Rob Eloff of Lateral Capital // the history and future of venture capital in Africa [CC066]

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Jay Clouse 0:02
I’m here again with Casey Allen, the founder of the Enterprise Rising Conference. Casey, what is your favorite piece of feedback that you’ve heard over the years about Enterprise Rising?

Casey Allen 0:11
One thing founders give me a ton of feedback on every single year. Now that we’ve done this five years, is the talk in which I bring up founder up on stage, who startup crashed and burned. And they deconstruct why they think of crashed and burned, what went wrong and what they might have done differently. And these are often very high profile founders who had everything going for themselves, but they still couldn’t quite turn the corner. And so those are the kind of talks quite honestly, founders give me a ton of feedback on they loved it. They want to hear more about that, because it’s really educational.

Jay Clouse 0:43
How is Enterprise Rising different this year?

Casey Allen 0:46
If you’ve ever attended online event, you know, networking sucks, slack and discord really just don’t cut it. So we have custom built for Enterprise Rising 2020, an online platform that’s like startup masterclass, meets the Sims, where every attendee has an avatar, you’re in a building, you’re sitting in chairs, you’re sitting on couches, you’re having real video chats with the people next to you. So what we’ve done is we’ve recreated an actual virtual environment where networking happens, just like it does in real life.

Jay Clouse 1:11
Casey, when is Enterprise Rising? And how can people get involved?

Casey Allen 1:15
Enterprise Rising is the end of October, the 20th and 21st is two full days is all online. So you can dip in and out for as much or as little as you want. Go to that’s And you can use discount code Upside to score 20% off as many tickets as you want. So discount code Upside at All the details are there, the entire conference is online, it’s going to be a great time.

Rob Eloff 1:43
What I think is so important in the world we live in is you know, in many ways capital is a commodity, and I’ll be the first person to say that venture capital has probably become quite an overfunded asset class, certainly here in the US.

Jay Clouse 1:56
The startup investment landscape is changing. and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them, talk with them and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to Upside.

Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the Upside podcast, the first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Jay Clouse, and I’m accompanied by my co host, Mr. Cleveland Browns optimist himself, Eric Hornung. Eric, good year so far.

Eric Hornung 2:37
It’s amazing how many nicknames on this podcast go back to the NFL for me.

Jay Clouse 2:41
Really most of them go back to Cleveland as well.

Eric Hornung 2:44
That’s a good point. Yeah, we have a new fresh look. Jay. The Cleveland Browns are everything that they were supposed to be last year they are this year.

Jay Clouse 2:52
I recently bought the new Madden NFL 21 and two years into the franchise. The Cleveland Browns are doing very well and both those years as well just on a tear.

Eric Hornung 3:03
So that’s what we have to do. You just have to play Madden franchise mode and hope that works out for us.


No Super Bowl wins though?

Jay Clouse 3:11
No, I don’t think so. I think they went to the Super Bowl in year one. But I got knocked out in the NFC Championship because a late game tying drive fell a little bit short when I missed the PAT bumped off the uprights. I know.

Eric Hornung 3:26
Wow. Are you the Packers?

Jay Clouse 3:28

Eric Hornung 3:29
Wow. Are you coach Clouse?

Jay Clouse 3:31
No. So this is something you’ll read if you look into Madden 21. Madden fans very much hate this game. And the biggest reason is because the franchise mode has not received a significant update in years. And so you don’t even have the option. I guess I could be a coach. I chose to be an owner. Hmm. So I have coached before.

Eric Hornung 3:48
Seems like a better financial decision to be the owner.

Jay Clouse 3:51
Totally. Totally. I’m upgrading the Stadium Lambeau has never looked better.

Eric Hornung 3:55
How many video games are you playing? Now? I thought you were like off the video game train. Then we did a couple eSports interviews all of a sudden, your Jay sticks Clouse.

Jay Clouse 4:03
Yeah, I was really into I was playing Red Dead Redemption again, which I loved. But that was on a refurbished 360 which has since broken down and I had to send it back. And so my save files are on a 360 hard drive. I had to find a way to upload them to the cloud to pull them back onto the new Xbox One. So all I’m playing right now to answer your question is Madden 21.

Eric Hornung 4:23
Well, that’s a lot of technology just to play video game.

Jay Clouse 4:26
Yep. Anyway, Browns off to a good start chronically underperforming, but we’re seeing a lot of potential there this year.

Eric Hornung 4:32
Yeah. chronically underrated as well. I would say you know, I mean, I think even years where we had a little bit of potential people would still just chalk it up to it’s the Browns how they’re gonna mess this up. I mean, even in the most recent game, it was all how are they going to mess this up? You know, like, they’ve never been good before. Can they be good in the future? And if Madden has anything to say about it, I think they can.

Jay Clouse 4:54
Speaking of underrated but good in the future. Today we are speaking with Rob Eloff. The managing partner of Lateral Capital. Lateral Capital is a mission driven private investment firm that accelerates and invests in early and growth stage ventures in Sub Saharan Africa by deploying patient long term oriented equity and debt capital to opportunities in three key verticals, commerce, human capital in real assets.

Eric Hornung 5:21
Long term oriented equity is like how you could describe brown fandom.

Jay Clouse 5:29
Rob spent his career investing living and working in developing markets. Before Lateral Capital, he was a venture partner with Conversion Capital, and established Frontier Dawn Partners in Evergreen vehicle for capital deployment to early stage technology enabled founding teams in Sub Saharan Africa. So I believe he grew up in South Africa, and now realizing an opportunity with his investing background is investing there.

Eric Hornung 5:55
Do you think this opportunity is one of those that is gonna happen in our lifetime?

Jay Clouse 6:01
I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t know much about the African market at all. And so I’m, I’m looking to ask Rob questions like that. Do you? Sounds like you have a thesis.

Eric Hornung 6:11
I don’t know thesis. I think that Africa has been the land of promise for thousands of years, pretty much since the Egyptian Empire kind of scooted out, gateway to a few others. But all of the metrics seem to be setting up for Africa to have this massive boom in our lifetime. And I’m really excited to have Rob on to talk about that and talk about what could be a huge opportunity in our life.

Jay Clouse 6:36
It seems like he must see some opportunity as well, because this is Rob’s one life and he’s trying to live it the best way that he can.

