Two years before Youcef Oudjidane co-founded Sudanese fintech Bloom after failing to find startups tackling currency depreciation in Africa to invest in, he was managing partner and head of EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). ) at Class 5 Global, a San Francisco company. venture capital funds with a keen interest in emerging markets.
But Class 5 wasn’t his first chance to invest. At Solebury Capital, a boutique investment bank later acquired by PNC Financial Services, the UK-born, Algerian-born entrepreneur was a senior partner and worked on several tech IPOs, including Snapchat. And in 2017, he joined as Head of Strategy and Investments at the Dubai Future Foundation, a small team that launched the Government of Dubai’s first venture capital fund.
At Class 5, Oudjidane led investments in African startups such as Telda, Dash, Moove and Chari. The investor also partnered with several professional football (soccer) players like Mesut Ozil who was a venture capital partner. His relationship with soccer players — Oudjidane played the sport at college level and won scholarships — and other athletes proved invaluable for his next venture: Byld Ventures, a $15 million fund launched in May. and focused on early stage startups in Africa. More than a dozen athletes have backed the fund, along with the government of Dubai and several unnamed institutional LPs.
“Over the past 12 months, founders in Africa have contacted me for advice and I have personally invested,” the founding partner said in an interview. “So I decided to institutionalize it and set up a fund.”
Byld Ventures hit its first close almost in June and a second close at $10 million last month. He expects to reach his final at the end of the year, Oudjidane said. The seed fund – which has made four investments: Ceviant, Apata, Thepeer and Anchor – is made up of four venture capital partners, mainly Oudjidane-backed founders: Ahmed Sabbah (CEO of Telda), Prince Boampong (CEO of Dash ), Skehinah Adewumi (CEO of Apata) and Kieran Gibbs, professional footballer.
Oudjidane believes that Africa is at the intersection of opportunity, i.e. the next billion people to go online – and judging by its current pipeline of pre-seed-stage startups, fintech is which intrigues his fund.
“We invest early, sometimes in the pre-pitch deck; Ideally, we only joke once we have resigned”, specifies the founding partner. “We strive to be at the head of the foundation of business creation; we want to be there on the first day. Fintech is our bread and butter. It’s just what we know and what we love.
Byld Ventures’ portfolio also suggests that the fund prefers supporting startups building APIs and infrastructure games in the fintech segment. RaliCap, an emerging markets fund, runs an identical portfolio setup. Investing in startups building financial infrastructure is one of the main themes of Byld Ventures, in addition to reversing Africa’s brain drain and repeat founders. For the latter, three of the company’s investments went to founders who had successful exits: Skehinah Adewumi’s Touchtech Payments, Idris Saliu’s VANSO and Segun Adeyemi’s Amplify were acquired by Stripe, Interswitch and Carbon respectively.
“I doubt many investors have our knowledge of fintech in Africa,” the founding partner replied on why fintech founders would choose Byld Ventures when they go out to raise pre-seed checks. “We build deep, personal bonds with founders, perhaps a byproduct of our openness and vulnerability. For example, some founders are reluctant to seek advice from investors when the proverbial shit hits the fan; chances are we’ve been through worse. We believe in the power of intellectual honesty and independent thinking to help make the best decisions. »
And in terms of what the company looks for in founders, Oudjidane says Byld pays particular attention to those who are technical, committed and frugal. “I think the fit between the founder problem and the founder is also key, because we know how hard it is to start a business and there are a lot of side effects on the founder,” adds- he.
The four-month venture capital firm does not intend to invest in more than 15 to 20 portfolio companies in this first fund, Oudjidane said. According to him, Byld is not a “spray and pray shop” and will invest an average of $500,000 in startups while reserving about 50% of the fund for follow-up.
Byld Ventures has eyes for startups primarily across Egypt and Nigeria due to partners’ experiences in these markets; however, he will also keep tabs on Ethiopia and Algeria – the latter a biased pick citing Oudjidane’s roots. That said, on a personal note, Oudjidane is one of the few people on the continent to juggle the roles of founder and investor simultaneously; in his case, a Sudan-based fintech and a UK-based fund. He says the somatic synergies between the two functions give him that privilege. “Bloom and Byld are personal to me. I believe in the potential of Africa and I want to dedicate my life to ‘bylding’. [this generation] to spearhead change,” said the founding partner.