack Ma), the expansion of Facebook Developer Circles across African cities and Mark Zuckerburg’s visit to Nigeria – this trend is one of clear opportunity that has potential to alleviate many social ills of our society. Improving the local operating environment through skills development and development training will invite coding academies like GirlCode, startup competitions like Seedstars World, incubating organisations like Foundervine and government-led innovations like Kigali Innovation City and its collaborators to pave the way. This is nothing new for Africa, and the through the interconnectedness and shared passion across the diaspora, CSV can be leveraged for its economic benefits to serve.
Ready to Create and Impact Value?
When we refer to the industrial revolutions and mention the empires that changed the course of history, that of the African Renaissance is often eclipsed. In his book Tech Adjacent, engages on the pioneering continent that Africa was and still is when it comes to technology, research and development and innovation. This leads us to the statistics provided earlier on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, and the need to develop mechanisms that something like 4IR can bring to radicalize economic value and growth.
So what will it take to tap into this value and create it? The secret sauce is Africa is in the continent’s true diversity, resources, youth, (cross sector) collaboration, intra-African trade, community and innovation.
Investing in Africa and the diaspora is a paradigmatic moment for the continent and is inviting various stakeholders including DFIs and independent investors from across the globe. AFCTA is the heart of investment confidence at present in interstate trade and development talks. Partnerships and collaboration are prime in executing the policy frameworks and projects, and conferences like these hotbeds for creating such opportunities.
Although the science of CSV is that it pays for itself and is Daviding the Goliath of capitalism, capital resource allocation is the root of why the scales are not balanced, and how Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has come to pass. Also, in areas and communities where capital and its resources are needed for economic activity, a priority needs to place beyond championing the gift of food parcels. Africa and the diaspora can, are and will maximise the profit of nations and their organisations and continue to connect the thread and networks to inclusively innovate and develop for economic and development purposes.
I was having one of my Sunday bookstore dates one beautiful, sunny Cape Town afternoon and like a bear with honey coated paws, I gravitated my sticky fingers towards the business and personal development sections of the store. At the time, I was with global intelligence and media company, Thomson Reuters, who put a great deal and emphasis on career and personal development, and I wanted so much to bulk study and learn. In its very bold pink letters, I saw a cover with the letters “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office”, and my wallet and I fell for the bait.
Upon further reading and cooping myself up in Exclusive Books’, I realised that I was reading a revised and updated version of the book. “Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage their Careers” was the full name of the book, a mouthful, I know, but Dr Lois Frankel who authored the book does a great job in unceremoniously unpacking these mistakes.
Have you ever found yourself apologizing before you talk or ask a question? Immediately disqualifying your credentials for a job or board opportunity? Invalidate your article before it gets published, and thus never letting it see the light of day? How about always sitting at the back of meetings or using non-words, what Frankel describes as “credibility busters” to communicate? I’ll raise both my hands with you because I’ve been guilty of these behaviours, or what the author calls Nice Girl Behaviour, what she deems necessary but not sustainable for success.
In the book, Frankel confronts over 130 mistakes that women (and I’d like to add early entrants into the workplace and/or industry) make that set them up for corner office sabotage success; with the corner office a metaphor for transactional spaces (mental and physical) where we’ve placed boundaries that limit our potential to actualise our excellence and badassness. The book pairs coaching tips to action after every mistake as well as plentiful resources provided by Frankel and a few appearances from her industry peers. Delivered with the sharpness of freshly squeezed lemon juice, the author doesn’t shy away from recognising patriarchy’s psychological contribution and economic returns, as well as women’s conscious roles in sabotaging their own careers.
With that said, I strongly believe that some of Frankel’s strong biases would fall through the cracks in some chapters and mistakes ,and in particular to the seventh chapter dealing with “How You Look”. As with any self-development resource, you have to take it with a pinch of articulation and understand that it’s as generic as the sand granules unless its tailored to a career development plan for you. There are definitely some coaching tips that I found incredibly helpful and have been using over the past few weeks, and others which the internal consultant in me honoured not for me.
Every few moments that I had to share snippets of the book on my social media platforms, the feedback would be from women who had already read it and provided great feedback and others who hadn’t, but wanted to ardently get their hands on it. I too, continue to greatly endorse this book from international best seller, Dr Lois Frankel, for all genders for self-development as well as conscious empowerment of women in the workplace and in industry.