Eric Hornung 6:43
Yeah, maybe he should reach out to our friends at Ethos Wealth Management. If you want to learn more about Ethos and living the best life, you can then go to

Jay Clouse 6:53
Lateral Capital was founded in 2017. They are a distributed team, which I’m sure we’ll talk much more about here in this interview with Rob, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode as we go through. So if you have thoughts on this episode, with Rob of lateral capital, you can tweet at us @ekhornung, @JayClouse or We’ll talk to Rob right after this.

Rob Eloff 7:18
Rob was born in South Africa, in Johannesburg, at a time when South Africa was going through immense change. And was fortunate to live through that change, I got to see what the New South Africa looked like. And it led to a lot of questions around what other emerging countries look like, and what you know what their futures could be. And always had this context of, you know, immediate home in Africa, around South Africa, as you know, the next sort of layer of exploration. And then a couple of places that are further away are the States, Europe, Asia, and always sort of triangulating between what the commonalities and differences are. So you know, I grew up in South Africa, I went to school there, and then entered the workforce, having studied philosophy and economics, didn’t intend to, to go into finance at all. But I think I quickly realized that being a breadwinner in my family was going to be important thing to do. And Wall Street was booming. And so here’s a philosophy major, very curious about something, you know, very different, find myself working on a trading floor, you know, trading South African shares and other financial products, and just went on this whirlwind journey of being involved in a number of different emerging markets. You know, I moved to London and eventually moved to to Russia. I was working for Goldman Sachs at the time. And it was a time when investing in emerging countries made a lot of sense. Along the way, I also spent a lot of time focused on Brazil and Turkey. But it always went back to sort of these concentric circles of how are we the same? And how are we different as emerging countries that are growing very fast to the places that aspirationally people always traveled to and came back from with with things we didn’t have in South Africa or any of these markets.

Jay Clouse 9:07
You talked about when you grew up in Africa, there were some big changes happening. I’m not nearly as studied in world history as Eric is. And so those big changes you kind of alluded to, I don’t actually know what to what you’re referring can you illuminate a little bit more?

Rob Eloff 9:22
Certainly. Well, the big changes I was referring to are specific to South Africa, where we had our first democratically elected elected government in 1994. And transition to being a broader and inclusive democracy, in theory, and I say in theory, because there’s a big difference between the theory of that and you know, the reality from a socio economic perspective, which is still something we’re working on today 20 something years later, I’m not going to pretend that Africa is one country. It’s a really big place, but the changes have been happening across across Africa for the last hundred years, I was fortunate enough just to live through one of those. But yes, in 1994, the African National Congress took over as the government of South Africa. And we moved peacefully, which is somewhat a miracle, from a situation where the minority rule the country of at that stage, off the top of my head 30 something million people to building, I think, one of the broadest, most inclusive constitutions globally, and working towards being a nation that has over nine official languages and a huge diversity of people. At a time when your independence movements in Africa had been going for up to 50 years, in the case of Ghana, and in various other African states.

Eric Hornung 10:45
How aware were you of like, this is going to be the wrong phrasing. But the way that the other side, you mentioned nine languages, so I’m guessing there’s a lot of kind of sides and my real, only real, like, insight into this as a few books. So like, how aware, were you of the other sides?

Rob Eloff 11:04
That’s a great question. And I don’t necessarily think that there’s one perfect way of asking it, but what I would say to you is, I certainly grew up with a very fortunate childhood in, you know, in a place that was highly segregated. And so I was aware that there were two speeds as a white South African, growing up, I realized that there was something else happening in the background, but it only really struck home for me, when I was standing online with my mother to, to participate in that first election. And, you know, as a young kid, standing in the hot sun for hours and hours on end, probably sounded like a total brat saying, you know, how long are we going to be here for? Why are we doing this. And that was a watershed moment for me, you know, my mother, in her wisdom turned to me and said, I know that you don’t fully appreciate or understand what’s going on today. But you’re going to remember this moment for the rest of your life. And what was great about that was, the lady that helped bring me up, she was African, South African, was with us voting together, standing in the same line for the same amount of time. And a lot more people on the line look the way she did than the way I did. But I think ultimately, there are layers of appreciating this as well. And it is certainly something that stayed with me since then. But made me acutely aware that ultimately, talent is evenly distributed, and opportunity is not.

Eric Hornung 12:35
Today, everyone throws around the term, Fang, and that’s like the hot buzzword sounds like and maybe I’m assuming here, when you were in Russia, it was all about the BRICS, you mentioned the emerging economies were hot. You mentioned Brazil and Turkey. When you were studying the BRICS, I guess I would be interested in one. And for the listeners, BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India and China. I’d be interested in one, you mentioned the fast growth in those kinds of economies. But maybe take that a deep level deeper and talk about what were the interesting differences you found amongst that cohort?

Rob Eloff 13:11
Sure. I think, over the last 20 years, there’s been this backdrop narrative of convergence, meaning simply catch up, how is there going to be convergence between some of these fast growing countries, and more developed countries. And that’s been slightly different for each one, you know, ranging from China and Russia in the 90s. And the evolution we’ve seen in Eastern Europe and Latin America. But I think the important thing here is the economists and investors in developed markets have always taken quite a top down approach to this and said, if you do this subset of things, which are mostly related to transparency and governance, and you know, adopting Western norms, then there will be convergence. And I think what’s always been lacking, and what’s changed now, in sort of, you know, the proximity of, you know, digital connectivity is, we’re starting to look at that the other way around, and starting to look at it bottom up and saying, here’s a country where in the case of Nigeria, 200 million people live. And this is the history of that country. And this is what it’s comprised of. And you know, the average age is 20, something, and household disposable income in that country is 1800 dollars a year. But what makes sense from that perspective, bottom up, and if you look back at this whole convergence narrative, with that perspective, it’s actually really interesting and makes more sense to haven’t participated in those markets, looking for these signals, I think to just sort of bring that back to the present time that we’re living in, which is a the greatest human migration to digital we’ve ever seen as a species and the, you know, has us reflecting on Other times when similar things happened, when you take that back to this bottom up lens of these fast growing countries, people are starting to reread the history and see that, you know, in 2002, in the SARS epidemic, there was this unique set of ingredients in China. And they had, you know, I’ve been really sort of iterating on how to import products from other countries. And then ecommerce was born and really scaled at this unique time in history. So taking that back to your your question, and you know, there is the acronym and there’s BRICS, and there’s, I think, as human beings, we look for commonality, and say, This is what drives that change. But I’d like to challenge that and say, sometimes it’s more helpful to look bottom up and say, what’s the reality on the ground, and you know, what’s essential for people in participating in the society, and sort of get involved in that.

