This new year seems to hold many promises for tech and non-tech founders who need funding to scale their startups as new VC, Echelon Capital, announces plans to inject US$1 million in funding beginning February 2021.
In an interview with the venture capital firm’s founder, Sunday Olorunsheyi, he revealed that Echelon Capital would invest millions of dollars into different startups across the African continent over the next ten years. The VC will, however, begin with a million dollars investment into Nigerian-owned startups.
This exciting news has come amid concerns over the increasing dominance of foreign investments in the Nigerian startup ecosystem, especially by US investors. While a Techpoint report says Nigeria is the second largest investor country in terms of size and the number of cheques written over the last decade, many startups still get their funding from foreign investors. So, Echelon, being a local investor, means that more startups can be entirely home-grown, and the investment returns will remain in Nigeria.
Sunday Olorunsheyi, a successful international business leader with experience spanning over 20 years building businesses in different sectors of the economy, is the co-founder of Pertinence Group, which began its operation in 2012 and is now a multi-billion-naira business. He sits on the board of 12 companies, including Globarel Group. For more than five years, Sunday Olorunsheyi has written cheques to about 20 successful startups. He holds two Master’s degrees in Business Administration and Public Administration from Business School Netherlands and Ladoke Akintola University. He is now pursuing a post-graduate certificate in Project Management at Fleming College in Ontario, Canada, and a Ph.D. at Charisma University.
Considering his astuteness in business, one would wonder if this decision to set up a VC is due to indicators that the Nigerian startup ecosystem is beginning to mature; we wanted to know his motivation for starting the VC, so we asked him. He disclosed that it is partly due to his passion to see African enterprises grow and generally support people, just as he had people help him when he started the business over 20 years ago. He has an excellent eye for investments, and a rich understanding of the African investment landscape, as proven over the years of being an investor and an investment advisor. He added that Echelon Capital would be positioned as the ‘family and friend’ that innovative entrepreneurs, not only in tech, could approach to raise the needed investment for their businesses. “Non-tech businesses which have very effective distribution strategies will also be welcome into the family,” he said.
Responding to a question on why Echelon Capital would be adding low and non-tech businesses to their portfolio, Sunday Olorunsheyi revealed that the thought that VCs should only invest in tech startups is an illusion. It distracts from the unique possibilities that are available in investing in other startups. According to him, once a startup meets the investment requirement, they are eligible for funding. Echelon Capital is looking for startups with outstanding products, a strong team, capital efficiency, execution strategy, and profits. Founders have to only apply through the website or bit.ly/echelonvc, and then participate in the virtual accelerator program.
When asked about the future of startup investing in Nigeria, Sunday Olorunsheyi predicts that it is in decentralized investments, meaning that individuals will invest through startup funding platforms for direct investments. There is also likely to be an increase in crowdfunding platforms where people can invest in startups prescreened for potential viability. These investors would put their money in infrastructures that could help SMEs scale faster and globally.
Olorunsheyi concluded by saying that there is a lot of excitement about the journey ahead. He said, “one thing that gives my team and I joy is that founders who are prepared, built capacity, and have positioned their businesses properly will need to worry less about accessing funding.”
One of Olorunsheyi’s mentees, the CEO of Pertinence Properties, Jeffery Itepu, expressed confidence that his mentor will undoubtedly lead Echelon Capital to great success, as he is not new to things like this. “Who we have in Mr. Sunday Olorunsheyi is another Warren Buffet. The records speak for themselves,” said Damilare Oshokoya, another mentee of his. Echelon Capital is on social media as @echelon_vc on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Echelon Venture Capital on Linkedin. Founders who may be interested can sign up through the website www.echelonvc.africa or click the link bit.ly/echelonvc.