Whether you’re working from home, or in your car or public transport on your way to work or simply looking for an outlet to be inspired and informed, a podcast is always a good idea. It’s a medium that has seen a great surge over the years, with a range of sectors and topics covered. In this article, I’ll share some of my top podcasts covering Inclusive Development and Investing (Impact) and Innovation Strategy from regions including and not limited to Africa, North America and the UK; let’s have a look (and listen):
This particular category focuses on podcasts that dedicate their content to inclusive development across diversity and inclusion, entrepreneurship, economic development and regional and international relations globally. Some of my favourite episodes from the selected podcasts below include “A Conversation with Rebecca Enonchong” by The Flip Africa, Diaspora Talks with Annette Abena’s “Investing in Africa” and IMF Podcast’s “Kristalina Georgieva on Gender Parity: Inequalities Erode Society”. What’s important to recognise about these podcasts is that various stakeholders are contributing to the conversations are entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, investors and professionals who deliver stellar insights in their expertise.
With the assault of climate change, global health outbreaks and pandemics and heightened conversations on diversity and inclusion, global investment conversations and funds have shifted over the past few years to be bedded in the triple-bottom line return on investment also under the alias of impact investing. These selected podcasts not only cover stories of what’s happening at that present time like Equity’s “The VCs behind Libra, Facebook’s new cryptocurrency”, breaking down how the science of data and its intelligence impacts VC decisions with Venture Stories in “Using Data in Venture Capital with Jonathan Hsu” and how the entertainment industry prepared Ashton Kutcher for his VC career in his interview with The Twenty Minute VC in “Ashton Kutcher on Early Lessons from Investing in Airbnb and Spotify, Why VC Ownership Requirements are Becoming More and More Egregious & What Being Good at Product Truly Means”.
The differentiator of this category for me, is the resources that are provided post the interviews as well as during the interviews. The structures of the shows allow for the viewer to engage with the content and the strategies provided in the episodes, as well as in the show notes are centred around innovative best practices for entrepreneurs, individuals and greater corporations. Inside the Strategy Room’s “How to take the Measure of Innovation” paired with Negotiate Anything’s Negotiation Preparation Guide will prepare you to tap into the innovation strategist in you and negotiate the terms of it, and one of my favourite from HBR Ideacast’s “How to have a Relationship and a Career” focuses on the shared value element of relationship, and the couple interviewed have some unorthodox measures placed in their relationship that I know you’ll enjoy.
Some honourable mentions for me across these sectors include Vision 2030 and Africa Gender Indaba by Channel Africa, Jeff’s Asia Tech Class by Jeffrey Towson and The Women in Tech Show: A Technical Podcast by Edaena Salinas. I listen to my podcasts via Google Play, but other platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher also host these shows, with some having their own websites where you can stream and listen to. Whatever your preferred channel, I hope you have a listen to these 20 (now plus) podcasts that I’ve curated, and I hope that you enjoy them. I’d love to hear from you on what podcasts you’re enjoying, and which platforms you’re streaming them from.
A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast which invited Luis Ballesteros, an Assistant Professor at The George Washington University to speak to research on a book that he contributed to, authored by Howard Kunreuther and Michael Useem entitled Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies are Coping with Disruption. The professor echoed the intelligence of the role that not only government, but most audibly, the private sector in aiding the relief of pandemics in their respective economies such as the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Another point of conversation that was lightly touched on was what the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in their “Global Humanitarian Overview 2020” report , estimated to be 168 million, the most vulnerable people in the world, prone to the recent pandemic and what could be done for them. This is what we’ll unpack in the next few paragraphs, but first, let’s lay a foundation for what Covid-19 is before we dive into how we as society, together with other respective stakeholders can enable preparedness from a gendered impact perspective economically and socio-economically.
First detected in China in December 2019, COVID-19 has since spread to 169 regions or countries and more than 329 000 cases globally, with Italy leading with 5 476 deaths as on 23 March 2020 according to the John Hopkins University and Medicine Coronavirus Resource Centre. The numbers of the cases are expected to rise exponentially over the next coming weeks and months, and cases in developing nations too are rising, with the vulnerable susceptible to the exposure in different parts of the world.