Jay Clouse 15:51
And your background story here, Rob, we’re talking about you had a philosophy major, you move to Wall Street, you start doing finance, which is brought you here today, some part of my brain when you said that kind of imagined philosophy and finance being at odds with one another? Does you have any dissonance against going into finance with that background?

Rob Eloff 16:14
I think yes. And in retrospect, the biggest incompatibilities between those two things is time horizon, where some of finance looks to look for likes to look for daily profit and loss. And, you know, philosophy likes to look for long term answers. And I think that it’s possible to reunite those things, by sort of really focusing on long term outcomes in financing and building. We live in a world where quarterly shareholder reports matter, and profit and loss on you know, shorter time horizon does matter a lot. But I think it’s absolutely possible to have a very long term mindedness as to how these themes play out and invest behind that. But I certainly do feel a friction along the way to answer your question, Jay, and Eric, and I think that it’s important to have sort of a guiding set of principles that you can keep measuring back towards profit and loss, that can’t be determined by profit and loss on a daily basis.

Eric Hornung 17:17
So moving into lateral is a 10 year time horizon a long enough time horizon?

Rob Eloff 17:23
That’s a great question. I think we started with the answer being absolutely not. And lateral didn’t start as a traditional, you know, venture fund investing in traditional VC. In fact, we had looked at traditional sort of private equity and venture capital investing in emerging countries, and a couple of frustrations led us to the answer that no 10 years is not nearly enough. The first of those was in this really exciting, massive market, that is Africa, that has surpassed a billion people in population, where, you know, the average age is below 25 years old, and is forecast to exceed 2 billion people by, you know, the year 2050. So really, if you think about it that way, if we’re going to live in a world where one in four human beings are African, and all this growth is coming 10 years is definitely not enough. But then, tying that back to sort of how people have interacted with us really exciting space, it has been that let’s quickly make investments over three years, and do what we can to make those valuable and then sell them to someone else. And, you know, seven years time, the problem with that is this huge market is comprised of a fragmented number of very fast growing, but very small companies right now. And so if you have this sort of 10 year mindset of what can I do with hundreds of millions of dollars, and it’s really hard to access that and to work with, you know, the founders and small and medium sized companies that that are part of that growth? And so, you know, that’s your 10 year question that the thing that really made us sit up straight, was the fact that 99% of companies in Africa do less than $5 million of revenue a year. And yet, over 80% of all the capital raised to invest in this opportunity set, are looking for companies that do more than $10 billion of revenue a year. And so that mismatch is really interesting, right? If 80% of the market is chasing 1% of the market, you need to go back to first principles and say, what does this market actually need? And how can we iterate on what we know in Silicon Valley or, or New York and let’s build something that meets the market where it is today, you know, for what it needs to unlock that growth.

Jay Clouse 19:51
Before I dive deeper into some questions there. I think this is a good time for you to introduce Lateral Capital and what you guys are doing and how you got there from this place where you are in Russia.

Rob Eloff 20:01
Sure. So, you know, having spent nearly a decade watching and learning and participating in the growth in these various emerging countries, I started to get a bit of FOMO, I’ve seen so many talented friends from Africa, choosing to go home, rather than taking another job in the Bay Area or on Wall Street or in London. And they were choosing to go and build things that were essential, and they were growing very fast. And I got really frustrated by the fact that you couldn’t access that opportunity with a next day profit and loss, you know, report on your trading book, or, or even any traditional sort of measure of success. So I left that world, I took some time out, I went back to, to study ended up studying in, in the UK at Cambridge University, and was just a great place to think and experiment and meet other people thinking in similar ways. And what I realized is if you’re going to build something that doesn’t exist, you need to be very empirical about it, and you need to measure progress. And a great way to do that is to do it with your own capital, so that if you win, it feels great. And if you lose it, it really hurts and you pay attention to that data. So I started angel investing and companies that were building the future Africa that I wanted to see, I realized along the way that there would be some components of venture capital, that would be really helpful to know her. And I ended up, you know, joining a fin tech focused venture fund in the US as a venture partner with the ambition of helping them look at emerging countries and replicating their success from the US in Africa. And as you can imagine, then, you know, transitioning to New York, there are too many people based in New York that are consistently, you know, investing in, in Africa. And I was fortunate enough to meet my now co founding partner, Stephen in New York, to be on a similar journey has involved Latin America, she had built a sovereign wealth fund for a Latin American country and invested in sort of fostering countries and was not ready to do it with his own capital, and care, we were in New York, realizing that flying in and out of Africa, backing really talented founders was a lot of fun, but very difficult. And that it was worth identifying the right partners for the long term. Fortunately, for us, we met a couple of individual investors that saw what we saw. And we’re really excited to come along for the ride. And so we got to know each other by making more investments. And quite organically, we came to a place where, you know, these Capital Partners, and Steven and I realized that to scale this up, you’d have to build something, you’d have to build a platform that was innovative, work well was efficient, and could continue to bring talent in. And that we would need a team that was deeply plugged into the fast growing cities in Africa with these opportunities abound. And so we set off on a journey to build something for the long term, one city at a time, starting with East Africa, where we met our partner Samakab who, you know, made our first forays into the venture space, there is a fund and into Nigeria, where our partner Ochuwa joined us and brings her own unique skill set that that I can touch on. But we we realized that doing this at a city by city level bottom up and getting to know the opportunity said there, yet tying it together with best practice in New York, would be something that could be successful in in the medium and long term.

Eric Hornung 23:51
We hear a lot of venture capitalists in the United States talks about focusing on cities, and they’ll look at growth prospects, and I’ll look at population movements. And one of the benefits we have in the United States is that the laws and the cultures and pretty much everything is the same with like, a little tweak here there. The baselines the same? How do you think about investing not only across cities, but across countries?

