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Mentor-Driven Capital in Nigeria: how mentors and start-ups can strengthen each other’s growth

You’d agree that mentors or anyone saddled with the responsibility of steering individuals and organizations on the right path will inevitably reduce the chaos and disorderliness within a system, right? This is why VC4A created a platform to give structure and direction to startup founders through mentorship, especially in Africa.

VC4A believes that one of the keys to unlocking Africa’s startup ecosystem potential is mentorship, and for this reason, it has developed the Mentor-Driven Capital approach together with its network of early-stage investors and experienced startup founders.

Not only is the pool of entrepreneurial talent coming up across Africa expanding, but the number and the quality of ventures are also improving over time. In partnership with Ventures Park, VC4A called for business professionals who are vision-driven, love to steer the startup ecosystem in the right direction, and founders who aspire to attain success with guidance and prioritize impact for their businesses.

Group Picture MDC Nigeria
MDC Nigeria Mentors Onboarding Session

The journey of 20 Mentors and 20 Startups

In Nigeria, 20 mentors were selected in the ongoing 2022 edition of the VC4A Mentor-Driven Capital (MDC) program to support 20 startup founders in their journey to grow and scale their businesses with professional guidance on how to get to their goals. 

At the start of the program, onboarded mentors and startup founders got to know each other, what they do, shared their expectations, networked among themselves, and shared ideas and insights from their experiences over the years. To enable peer-to-peer sharing, WhatsApp groups were created for mentors and founders separately and mentors were matched with startup founders based on their qualifications, niche, and experience.

For more information on the participating mentors and startup founders, please visit the MDC Nigeria 2022 program page.

The learning experiences over these few weeks have been insightful. The mentors were not just pouring out into the founders but they also enjoyed quality experience sharing with industry experts. In their first expert session with  Simeon Onanobi, an angel investor, a mentor, and a startup founder who once raised funds himself and learned the hard way what it takes to scale a business, and how important it can be to have a mentor by your side in this process.

Simeon started off by stressing the importance of openness and transparency in mentoring. A challenge in mentoring that he identifies is the hesitance with startup founders to be open about their ideas. He said, “the idea is not the issue, the execution is.” This is where the difference is made and where startups can show their competitive advantage. He elaborated with an example of a company he founded, and even though it was the same idea as one of his competitors, the execution of both ideas was different and both companies managed to scale their businesses based on the same idea. 

Simeon also shared his worries about “making mistakes” as a starting angel investor, how he overcame these, and how he has grown to become passionate about helping startups get it right. His session set the pedestal for mentors’ expectations and how they can walk founders through fundraising, growth, business structure, and development.

The mentors took Simeon’s lessons with them in their following engagements with the founders. Experiences with the startups were openly discussed by mentors in the monthly reflection session – where they give feedback on their progress, the challenges they are facing, and the following line of action they are taking.

Mentors and startups take on the program

In a recent reflection session, Tracy Okoro shared that she is currently working on making introductions with networks of founders and businesses for her mentee (Titilayo Taiwo – founder of Terawork) and because she is a very busy person, she has learned how to re-prioritize and put her mentee in mind whenever she sees an opportunity that will be beneficial to her.

Through their interaction, Gbenga Agoye also shared how he’s helping John Udoekpo of Agro Market Square identify alternative sector drivers, optimize for logistics, insurance, and functionality as well as develop an objective and key results system that will help John measure progress.

Monica Maduekwe joined the MDC program as a mentor and is the founder of PUTTRU Technologies Limited and a clean tech expert.

Monica Maduekwe

I came in thinking that my mentee would need support in something like capital raising. However, her interests are in building her advisory board – seems unimpressive compared to capital raising but very fundamental to building a successful company in the long-term. Sometimes small areas of support could make all the difference.  

Monica Maduekwe

Silas Ozoya, founder of SUBA capital was inspired to join the program to get clarity on how he could get ready for investment and make his startup attractive to investors and accelerators. Sharing his experience, he wasn’t just eager to recommend the program to other startup founders. He was seeing more strategic ways to be investor-ready, thanks to guidance from his mentor – Ayodeji Arikawe of Thrive Agric. During the course of the program, Ayo said “There’s a lot of opportunities for growth in the space and we need more tech startups not less”. He further expressed that his experience with his mentee was amazing because Silas and his team were resilient in the building of their vision. 

Antoinette Edodo was helping her mentee (Nonyelim Okolie – founder of Balm Health) with considering what’s best for her business right now. Although Nonyelim initially was focusing the mentorship on fundraising, Antoinette helped her manage that expectation, and prioritize and rechannel her energy into activities like having a successful pilot with a great indication of customer conversion. Antoinette and Nonyelim are working strategically, gathering information, and reconsidering different versions of the business model targeting different audiences. One of Antoinette’s pieces of advice is that founders shouldn’t just check boxes when starting out in their business journey, but look out for real results like customer acquisition and business partnerships.

What’s Next?

This edition of the Mentor-Driven Capital program in Nigeria is set to close by the end of July during Lagos Startup Week. Keen to join future editions of the mentor-driven capital program or join the VC4A Mentorship Marketplace as a mentor or seek a mentor on the Marketplace? Keep an eye out for VC4A’s upcoming program overview or check out the Mentorship Marketplace.