For this particular article, we’ll focus on the gendered implications of COVID-19 in affecting the vulnerable, exploring the measurable impact that this pandemic will have on women, and how past data proves that women and young girls are going to become the most affected economically and socio-economically, and present ideas on how to futureproof this risk for the public sector, private sector and civilians.
One of the consequences of poverty is gendered discrimination, which means that women are disproportionally burdened when the assault of catastrophic events such as COVID-19 take place. In the past, episodes like the 2010 Haitian cholera outbreak, the 2014–16 West Africa Ebola virus disease (EVD) event and the 2016 Zika boutade, with research supported by the Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) shows how this burden of caregiving is entrusted with the consequences of the risk of infection, being responsible of running of the household and the prevention and rescue tactics with being exposed to mental and physical harm and the economic role of sustenance provision by seeking financial assistance. With COVID-19, although men (and older people) are much more prone to mortality rates and being infected, it’s the caregivers who are engaging with the risk, and women compose of larger parts of the health workforce
In realising the data and intelligence of both the past and present, here are some measures of what can be done in creating six (6) inclusive response measures:
· Misinformation spreads fear faster than COVID-19 itself and leads to practices that resist the acceleration of the healing of the exposed and infected. It’s important to be proactive in sharing information, as it is in creating responses that are intersectional in how they’re being consumed and analysed. Languages, gender, nationality, disabilities, economic status are important utilities in creating the information and sharing it to ensure no discrimination. Instilling behavioural change should also mean to allow for this information to be accessible and affordable for civilians by zero-rating certain websites and using traditional media which the greater population has access to and can afford.
· The rise of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation cases in times of outbreaks affects women and other marginalised groups, and investing in organisations that are already on the ground and with access to mobile services that can reach urban, peri-urban and rural areas where the women will be affected is important.
· A notable effort from the public and private sectors is the relief financing for not only employees, but for small business owners who will be heavily impacted by COVID-19, and these include holidays and funds set up by economic development ministries globally like the Federal Coronavirus Small Business Assistance in the US and the Debt Relief Fund in South Africa.
· COVID-19 calls upon social distancing, or as the World Health Organisation (WHO) encourages, “physical distancing”, and this is as a phenom that is supporting of trying to limit the spread of the virus as it is classist. In developing markets, the informal sector makes a large contribution to the GDP of a nation, as well as the majority of the (low) income earners of the population and the trading is offline. What happens when physical distancing discriminates against those unable to do so as it affects their means of creating income? Provision for a fund towards the lower-income earning women and informal traders that pays out the average income earned or minimum wage (of a nation) and trainings to upskill.
· The previous proposal above links much to this next one: (greater) Investment in research and development that will inform gendered solutions during catastrophic events. According to “A Gendered Human Rights Analysis Of Ebola And Zika: Locating Gender In Global Health Emergencies” study, less than 1% of published research papers on previous health pandemics were on the gendered implications and dynamics of such outbreaks. We cannot be prepared for an emergency like COVID-19 and deploy resources without the informed resources of how and who to deploy the unique resources to.
· In order to create and implement policies that are focused on addressing a population that will be impacted the most, representation matters. Now is the time to continuously raise the profile of women in global health and ensure thought leadership is not only bound to the stages of conferences, but authoring research papers and sitting in boardrooms influencing policies that are nuanced to the unique solutions needed.
There’s no cure for COVID-19 at present, and countries like China and the US are racing to find a vaccine to ensure that the accelerated effort of the virus to kill and infect minimizes. In the meantime, as global citizens, it is out duty and responsibility to keep each other accountable for physical distancing, being self-quarantined or isolated, people’s lives depend on it. Out of this pandemic, is the hope for more research into the gendered implications of such events and the opportunities for economies, the greater society and the private sector to invest in inclusive measures that are focused on enriching the economic prowess of women, and their participation in global health.
A few months ago I penned an article which engaged on the importance of inclusive capital in the startup ecosystem, this based on my cumulative years working in the startup development and advisory ecosystem, as well as having researched the appalling data on why men-owned and led startups continue to receive almost 100% of startup capital funding, globally. The success of the article invited global conversations and opportunities to consult on various enterprises, and it also highlighted how industry (and outside industry contributors) saw the conversation as not only exclusionary, but as a means to absorb the old boys club legacy of mirrortocracy and investing in women as only a tick box exercise with no merit. So I’m going to bring some data to the table, and engage on the Risk on Investment on funding of the female economy.