Rob Eloff 24:18
I think what’s really important here is to figure out what the essential working blocks are. And it’s almost adopting like a Maslow Hierarchy of Needs perspective at a city level. And this is what gets me really excited is being in a city like Lagos in Nigeria, which is city of 20 million people, and seeing the amount of talent and just hustle and grit and ingenuity at work, solving things that are very much taken for granted, you know, in the places that we all have, and spending a significant amount of time there and just getting used to the sort of agenda In the background, delivering power and appreciating that there is sufficient, you know, central grid capacity to power, you know, 145 watt light bulb per person in the country for about an hour a day. And that’s a. And so, you know, your question was around taking for granted, some of the infrastructure are called whether that’s regulatory or technological or other that we have, where we were all speaking, there are some very important things that you know, need to be done as a rule of thumb, to work towards governance and transparency and aligned incentives. And what I would say to you is, those things are necessary, but not sufficient. So we tend to work with founders to invest by a jurisdiction that very deeply respects information rights and minority protections, because that’s a good thing to do to build a valuable company. And we focus a lot on some of the other risks like currency risk, and just general corporate governance. And there are things you can do, and I, you know, we can maybe dig a little bit deeper as to how we work around those risks. I think the important point is, one should do all of those things. But what’s equally as important is to build trust, and to build companies in a way that is very data centric with founders, and to agree on what the important things are, that really matter, which include a lot of the things that we take for granted, but also tie those to the fortunes of the company in a very measurable way, on a regular basis. And so when we invest in a company, we work together to establish 100 day plan before you write a check, we agree on what three things are going to matter for the next, you know, six months, and over time as you build that trust. And as you bring in other pieces of the puzzle to help create, you know, valuable companies. I think there’s a flywheel and a high return on effort on those things. So the short answer is you need both, you need to have strong investor rights, you need to have solutions for volatility. But above all, you need to deeply know who you’re working with, and have the right partners, and act with integrity over time to sort of select those like minded founders.

Jay Clouse 27:16
I want to ask a few questions to help set the table for those in the audience who are just ignorant of this culture like I am. You mentioned earlier that you spent some time thinking about what is different? What is the same? So somebody that’s familiar with startup culture, venture capital in United States, can you help lay some context to help us better understand what is different for people and founders living in Africa and the different countries within it? And maybe also, what is the same?

Rob Eloff 27:46
Sure, I think the biggest difference still is, if you just recenter us in history, when we started doing this three years ago, as a fund, and you know, seven years ago is angels, the amount of funding available in the space was a drop in the ocean. And it still is, and just to orientate everyone, you know, when we got started, there was roughly $250 million of venture funding for all of Africa, the whole continent, this predominantly went to Alec, South Africa, a little bit, Nigeria and Kenya, that number last year was over $2 billion. So there’s been tremendous growth in how much funding and company formation exists. And we’re roughly on track now with Southeast Asia around 2015, 2016. When the world got to know, companies like Gojek, and, and Grab, and that’s really exciting. But it’s thought a tiny drop in the ocean, in terms of what there is to be built. So the first big difference is, you know, as a founder, the availability of capital is a huge challenge. And so you find that entrepreneurship is more of a necessity than a choice. Most people in some way, shape or form are entrepreneurial, whether those are small family, businesses, micro enterprises, or single father companies, because of this lack of capital, ventures in Africa tend to prioritize profitability as much as they do growth. And it wasn’t until sort of the great reset that we’re living through in the US that it became fashionable, again, to focus on profitability, right. But that’s always been the case in Africa. And so you need to think about that in the context of being a founder, and building a company, and how diluted it can be, you know, raising around and then having to sprint for growth, but also keep an eye on profitability, and then try and raise a follow on round. That means that venture in Africa doesn’t often follow the Silicon Valley playbook where you’re raising, you know, a follow on round every 18 months or so roughly double the valuation and that’s something else that we needed to build. Because it can be massively diluted. And we’ve seen so many talented CEOs burning very small amounts of you know that what they’ve built, because of the sort of style of venture that we’ve become so used to on the west coast. In exchange, you have these companies that are growing at a very steady clip that are close to being profitable along the way. So that’s one challenge. I think the other is, I’m going to repeat myself, Africa is not a country, it’s depending on whose metrics you use 54 or 55 countries have roughly 1.3 billion people. And there’s such a great and exciting amount of diversity within this opportunity set that what works in Lagos won’t necessarily work in Nairobi. And so aside from sort of the really exciting cultural differences, there are also different landscapes in terms of to use adventure to, you know, the rails that you’re building on in Nigeria. Until recently, that has been a sort of a banks centric FinTech ecosystem, where if you bought a FinTech product, you’re going to be interacting with the banks to interact with your customers. On the other side of the continent. in East Africa, we have the largest mobile money ecosystem in the world. And Kenya built that and some of your listeners may have heard of M-Pesa. In in Kenya, which is, you know, mobile first commerce. And if you build a product in, you know, a FinTech ecosystem that uses banks, you need a different strategy to integrate with with mobile first. So this is one of the biggest challenges is you have different participants in each ecosystem, and you have different regulations as well. And achieving scale across multiple of these really exciting markets, is one of the biggest challenges. As a, as an investor and as a founder, to take your product to a second or third, large but very different market is is very different, difficult. And I’ll just round up there, because that’s sort of the second most important thing that we take for granted in the US is, you know, if you’re building a financial services products, you’ve got access to a huge population that uses the same regulations and connects by the same rules are pretty easy.

Eric Hornung 32:15
I love the concept of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when you’re looking at cities, they mentioned earlier. And a follow up question to that. And related to what you just said, if you’re looking at a third market to go into a third country to go into, what’s that scorecard look like to say this is we’re gonna go to Egypt instead of South Africa, or we’re gonna go to Chad instead of Burkina Faso, whatever it is.

