Obiemi Oyemi, one of the founders of the well-known soap operas in Nigeria, is back in another outfit. It’s not a tech company this time around – Awoyemi co-founded online job site Jobberman (acquired by ROAM Africa in 2016) and Whogohost, a running hosting platform – but instead a project studio: Fast Forward Venture Studio.
Awoyemi’s choice of this path is intriguing, especially since many African founders either launch syndicates or venture capital funds after or during their own entrepreneurial magazines. But if anything, he and his co-founder, Omolara AwoyemiHe brought in much-needed operational expertise to scale the project studio, a rare feat in these parts. After exiting Jobberman, Awoyemi, the company’s managing partner, was a product technical director at Indeed. On the other hand, Omolara, its operating partner, served as the country manager for Jumia’s fintech arm in Nigeria and was a senior program manager at Facebook.
With these roles, including as angel investors, sharing ideas and citing opportunities based on trends and tech tailwinds is inevitable (for example, the managing partner co-founded a digital immigrant bank last year that has since transformed from customer service to business). However, with little or no ability to pursue these ideas individually, launching a project studio and bringing in capable hands to manage these projects was the next best thing.
Here’s how Fast Forward works, managing partner explained in an interview with TechCrunch. It begins with the idea that Fast Forward can build a strong company around it. Choosing the idea of an investment studio company is very careful with those you believe can influence at least 10 million people and generate at least $10 million in annual recurring revenue in 3-5 years.
When the idea is created, the project studio finds an experienced operator who believes he can achieve product compatibility with the market, expand the product range and lead the company. Once the parties are on the same page, Fast Forward provides the operator or founder with $100,000 — and added value such as co-founder recruitment, engineering support, initial product strategy, growth-side execution, and administrative processes such as accounting and legal — in exchange for up to 20% From the company. Fast Forward acts as a co-founder of the company.
“We support entrepreneurs from day one, so almost exclusively, we are the first money in the company. Lara and I are entrepreneurs who have expanded their business in Africa, so we see ourselves not only as investors but also as builders,” said Managing Partner Awoyemi. We understand the market and believe that the best way to unlock some of these opportunities, that most people don’t even think about, is to put the entrepreneurs in the center. Ideas can come from us, but they are a dime a dozen; The real work is implementation.”
Fast Forward is interested in the following sectors: B2B and B2B2C Services, Infrastructure Fintech, E-Commerce, Future of Work, Education Technology, Healthcare, Logistics, Deep Technology, Blockchain, and Globally Scalable SaaS from Africa, to name a few . Annually, FastForward plans to work with 10 ideas within these segments and 3-5 spin-offs that will receive additional funding from other investors and gain acceptance in accelerators such as Y Combinator and Techstars.
Here are some of the startups in the Venture Studios portfolio. Bomba is a social trading platform for over 100,000 small businesses (Lara is a founding CEO); at recent days Integrated with Meta to sync between applications and is currently closing an initial run. AltSchool It is a Techstars powered platform for learning coding and other technology related skills. TalentQLis a subsidiary of AltSchool, a platform that connects tech talent with employers (Awoyemi is co-founder). Dojah is a YC powered identity verification platform and a KYC platform for African companies is also in the process of closing the round. and Buzzline, a mobile operating system for solo entrepreneurs.
Fast Forward also operates a mutual fund that selectively invests between $20,000 and $50,000 in some companies from the studio — Bumpa is the only beneficiary, according to its site — in the pre-incorporation stage. The fund, which also consists of deals made by its partners prior to its inception, invests in startups outside the project studio such as cassavaConvoy Odiggo And the Reliance Health.
Besides the progress made by Fast Forward Venture Studio, another compelling result for the studio is that it has started recording exits and is back in beta despite an overall light tech space. It’s one of the points Oyemi made when arguing that project studios are usually in a better position to help founders succeed than incubators, accelerators, and funds. For Fast Forward, Oyemi noted that startups also have the advantage of riding on the backgrounds of partners and their relationship with previous international employers, as well as venture partners whose roles include providing investor relations, strategic communications, and portfolio company support. Jake BrightTechCrunch, a former African correspondent, is one of her project partners.
“First, we are more practical than funds, incubators or accelerators. We have supported the entrepreneurs and operators that have been voiced while working closely with them on our ideas.” The returns are also much higher in terms of liquidity. It is better for backers, as well as us … With all the checks we’ve written so far, in general, we actually have 64 times our invested capital, which not many small funds or seed funds can boast of.”
However, it should be noted that while many project studios have debatable advantages over other investment entities, the model has not been particularly successful and has become less attractive to founders and operators. However, Fast Forward hopes that out of which others can follow what they are learning. Also, if the recent activities covered by TechCrunch from the industry are a harbinger of what’s to come, the model may return. In the last two months, for example, Adian Labsa Kenyan studio, said it is looking to build 300 startups over the next five years and Purple Elephant Projectswhich is another Kenya-based studio project that has raised $1 million in seed funding to build around four startups at the intersection of tourism, climate and technology annually.