Funding the Female (owned) Economy (FOE) is not just diversity and inclusion aesthetics, it’s an economic development catalyst to amplify sustainable impact. This FOE is not an exception to how the investment model works sustainably (i.e. creating a return on investment), but rather a necessity to expand the capacity of the investment model and create accelerated triple bottom line impact.
The 63% (Risk) On Investment Opportunity
“Female founders drive 63 percent better ROI than male-only led companies. It’s a no-brainer. We have 40 companies in our portfolio -- Zola, The Wing, Glamsquad -- with more than $1 billion in enterprise value. Some people would say, well, all of these are “women’s” ideas, right? But I would just call them businesses for a really big section of consumers! When Susan and I launched the fund (BBG Ventures), it was never with a do-good intention. We knew we could drive a great return.” - Nisha Dua, co-founder of BBG Ventures as quoted in an interview on why the venture firm is doubling down on investing in female founders.
In 2015, First Round Capital, a seed stage venture capital firm released a report that highlighted its 10 year mark in the venture ecosystem, and shared insights on their portfolio. A key finding was that companies with female founders performed 63% better than portfolios with all male counterparts. Further data from a Illuminate Ventures whitepaper also highlights that in particular, high technology firms venture-backed and led by women are great custodians of the capital that they receive by using it more efficiently and overall having higher annual revenues than firms led by their counterparts. So why aren’t funding institutions funding the FOE, and seeing female owned companies as risk on investment instead as return on investment?
Through the above mentioned data, we’ve established that the reason cannot be due to seeking higher financial returns on investment. Perhaps it’s because men are building businesses faster than women?
Building Businesses TWICE as Fast
If that were the case, then that would untrue. In 2019, the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, which is commissioned by American Express published that US women “ … with women with diverse ethnic and geographic backgrounds started an average of 1,817 new businesses per day in the U.S. between 2018 and 2019”. The report further expresses that over the past five years women-owned businesses increased by 21%, while all businesses increased only 9% and that total revenue for women-owned businesses also rose slightly above all businesses: 21% compared to 20% respectively.
This data is not only exclusive to the US, as maintained by the MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2017, sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s highest growing rate of women-owned and led businesses at 27%, with Uganda (34.8%) and Botswana (34.6%) leading the pack globally.
In demonstrating financial performance and the business growth and acceleration of women-owned businesses, what else could motivate the slow progression of funding in the FOE? In Africa, only 4% of capital went into female founders (that raised over $1M in 2019) as compared to the average of 2.2%. Are there not enough diverse sectors that women are enterprising in, that year after year, cumulative deals and capital is constantly on a single digit number?
Innovation across Diverse Sectors
Enterprises like the Cartier Women’s Initiative showcase that women are not only breaking through various industries like luxury fashion, construction and real estate, information systems and energy and utilities; but that the FOE is diverse as it is a triple bottom line hitmaker like Manka Angwafo in Cameroon who is an agri-tech entrepreneur who provides access to finance to farmers, equipment hire and have to date not only boosted the farmers’ income by 200% but also has helped helped 373 farmers, with a repayment rate of 97% through a group economics strategy
I’ve also recently curated a list of funding/capital opportunities for Africa women-owned and led businesses, with industries ranging from technology and human rights based enterprises to grants and angel investors from across the continent. Recipients of funds and grants vary in investment size and in industry, and country, worthwhile to have a look.
What Will it Take?
Tanzania, one of the fastest growing economies in the sub-Saharan Africa region with an annual GDP growth of 7% since 2013 is driven by Small Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) of which more than half are women. However, their SMMEs cannot grow because of lack of financial capital. This is unique to the FOE, and doesn’t discriminate whether developing or developed nation. In the United Kingdom (UK), the Rose Review reported that due to a lack of financing, this barrier resulted in women “ … start businesses with 53 per cent less capital on average than men, are less aware of funding options and less likely to take on debt.”