Rob Eloff 32:39
Sure, sure. So one of the most important parts of of VC, as we all know is this focus on what you say no to, and return on time and effort. And for that reason, we focused on what we call foundational technology. So often people fall down into into rabbit holes on what what, you know, the semantics of something are, but foundational technology really means essential goods and services that can be delivered digitally. Irrespective of the cyclicality of incomes, how you know, the consumer class is doing. It’s extremely exciting how young and fast growing Africa is. But we’ve still got a long way to go and creating prosperity. If you just sort of double click on that headline that I offered earlier that the average income per household in Nigeria in 2020, is still less than $2,000 a year. So peeling back the layer on on sort of this hierarchy of needs. I think it’s important to keep your eye on the goal of building what can be the pillars of prosperity as this large market grows, but then focusing on how those products and services are delivered locally, as you achieve this growth, right. And so I want to use the example of one of our portfolio companies that I’m so excited about. Recently, in the US. There was the IPO of a company called Encino, a couple of weeks back, and it made headlines because it was up nearly 200% within a week. We invested in the Encino of Africa two years ago, which is a company based out of Lagos, that is building a digital operating system for banks. And this allows banks to reach that last mile customer. Everyone needs financial services products, but how expensive it is to service them and what technology you use to deliver savings. Lending insurance products really, really matters in these markets. And so this company has built this operating system of products that lift backs access that customer whether that requires clearing transactions, encrypting car transactions, providing a digital bank in a box solution. or interacting with something which is very predominant in Africa, which is the notion of agent networks, right. And so in Nigeria, you have these huge physical networks of people, that all agents for banks, and if you need to conduct a financial transaction, and you’re in rural Nigeria, an agent is who you do that with, and they, they manage these large floats of savings and let people cash in a cash shop that requires technology to do. So. With this investment that we made in this company in in Nigeria, we thought a lot about scale and what the next market was going to be. and Nigeria was big enough, you know, these guys cover 12 of the 18 large Nigerian banks, they have about 350, microfinance bank customers. So it’s a large business and a large market. But what we quickly realized is because their customers are banks, and not the individual consumer, and because these banks have growth, ambitions themselves, we could grow with our customers into other markets. And so to have their big bank customers, operational in 17 different African countries. And so here’s the opportunity to build products that can be used by a single b2b customer in 17. Markets, it is very important to build that the right way. And to focus on knowing that customer very well, I’m going to use that and generalize it to say, it’s important to understand what African corporates look like as customers, because they are very significant, are growing as well, and are looking to invest in technology to bring efficiency to their skill challenges. So hopefully that answers your question on how to go to a second market, well figure out what your customers need. And if you have a similar type of customer and a second or third market be that Cairo or Addis Ababa Nairobi, then it’s easier to scale your product and service to them.

Jay Clouse 36:59
What does looking for investments look like for Lateral Capital? And how does that compare to maybe some of the venture firms that we’ve had on the podcast or US based?

Rob Eloff 37:10
Sure, again, I think it’s really important to be able to measure this, and to have a very data centric approach to how this fast growing, you know, landscape is changing, and how you source investments in that context. And to orientate everyone. We started measuring three years ago, how many opportunities we were looking at, and where they were coming from, as we built a team that spans you know, really the whole continent. And at that time, we were looking at roughly 200 opportunities a year, we’re on track to increase that to 1000 this year. And we’ve seen just under $3 billion of individual deals in Sub Saharan Africa over the last three years. And what’s changed is, you know, the well known investors that all prisms and other markets are showing up. We’ve seen most excitingly a big focus from corporate US European companies that realize that, you know, the world is entering a period of growth that might be more challenging, look at Africa and say, we’re happy to invest in that growth here. This is one pocket of real growth that we’ll see. And how we find these opportunities, is something we’re really proud of, we measure sort of the difference between internal origination meaning deals coming from our existing founders, as well as our team on the ground and venture partners versus just sort of online. And cold intros are roughly three quarters of the deals we look at come from our team and market or our venture partners. And we look to make between five and eight investments a year to two companies subscribing to, you know, the thesis I’ve described so far. But you really do need to be deeply plugged into the local ecosystems. And you do need to build partnerships with those corporate partners that also want to be part of the story, whether that’s a fortune 500 company, or a private equity fund, that sort of coming earlier down market. It’s it’s very relationship driven. And it’s very important to understand that sort of at the local city level, but then also put it in a New York or San Francisco context, I think.

Jay Clouse 39:27
Do LPs recognize that was it difficult to get people to jump into this fund, they recognize that the the sounds like the distinct advantage that you guys have is that you have these boots on the ground relationships in market and that gives you an advantage. But if we’re not used to that cultural difference, we might not recognize that as an advantage.

Rob Eloff 39:46
We were very fortunate to partner with, you know, a small subset of investors early on, that tended to be quite entrepreneurial, had built businesses before, in many cases had built businesses in emerging countries before And had seen what that path looks like. And what I think is so important in the world we live in is, you know, in many ways capital is a commodity. And I’ll be the first person to say that venture capital has probably become quite an overfunded asset class, certainly here in the US, what really matters is the ability to pick up the phone and say, we’re building a digital identity company in Africa. And you’ve been involved in building something similar in another market. And this is how we’re thinking about building that. What would your advice be your what are our blind spots, that type of partner capital is just so important for venturing into these markets. And so you know, we got started with a number of investors like that for hitting scale. I think at the end of the day, it takes one trip for Africa, for LPs that you know, have come along to them to see what we see. And then the magic really happens. Because if something is just a good idea in Lagos, it might work out. And if something is just a good idea, New York, it might work out. But if something is a great idea, according to Lagos and New York, chances are there’s a valuable company to be built there. And so it’s just so important for us to be this bridge, between founder experience and value creation in it, you know, in both parts of, of the globe.

Eric Hornung 41:22
If something’s a valuable company in both of those places, that raises the question of, kind of what’s the moat of building an Africa? So you’ve mentioned FinTech a few times, why can’t stripe or plaid just pop over?

Rob Eloff 41:36
Sure. It’s a great time to talk about that. Because the the race for the flag of Africa is on. And even in the last three months that you know, the number of companies that are calling themselves, the flag for Africa has increased by, you know, three or four fold. And that moat is really important to understand, again, from the customer perspective. And I’ll answer your question with, you know, with a very real example, we made an investment in a company that does HR software, similar to a Workday or BambooHR for emerging markets earlier this year. And this is, you know, a founding team that we’ve been following for quite a while we spent the last year or so getting to know them, and really understanding what they’re trying to build. And along the way, we realized that to both, you know, SAS HR, yes, there’s a risk that workday says, you know, Africa is huge. And this is really investing in growth. But the price point at which an African corporate is going to acquire HR SaaS product is very different. The integrations with a payment ecosystem in Nigeria, to be able to distribute payroll, looks nothing like the US. And so it’s important to build that moat, first and foremost, through technology where possible, because absolutely, Africa is building world class technology. In many cases, you find founders exporting technology, from African markets into, you know, other developed markets first. So Africa, art is a real thing. And there is world class technology being developed in Africa. But secondly, a lot of mode is about your access to your customer. And the the way that you take friction out of a local ecosystem by building on on those rails and deeply understanding that, and then being, you know, an acquisition for some of these bigger international companies. In the case of this HR company that I mentioned, the aha moment for us, was when two or three of their large, multi African country or even multinational customers, made the switch from an incumbent Western product, be that SAP, Oracle, sage to their product, because it just worked better in the local ecosystem. And it was built to be scalable across multiple African markets without having to build a bespoke integration to each ecosystem. So yeah, murten Africa is about navigating the barriers to scale.

