Fast Forward Venture Studio Helps African Entrepreneurs Grow

One of the most prolific entrepreneurs in Nigeria, Opeyemi Awoyemi, has launched a new company. After helping build Jobberman (bought by ROAM Africa in 2016) and Whogohost (a bootstrapped hosting platform), Awoyemi has decided to start a new kind of software company: Fast Forward Venture Studio.

It’s fascinating that Awoyemi has decided to go this way, given that many successful African entrepreneurs go on to create investment funds or syndicates. But he and his co-founder, Omolara Awoyemi, have the unique operational expertise to develop a venture studio.

The former managing partner of Jobberman, Awoyemi, is now a senior technical product manager at Indeed. Omolara, its operating partner, on the other hand, has experience as the country manager of Jumia’s fintech arm in Nigeria and as a senior program manager at Facebook.

It is a natural element of the job description for those in such positions, such as angel investors, to discuss the latest technological trends and prospects. As most people don’t have the time, money, or energy to explore such ideas on their own, the next best thing was to establish a venture studio and staff it with competent individuals.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Fast Forward’s managing partner detailed the company’s methodology. First, Fast Forward must choose an “impact-focused” idea around which it can create a sustainable enterprise. The venture studio is particularly enthusiastic about ideas that can have an impact on at least 10 million people and earn at least $10 million in annual recurring revenue in 3–5 years.

When a viable concept has been established, the venture studio seeks out a seasoned operator who they believe can successfully launch the product to market, expand sales, and steer the company to profitability.

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Once an agreement has been reached, Fast Forward will invest $100,000 in exchange for up to 20% of the firm in exchange for services such as co-founder recruitment, engineering help, initial product strategy, execution on the growth side, and administrative operations including accounting and legal. Fast Forward is a co-founder of the company.

Since we back founders from the get-go, our investment is typically the first in the company. “Lara and I are business owners who have grown companies in Africa, so we don’t see ourselves as mere investors but also as builders,” explained the managing partner, Awoyemi.

We know the market, and we know that putting entrepreneurs at the center of it is the best approach to unlock some of these potentials that even most people aren’t thinking about. Though we can provide ideas, there is no shortage of them; what matters most is how those ideas are put into action.

Fast Forward is looking to invest in a wide variety of industries, including but not limited to B2B and B2C services, infrastructural fintech, e-commerce, the future of work, edtech, healthcare, logistics, deep tech, blockchain, and internationally scalable SaaS originating in Africa.

FastForward intends to work with ten concepts per year within these industries, from which it will spin out three to five startups that will go on to attract additional capital from investors and be accepted into accelerators like Y Combinator and Techstars.

Here are a few examples of the venture studio’s portfolio companies. Lara is a founding executive at Bumpa, a social commerce platform used by over 100,000 small companies. Bumpa just integrated with Meta to sync between applications and is in the process of raising seed financing.

If you want to learn to code or acquire other technical skills, check out AltSchool, which has the backing of the company Techstars. A division of AltSchool, TalentQL helps to bridge the gap between tech professionals and hiring organizations (Awoyemi is a co-founder). Dojah is a Know Your Customer (KYC) platform for African businesses, supported by Y Combinator, that is currently closing a round. The Buzzline mobile operating system is designed specifically with the one-person business in mind.

Aside from its studio operations, Fast Forward also manages a syndicated fund that makes pre-seed investments of $20,000 to $50,000 in select firms, of which Bumpa is the lone recipient, according to the company’s website. Outside of the venture studio, the fund has backed companies like Casava, Convoy, Odiggo, and Reliance Health through investments made by its partners before the fund was officially established.

African Entrepreneurs Start Up
African Entrepreneurs Start-Up

Fast Forward Venture Studio has made progress which is exciting but the studio’s second interesting conclusion is that it has begun documenting exits and returns in beta despite the traditionally exit-light nature of the technology industry.

It’s one of the reasons why Awoyemi thinks venture studios are a better option for entrepreneur success than incubators, accelerators, and funders. Awoyemi, writing for Fast Forward, pointed out that startups benefit from the experience and connections of the partners, as well as the services of venture partners whose responsibilities include investor interactions, strategic communications, and portfolio business support.

This is beneficial for both our backers and ourselves. We’ve already achieved a 64x multiple on invested money with all the checks we’ve signed thus far, which is more than can be said of many tiny funds or seed funds.

Fast Forward, on the other hand, is striving to be an anomaly whose lessons can be adopted by the industry at large. The model may also make a reappearance if the recent industry developments that TechCrunch has reported on are any indication of the future.

One Kenyan studio, Adanian Labs, recently announced its plans to create 300 startups in the country over the next five years, while another, Purple Elephant Ventures, recently raised $1 million in pre-seed funding with the intention of creating four startups per year with the intersection of tourism, climate, and technology.

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