So, how many more articles, conferences, research and campaigns you may ask in order to close the gender investing gap? Too many to tell. The gap closing also shouldn’t have to be solely reliant on more female investors equal more investment in female owned enterprises, but rather collaborative efforts like The Next Billion, investment in training female fund managers to have a (non decorative) seat at the table and continued conscious investment in the Female (owned) Economy (FOE).
Upon the invitation of the German Corporation and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), last week I was in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of a delegation of pan-African ecosystem enablers to represent Cape Town, South Africa at the Seedstars World Africa Regional Summit 2019. The full week spanned across cocktail evenings and dinners, intense boot camps and 1-1 sessions with mentors and investors for nearly 50 technology startups and the highly anticipated summit with an audience of 300+ comprising of 26 Sub-Saharan African countries.
To kick off the regional summit at an evening cocktail, I was joined on stage by Anicha Abdul who is the Managing Director of EP Management and Consulting (Mozambique) and the Program Manager for Empow'Her Côte d'Ivoire, Chloe Roncajolo, moderated by Seedstar’s Fanny Dauchez to be part of an incredible panel called "Generation SHE" to engage on gender equality across the ecosystem. This discussion inspired a series of conversations, and actions which included men and women who actioned for gender parity during another panel discussion, not to discuss gender equity within the ecosystem, but to contribute to the solutions driven workshop based on their expertise. And throughout the course of the week, Seedstars seems to have been intentional about this role of not only diversity, but that of inclusion too.
Equity Scale is Transferable if Intentional
Highlighting the role and participation of women across the border in the technology, startup and investor community was a focus for the global organisation. This was made visible in the rising number of senior persons in leadership held at Seedstars across the Africa region, the 40% of female attendance and the articulate (and strategic) history making of having an all female jury panel for the pitching competition made up on 10 women-led businesses amongst the 24 that pitched.
Shifting the equity scale and accelerating gender parity requires continuous action, surgical focus and enabling conversations that are in inclusive spaces to inspire the actionable change to design the necessary frameworks to thrive.
Africans need to become Connected
By now, it should be no secret that Africa is not a country, however it shouldn’t diminish the need for Africans to become interconnected. This week, what enlightened me the most, was how eager everyone was to connect with each other and expand their networks to benefit the 300+ people in attendance; if this is what the African Trade Agreement has in store for the continent, then hope there is. However, with the provision of the opportunities of trading and investment opportunities, comes the vile reminder of the fact that Africans still require visas to travel to over 50% of other African countries, restricting the continent-spread movement and making it more expensive to travel. And, as a result, we had a few startups who unfortunately weren’t able to be present at the summit to pitch their entities and had to opt for a video-recorded pitch. Even with the launches of milestones such as the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Single African Air Transport Market, the state of a truly connected Africa is not changing significantly over the years.
The President of the African Development Bank Group, Akinwumi A. Adesina articulated it quite well when he said that regional integration and trade based upon the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital should be and is at the core of the business of the African Development Bank, because it recognises the opportunities in the economy that these agreements have in place, this in the 3rd edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index Report 2018 published by the African Development Bank and the Africa Union Commission.
There is no shortage of Scalable Solutions
Powered by the African Development Bank Group, with my fellow mentors, we had the opportunity to contribute to these high impact and high growth startups from across Africa in various sectors at the Investor Forum ranging from business development to investor readiness advisory. It was an opportunity, and one of the many sessions (including rigorous bootcamps) delivered by respective experts and investors to prepare the 24 Seedstars local winners to advance to the final stage of the competition, the Seedstars World Final stage in Lausanne, Switzerland to win up to $500k in investments. In the end, only 10 startups from the Sub-Sahara Africa region were able to make it: Exuus (Rwanda), mVocia (Ghana), Pezesha (Kenya), Teheca (Uganda), OKO Finance (Mali), Afrikamart (Senegal), Nadji Bi (The Gambia), Vectra (South Africa), Roque Online (Angola) and Crop2Cash (Nigeria). Although not every startup was able to be chosen, the capital (monetary, intellectual, social etc.) that was injected this past week speaks to the true value that both Africans and non-Africans, investors and ecosystem enablers, government and private sector sees in the potential of scaling solutions across African markets.