Eric Hornung 44:10
What about moats on capital, like, if you issued a term sheet to someone, and Sequoia issued a term sheet? What do you think? Do you think you get that or they get that same terms?

Rob Eloff 44:22
Yeah, you know, I, I really look forward to a world in which I’m going head to head with Sequoia on a term sheet. It although they have made a couple of small forays onto the continent, when that day comes, we will have you know, really receive the validation that everyone in the ecosystem is looking for. And I don’t think it’s that far away to go back to my analogy of Southeast Asia 2015 2016. This feels very similar. The numbers are uncanny in terms of company formation, in terms of who’s investing in companies right now. So we’re probably not too far away from that. What I would say to you is the other component of building lateral that you know, really gave us a shot in the arm that we’re on the right track is, there is a need for what we call lifecycle capital in Sub Saharan Africa. And when we started, we thought we were just going to be building a longer term, potentially evergreen venture vehicle, what we realize pretty quickly, you know, I’ve touched on the fact that founders do face huge dilution, because they’re prioritizing profitability and growth, there are opportunities to be a little bit more creative, and think about how to finance companies for what they need at that point in time. And this is why we have started introducing products like revenue based lending, or traditional debt for founders that, you know, we followed for quite a long time and have alignment with, and there’s a real need in the market for that. So we’ve made a couple of investments where it’s not traditional equity, there’s great amount of alignment in growing companies, and then paying down those non diluted financing structures, and then maybe raising another equity round when you know that the traction warrants doing that, that’s very attractive for all our piece as well, because the rates of return on that are very attractive. But that is my mode against Sequoia is, I can be your partner at company formation stage. And I can still be there at Series B, and we know each other very well by then. And I can move fast and provide the revenue base learn to release another product, I’ve helped you hire in your local market, I’ve helped you go from west to east Africa, that’s something that the size of your balance sheet doesn’t, you know, necessarily provide superiority with as much as a approach that meets the market where it is today. And really sort of thinks deeply about what follows needs all rather than copy pasting models that have worked elsewhere.

Jay Clouse 46:54
I want to go back to another point of different versus the same and talk about you’re leading this fund, the way you’re describing this, it, I just get a sense that it’s a little bit more high touch for you working with these companies, and it would be for a managing partner at a venture firm here in the US, which makes me think about well, how does Rob manage his time? What does it look like for you dedicating time to your portfolio companies, and even partners, because it feels like not as many people are co investing with you to share that burden.

Rob Eloff 47:26
So I think the most important part of this is that you need a strong diversity of partners in your own team, which we’ve tried to build it lateral to meet those various needs, there’s no way that you know, one person with with their experience can conserve all those funding needs. And we very intentionally looked for, you know, filling in the gaps, as we bought the team at lateral. And that’s been one of the most rewarding part of the journeys, is seeing the magic that happens when my partner Ochuwa in Lagos, helps founders verbalize and put, you know, Don, on record, what the blind spots are going to be in the next three months? And how are we going to work around that. And she’s just great at that, you know, she comes from a background where she’s worked at a large corporate in Nigeria, she’s seen who the customers are these companies, she’s seen how quickly it’s growing in her own market. But she has an entire skill set that that I just don’t have. Similarly, you know, in East Africa, my partner Samakab, there has been investing, you know, off his own capital in East Africa for a long time, but has also worked in distressed, you know, dead companies in the UK, and venture debt. And those were some of the biggest funder funds in the world that invested in China and India, and the middle east along the way. So I think what’s really important is, firstly, never to over promise and under deliver, which I think happens a lot in VC. And there are a lot of funny memes on Twitter about VCs adding value, whether that’s, you know, helping the train leaves the station or rearranging the deck chairs, that’s pretty funny. But sadly true, there’s a lot of will add value will add value, but were hands off.

Jay Clouse 49:13
Let me know how I can be helpful.

Rob Eloff 49:14
There you go. So I think you do need to build a team that fills in each other’s blind spots, and realize what you’re not good at, and step away when you’re going to do more harm than good. But for us, we’ve sort of got this philosophy that although being very rigorous, and you know, you’re you’re making investments, processes important. That’s really the easy part. Right? The hard part starts once you’ve written the check, and you do need, you know, a Swiss Army Knife of tools to do that. But you also need to be flexible. And to say all companies at this stage are required to be these four things doesn’t work. You need to continue to iterate and continue to think about you know where help is wanted. This is where to bring in those other skill sets if you don’t have them yourself. And I think the great thing with sort of this space in Africa is, hopefully, you know, VC is approaching it with a little bit more humility. Because the founder journey in Africa, I know it’s hard in the US, but trust me, it’s more than 10 times harder in Africa,

Eric Hornung 50:23
We started this conversation around apartheid and a minority kind of having all the privileges in a African country. And one thing that we hear a lot on the podcast, is, there’ll be some home run that comes out of Columbus or Cincinnati. And the first people that swoop in are Bay Area investors, and all the excess returns get sucked out to the Bay Area. I’m just kind of curious. And I don’t know how exactly it fits into lateral. But how you feel about the moral impact of financialization of Africa?

Rob Eloff 50:57
Yeah, that’s such an important question. And I think it’s important to have a very long term, and then a narrative perspective on that. And I think that it’s right, for, particularly recently, you know, in this historic moment that we’re going through in the US, there to be some deep thinking about who is earning the dividends for for whose labor and very important for us to learn from history, and not to repeat mistakes from the past, the most important thing that can happen for Africa, as its part in, you know, a very significant leader of the world home to such a huge part of the global population, but also, the potential to to be innovative, is for there to be participation from local capital, and for local founders, to build what they’re building, but also give back and bring other people along on their coattails. And that absolutely happens today. We’ve seen so many amazing things happen when founders talk to founders, about common experiences, that really has a multiplier effect. Equally exciting, is African capital, is starting to interact with its own ecosystem. And that’s still got a long way to go. But make no mistake, whether you’re an African pension fund, or bank, or Angel network, Africa realizes its own potential. And even in the last four years, you know, as a global venture fund with a deep African presence and African roots, one of the biggest catalysts that excites us is the participation of local capital in this ecosystem. But there’s a lot more work to be done. Because, you know, capital is just easier to come by and in the US and in developed markets, it’s it’s important to have great co investors, and we’re fortunate to have that support and to be collaborative, it’s important to realize that you’re a guest in certain ecosystems, and that you need to be very, very mindful of path things are done. But I think there is alignment here. And I think this is a real chance to not fall victim to history and reset the narrative by combining forces. And we’ve seen that magic happen in our team, which is why we love the joke that you know, a Somali Kenyan and Nigerian woman and Afrikaans boy, and a Jewish hustler from Brooklyn walk into a bar. And that’s called Lateral Capital. Because at the end of the day, that’s when good things happen.