Diversity is a great conversation starter, and the right direction in the role that inclusion has to play in investing in an Africa that is ready and geared for the global takeover, because the world is ready to if we’re not up to the task. Inviting more women to become a part of decision making processes, pitching at startup competitions, inviting government and policy makers to make intra-African trade less taxing and more open and engaging in these conversations is a step that Seedstars, and the week that was last week showcased that not only the organisation, but the stakeholders involved are promoting and working towards.
A few weeks ago I attended a two-day national conference that invited some of the most prominent women in leadership, business and economic empowerment in both the private and public sector. The line up included the likes of Economic Advisor to the Republic of South Africa, Trudi Makhaya, World Champion and Human Rights Activist Caster Semenya and UCT’s incoming chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe. In bringing together these women under the theme of empowering an inclusive and empowered economy, the role of investing in women owned and led businesses quickly became an emphatic theme. And in this editorial, we’re going to explore not only the role of inclusion in Venture Capital (VC), but the consequences of innovation and discrimination that has lead to the future of alternative capital.
VENTURE CAPITALISTS ARE DEVALUING THE DATA
It is no secret that the more diverse your team is, the more likely that your business is to thrive, and moreover, when that diversity is lead by women. In a study conducted by Mass Challenge and the Boston Consulting Group entitled “Why Women-Owned Startups Are a Better Bet”, over 350 startups were interviewed and assessed to determine which enterprises were not only more risk averse, but who yielded better financial returns. The results determined that businesses founded by women deliver higher revenue (at that, more than two times as much per dollar invested) than those founded by men. To add to this, the study also provided insight of how much more VCs could’ve made (an additional $85 million over five years) had they invested more money equally into both women and men-founded startups. This is a global phenomena, not only unique to the United States. The growing equality parity in both entrepreneurship and venture capital translates to men being more than 92% of the Top 100 venture capital firms and as an impact investment correlation, female-founded businesses are only receiving 2% of total investments by these VCs. This underpins the essence of what we’ll unpack soon, of how the VC mind works, and later why individuals (both men and women) and organisations have to deal with the consequences of the VCs decisions to devalue and disregard the data.
But first, let’s bring the ball back to the continent for a moment, and frame not only the consistency of the return on investment statistics, but also the challenges that female entrepreneurs face in an attempt to acquire or raise capital.
According to the MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2017, sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s highest growing rate of women-owned and led businesses at 27%, with Uganda (34.8%) and Botswana (34.6%) leading the pack globally. As great and impressive as these statistics are, what compliments this ideal is that while on the surface more women are entering and playing the field, the staying power doesn’t read quite well. The continental region also lists it as the community that has the most women-owned startups shutting down due to little for opportunity for growth and lack of access to capital and resources.
In 2016, Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A) disclosed in their ‘VC4A Venture Finance in Africa' report, which captured the performance of early stage, high impact and growth enterprises from Africa at their crucial stage of early stage investor activity. Some of the data that is based on data collected from 1866 ventures from 41 African countries and 111 Africa-focused investors from 39 countries around the world unveiled included that only 9% of startups have women leaders, and that there is a direct correlation to the success rate of the venture based on the gender balance of the entity.
So why, as revealed in the African Development Bank’s inaugural Africa Investment Forum in 2018 hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa, do women entrepreneurs experience a significant funding gap of US$42 billion annually even though the numbers, time and time again support that they are better yielders of seeded capital?
A thought leadership piece in the World Bank blog shared by Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s former Vice President for the Africa Region and now Vice President for Infrastructure, may help us in shedding some perspective.
BETTING ON THE HORSE, NOT THE STATISTICS
In his opening remarks, “Walk around a major city in Sub-Saharan Africa and you will quickly realize that women are a highly visible part of the economy, selling all manner of products and services. In some ways, women are powering the economies of the continent to a greater degree than anywhere else in the world; Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where women make up the majority of self-employed individuals.” Diop affirms what the many studies conducted and reports released say about not only growing but visible rate of entrepreneurial activity by women on the continent. He then textures this foundational introduction with a much more granular approach in partially answering why this is the case of stumbling growth in women-owned ventures.
“What this fact conceals, however, is that on average women-owned firms have fewer employees, and lower revenues, profits, and productivity. In many cases, women’s businesses contribute little beyond basic subsistence. This limits the potential of women entrepreneurs and hinders economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa.” he continues.
Is he incorrect in his statement? No. However, two ideas that I do want us all to be cognisant of which one he further explains in the article, is that the patriarchal systems which are still in place for African women across the border of the continent. Women do not, and lack the access to the collateral that is required to enable them to access the credit capital, like land and property, these policies and framework are things that need to change so that women can start or develop their businesses.
The other big elephant in the inclusion conversation of venture capital that is widening the investment gap, is that of not only who carries the capital, but why and how that capital distribution always ends up circulating amongst the same racial and gender recipients, call it intentional super inclusive circular and shared value economies of and that scale. In as much as VCs look at outliers and the business and investment cases of startups, it is no secret that they also bet on horses that mirror them. Men (whom we unpacked earlier comprise of 92% of the Top 100 VC firms) are much more likely to invest in men-owned businesses than female ones, and according to a study led by Babson College's Entrepreneurship chair Dr. Candida Brush, it found that startups lead and managed by all-male teams were “four times more likely to receive funding than companies with even one woman leader.”, even with the shocking discovery that gender diversity at the top improves a startup's performance.
If VCs are such risk takers, why not take the biggest risk of them all, women?
THE INNOVATION CONSEQUENCES OF EXCLUSION OF ACCESS TO CAPITAL
It’s happening, too slowly but surely. This gender investment gap has actualised innovative solutions and some, even going back to the basics of group economics to ensure that more entities owned by women are funded and grow to the scale of potential that they truly deserve. Let’s unpack some of these solutions:
· Using metrics like partnerships, capital investments, total number of companies invested in and the social and financial return on investment, Billion Dollar Fund for Women (TBDF) is committed to ensuring that its holding venture companies to investing in more women-founded companies. Implementing a self-funded, non-profit model, TBDF is a global consortium of venture funds that have committed to date (November 2018) $650 million to tackle the gender investment gap by pledging to increase their investments capital pools to women-owned companies, globally. The lobbyist approach has garnered some success stories like Rethink Impact, with continued increased investment in businesses founded by women.
· Group economics is an ancient economic practice that’s now positioned itself as one of the most pivotal ways in which to raise capital, for pre-seed and early stage investment businesses. Entities like The People’s Fund, UpriseAfrica, iFundWomen and Portfolia are some of the companies who are doing exciting things in the space of impact investing and creating not only diversity of opportunities for minorities, but also enabling entrepreneurs to tap into capital that they wouldn’t have otherwise, had the access to.
· The rise of the gender gap also gave rise to women-owned venture capital firms and venture networks who are intentional about investing in women owned businesses. Africa has provided great case studies and momentum to this with venture companies like Dazzle Angels, and Rising Tide Africa which is a group of women angel investors that are harnessing their power, network, passion and capital to positively impact and invest in an empowered and inclusive growing economy, and society.
· Startups and organisations have now had to become technology adjacent in understanding their customers, business model and particularly financial services company, HOW they deploy capital. In his book Tech Adjacent, serial technology entrepreneur and thought leader, Mushambi Mutuma engages on doing business in the future and the importance of constantly evolving with the exponential technology and innovation that’s also growing quite exponentially in business. “What would make you absolete in a day? What technology are you terrified your competitors will figure out? How would we run this company with 10 percent of our current staff? How would you monetise if consumers expected you products/services to be free?”. These questions are some of what, I believe, have influenced how capital and credit is becoming more inclusive for women to be able to bypass the archaic banking structures and enable them to get their food in the door. The Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Project has contributed to the rise of female-owned businesses in Ethiopia by providing women with an alternative to collateral. This is in the form of a 45 minute psychometric test that provides a reliable indication of whether an entrepreneur and whether you will be able to repay a loan without any collateral required. At present, the repayment rate is at 99.4%. Another example of how being technology and future adjacent has served the venture capital and investment ecosystem is through the constant data science application and introduction of technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to aid with decision making, and also democratising who can become an investor. The funds in magnitude still lie with the wealthy to invest in “lesser risk averse male-owned entities”, but the opportunities to value the data and tap into the industry with impact investing and seeding the billion dollar potential of the global economy is fair game.