Jay Clouse 53:35
Amazing. Well, Rob, thanks so much for being here. If people want to learn more about you, or Lateral Capital after the show, where should they go?

Rob Eloff 53:42
Yeah, absolutely. We’re super excited to connect with anyone who wants to be part of this journey, they can reach out to us via our website at or find us on Twitter.

Eric Hornung 53:55
We hear so much in the headlines about, you know FinTech in Africa, we hear so much about payments in Africa, we hear so much about how 90 whatever percent of people do everything on their cell phone in Africa, we hear so much about foreign direct investment by China, in Africa and the currency situation. But I gotta imagine that, and this is a broad question. There’s some stuff happening underneath those headlines. So what’s the most exciting stuff that’s not happening in the Wall Street Journal, or being reported in the Wall Street Journal to you?

Rob Eloff 54:25
You know, I think one of those things all super exciting. And this petri dish of, you know, experimenting with venture in Africa is tremendously exciting. But under the hood, there is a search for scalable digital products that fit in very important layers of, you know, all of our lives. And one specific example that you don’t read about often in in the Wall Street Journal, is the way that this could be connected to create universal digital identity. Right and so much My wife makes fun of me that I wake up at three o’clock in the morning and think, Wow, how cool would it be if that was, you know, like via USSD technology or via a mobile number. That is one thing that could really transform the continent is, by having one single unique identifier, you can form a profile of an individual with various data points across, whether that’s mobile money, or a lending product in a bank FinTech ecosystem, or even just, you know, their national database ID in any of these countries. And if that was interoperable? Well, then the world looks really different. Because I think the picture that that would paint is based on the cash flow history of an Uber driver in Nigeria, they’re actually a great credit. You know, this is someone who shows up every day. And I think that way of, it’s often called leapfrogging and it’s a very overused word, but not having to go from A to B to get to C is is sometimes happening in slightly unsexy ways. One other example from our, you know, portfolios. So much excitement exists around energy in Africa, and the potential to bring, you know, bring power to this huge continent. And there have been car crashes and success stories. And a lot of money has gone into the space. And you see often pictures of you know, solar panels on rural communities in African villages. Well, what you don’t read about, you know, in the Wall Street Journal is that there are companies using radio and mesh network technology and IoT, to enable large power utilities and the small solar companies to measure the profile of their customers and the efficacy of their product all in the cloud. And one of those companies is a portfolio company of ours called spark meter that was bought by MIT engineers, and is now selling that product to big and small customers on the continent. So I’ll summarize it by saying the digital plumbing for Africa is really exciting. And hopefully one day it comes to the US because how I can use it.

Eric Hornung 57:04
Let’s bring in Kevin Kinross, a partner at Taft Stettinius and Hollister to teach us about forming a company. Taft is a full service law firm known for assisting entrepreneurs across the Heartland. As a reminder, the following remarks by Taft’s attorneys are for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. This information is not intended to create and receive it does not constitute an attorney client relationship. No person or organization should act upon this information without first seeking professional counsel. Kevin, how’s it going? Thanks for coming on. How’s your day going?

Kevin Kinross 57:34
It’s going great. Thanks for having me on. It’s fun to take a little break from the norms participate on your show.

Jay Clouse 57:38
I can’t imagine a better lunch break than recording some of this. Kevin, we’ve heard that in the world of startups, you should either incorporate in Delaware or your home state is Delaware really where I need to incorporate and if a founder wants her company to be a Delaware company, does she physically have to be present there to reap the benefit,

Kevin Kinross 57:57
What your initial state of incorporation is can be changed. And as you look to where you should form your corporation, a number of factors come in including what your future growth plans look like and what your future need for additional capital may be with either your initial funding or your series A round the investors with who are providing that funding could require you to re domesticate your company to Delaware. So in some eyes, it does make sense to start off in Delaware. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do that. Just recognizing and assuming that when that next round of funding comes in, you very likely may have to read a messy case. And this also applies to if you’re a LLC or talking about C Corp. The reason why individuals really do push towards Delaware is primarily three. The first one is well established Chancery court, the Delaware court system provides a jury free court system, at least for a complex business matters that come in at the Chancery court level with judges are well versed on these matters. The second one is the flexibility that it provides for your composition of your board of directors. And finally, a lot of the investors we’re dealing with already have their investment documents that they’re gonna be providing to you drafted under Delaware law, and they’re gonna want to not reinvent the wheel just for your financing. Regardless of whether you’re in Delaware, Ohio or some other state, you’re not required to have a physical presence there. Unless you’re a regulated industry that may be required under those statutes are not required to have a physical presence, you are required to have a statutory agent. And just to kind of tie it up in a bow from my very first sense. These are things that can be changed.

Eric Hornung 59:22
Awesome. And if people want to learn more about Taft or yourself, where should they go?

Kevin Kinross 59:27

Eric Hornung 59:34
All right, Jay, we just spoke with Rob from Lateral Capital. Let’s talk about the future of Africa. What was your kind of biggest takeaway? What was your biggest surprise moment in this interview?

Jay Clouse 59:45
Well, we got some of our favorite things which are big numbers, big numbers that are growing quickly. And it does feel like despite being chronically under invested in much like many of the states that we talked about here in United States, you know, the the feeling of Africa to global is a lot like the feeling of Texas to national or probably even more so like Georgia to national.

Eric Hornung 1:00:10
What do you think? What’s the thing called like on the SATs when they have those?

Jay Clouse 1:00:14

Eric Hornung 1:00:15
Voted us?

Jay Clouse 1:00:16

Eric Hornung 1:00:16
Cool. All right keep on going.

Jay Clouse 1:00:18
And so it seems like it is getting more investment, but it’s still very, very much behind. So, you know, Rob is somebody who is probably among a small handful of people who has as much experience looking into this market as anybody else. If there’s going to be opportunity here in our lifetime, and opportunity capitalized. Seems like Rob’s in a really good position to be one of those people.

Eric Hornung 1:00:40
Yeah, one of the things that stood out to me was this 1 billion people in population with an average age of under 25, and a forecast to be 2 billion by 20 5030 years from now doubling population. I know that it’s not always the case that more population means more economic output. But it has been a pretty decent indicator in the past, at least,

Jay Clouse 1:01:02
We didn’t dig into that. Do we think that’s because the age expectation will rise? It’s probably a large part of it.

Eric Hornung 1:01:10
I would assume it’s partly that, I would assume is just natural aging. If you happen to have a young population and fertility rates are high enough or higher than death rates, I guess, I guess that’s the the core of it, fertility rates are going to be higher than death rates by a substantial margin. And because of that, there’s going to be a lot more potential consumers in the African economy. And it always feels weird to refer to it as Africa as a whole. Because we don’t do that with almost any other part of the, I guess we do with Europe a bit, but they’re actually a European Union. We do with Southeast Asia, but most other countries which have large populations, we kind of segment them out a little bit more. And Africa is a massive place.

Jay Clouse 1:01:54
And it’s a continent, it’s not a country. This is something that I keep screwing up as well.

Eric Hornung 1:01:58
Did I just say country?

Jay Clouse 1:01:59

Eric Hornung 1:02:00
Oh. See, look at that.

Jay Clouse 1:02:01
I think I did a minute ago. And so yeah, they’re part of this conversation that stuck with me is how fragmented in a lot of senses of the word, the continent is the countries are the way business is done across these countries is, which seems to be a little bit of Rob, lateral capitals, their portfolios advantage is they’re starting to build relationships across the different areas of the continent. One other stat that popped out to me that he mentioned was 99% of companies do less than $5 million in revenue each year. And that sounds like woah, there’s only 1% of companies that does more than 5 million each year. But I wonder what that analog would be united states because a company has more than $5 million dollars is nothing to scoff at. It’s a sizable company. So it’s probably not quite as crazy as it might have immediately hit me in the interview. But, you know, the downstream effect is a small subset of companies, are these venture investable, traditionally, companies that we talked about on the show a lot.

Eric Hornung 1:02:58
I also wonder what the like, if you wanted to take an analog there, whether that’s actually the right analog, whether it might be? what’s the what’s the right number to get your percentage of companies, because the GDP per capita in the United States versus some of these countries in Africa is probably 10x maybe more different? So is 5 million really the right number for a business? Or can you be a really successful company at 2 million, and you’re just incredibly profitable. And that’s a very big company in Africa. And we just use this random barometer of 5 million because it’s something people can get their heads around in the West. Is Africa in the West, you compass the west.

Jay Clouse 1:03:36

Eric Hornung 1:03:37
You kind of have Africa is East but Europe becomes the West?

Jay Clouse 1:03:40
No, America Yukon is the West.

Eric Hornung 1:03:43
You don’t call Europe as the West?

Jay Clouse 1:03:44

Eric Hornung 1:03:45
You can’t Europe is the east. So Europe’s with Asia and China.

Jay Clouse 1:03:49

Eric Hornung 1:03:49

Jay Clouse 1:03:50
We were just talking before we started recording that I’m not geographically sound, though. So listeners, you let us know if we’re off here.

Eric Hornung 1:03:57
Well, when I say West, I’m talking about Western culture, not specifically the geography.

Jay Clouse 1:04:02
Oh, got it. Yeah, I don’t know.

Eric Hornung 1:04:06
Okay, we know nothing. Just a bunch of dumb guys on mics.

Jay Clouse 1:04:10
We know that Lateral Capital’s deal flows increasing. They looked at 200 opportunities per year when they started, they’re on track to hit 1000 opportunities this year, you see more than $3 billion in deals in Sub Saharan Africa, most of which 75% of which come from his team in different markets in Africa, part of his moat that he’s building through his team and through having real boots on the ground.

Eric Hornung 1:04:32
Yeah, I’ll be interested to see how that continues to play out. I assume that there’s going to be a large growth in entrepreneurship in Africa if this thesis is to hit so that’ll be a good leading indicator to see that deal flow continuing to creep up not because of anything laterals doing but because the thesis is actually coming to fruition. And I think we kind of anecdotally already see that. I know when my brother was getting his master’s degree. Five of his classmates decided to move back to Africa and start a company there versus starting in the United States. Super anecdotal there. But I wonder if that’s becoming more and more of a trend?

Jay Clouse 1:05:12
We’ll find out and we’d love to hear more. So if you your listener, have a company in Africa that you think we should speak with or if you have some thoughts on this market, you can tweet at us or at Eric, he is @ekhornung, and I am @JayClouse. Otherwise we’ll talk to you next week. That’s all for this week. Thanks for listening. We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s guest. So shoot us an email at or find us on Twitter @upsideFM. We’ll be back here next week at the same time talking to another founder and our quest to find upside outside of Silicon Valley. If you or someone you know would make a good guess for our show, please email us or find us on Twitter and let us know. And if you love our show, please leave us a review on iTunes. That goes a long way in helping us spread the word and continue to help bring high quality guests to the show. Eric and I decided there were a couple things we wanted to share with you at the end of the podcast. And so here we go. Eric Hornung and Jay Clouse are the founding parties of the upside podcast. At the time of this recording. We do not own equity or other financial interest in the companies which appear on this show. All opinions expressed by podcast participants are solely their own opinion and do not reflect the opinions of Duffin Phelps LLC and its affiliates under a collective LLC and its affiliates or any entity which employ us. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. We have not considered your specific financial situation nor provided any investment advice on this show. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.

Interview begins: 7:18
Debrief: 59:34

Rob Eloff has spent his career investing, living, and working in developing markets. Prior to co-founding Lateral Capital he was a Venture Partner with Conversion Capital and established Frontier Dawn Partners, an evergreen vehicle for capital deployment to early-stage, technology-enabled founding teams in sub-Saharan Africa.

Rob started his career in capital markets at JP Morgan, Johannesburg, became an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs and Investment Director at ACI. He spent ten years based in Johannesburg, Moscow, and London transitioning across hedge fund coverage and private equity buyout advisory in markets including sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Rob holds a masters degree in finance from Cambridge University and a bachelor’s degree with dual majors in philosophy and economics from the University of Cape Town.

Key points:

  • South Africa over the years 9:22
  • BRICS 12:35
  • Philosophy and Finance 15:51
  • Is 10 years time horizon long enough? 17:17
  • Lateral Capital 19:51
  • Investing across countries 23:51
  • Difference and Similarities in investing in Africa to other countries 27:46
  • Scorecard in determining the next country 32:39
  • Lateral Capital looking for investments 36:59
  • Impact of financialization in Africa 50:23

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