With all the data on the table supporting why inclusion, and particularly why investing in women owned businesses is important for the current and future of the economy, and AfDP’s President Akinwumi Adesina’s call for increased support to for women to be active stakeholders in the economy, why are we constantly accelerating towards the opposite direction when it’s time to seed the capital? The answer may not be as complex as we may make it to turn out, however we can applaud the innovative strides being taken to drive inclusivity and capital returns on these investments. The future of venture capital and investments is democratized, technology and data science adjacent and inclusive of breaking down archaic, exclusive and oppressive systems to ensure that we build inclusive futures and shared growth economies.
A week ago, I attended in Cape Town, South Africa, the launch of the Southern African Venture Capital Association (SAVCA)’s 2019 Venture Capital Industry covering the 2018 calendar and its investment activity across South Africa. Since 2017, this is the association’s third consecutive year of publishing the survey, in previous years, the results would published every two to three years, which means that means that more growth is occurring in the industry and that coherently, more data has become available. Let’s unpack the landscape a bit, and understand what continues to make South Africa one of the primary hotspots for early stage investing in startups across the continent.
A total of 181 new deals were recorded in 2018, increasing by 13.8% from 2017; with the top five industries owing to deals invested mainly by value in manufacturing at 14.2% and food and beverage coming in 12.3%, medical devices and equipment at 10.5%, with energy at 10.2% and just missing the ten percentile at 7.2% is the business products and services sector. Manufacturing and energy still dominated in the market share of deals invested by number of deals, with consumer products, software and fintech specific portfolios joining them in the top five industries invested in. If anything, this shows the large investment opportunity in diversification of sectors outside digital and e-commerce, and also, brings to light the conversation around the harsh imbalance in and opportunities for other sectors like biotechnology and agriculture to break through.
The Western Cape headquarted investees dominate the pie at 48.2% of deals, with Gauteng coming in second at 42.5% and followed by Kwazulu-Natal at 6.8%, which has grown its activity and share in the ecosystem immensely since 2017. The rest of South Africa and non-South Africa firms total the transactions at 2.5%. The incremental growth that Kwazulu-Natal has shown, is a positive indicator of the diversification of location, from R13 million in 2015 of total deal investments to R71 million in 2018. Although the volume and value of deals increased in 2018 from the previous year, the distribution of equity preferences over the years is quite the opposite narrative. Expectantly so, due to the new deals being made, 74.5% of investors hold a 0-25% stake in these startup ventures, an increase in 2017’s results at 54.3% in equity. The second category of equity sits between 25-50% which has also subsequently decreased at 10.6% in 2018 as compared to 25.5% in 2017. The results owed to this data could either result in exits, new fund management firms created, new startup entrants who have no follow up funding and/or investors seeding a volume of investments in ventures that require much more startup and growth capital than other forms of capital post the growth stage – it’s also reported that a total of 79% of deals concluded in 2018 were for investments R10 million or less, with an average deal size of R8.3 million.
With the bigge deals concluded by Captive Government (funds primarily sourced from a government department or public body) and Captive Corporate (funds primarily sourced from a corporate entity such as a listed company) investors and amounting to R492 million (more than the five biggest deals in 2017 which totalled R315 million) who combined, make up 48.4% of fund management types. The rest of the types of management are fund sourced from family offices, independent funds and the smallest fund management makeup are angel investors at 4.2%. The composition of fund management also highlights something that the data doesn’t show, the gender and race that I’ve no doubt, through mechanisms like the introduction of the Section 12J tax incentive to introduce more players in the industry. As transparent and apparent as the situation of parity is in the ecosystem as investors and investees is, it’s important to highlight so as to better inform decisions made by the investors, as well as government’s role in introducing policy to level the playing field.
There’s much opportunity to diversify the industry, with not only location and sectors but also race and through gender as with the curated list that I created showcasing the data and campaigns geared towards listening to the gender of higher Return On Investment (ROI) in their capital. Repeat investments are a great indication of good faith in business, industry must afford transparency through these transactions beyond high-level number of exits and different types of investment activities that are great for panel-lead conversations, however, in order to bring true transformation, supporting the formation of firms like Dazzle Angels, AlphaCode and Africa Trust Group and SAVCA’s Fund Manager Development Programme are the kinds of mechanisms that we need to drive and actualise the opportunities that are untapped in the market.
Here’s to looking forward to results of accelerated and diversified growth of South Africa’s VC industry in 2019!