Before joining TLcom, Omame had worked variously as an investment banker and private equity investor. She was also the founding Managing Director of Endeavor Nigeria, the Nigerian chapter of the global network of the elite entrepreneur support network, Endeavor Global. With more than 20 years of experience in investing and business leadership, including time at General Atlantic, FirstBank Nigeria and Credit Suisse, TLcom says her “track record in early-stage investing will prove vital as TLcom expands its current portfolio”.
In January last year, Omame and Piggyvest’s Odunayo Eweniyi, co-founded FirstCheck Africa, a female-focused early-stage venture capital firm that has already invested in 10 female-founded or co-founded tech startups including Pivo, Akiba Digital and Healthtracka, to mention a few.
By adding another partner TLcom’s leadership is now a team of 5, 3 of whom are women. TLcom is also co-investing $2 million into FirstCheck Africa’s $10mn debut fund.
Beyond provisioning capital
Bringing Omame into the TLcom partner fold is part of TLcom’s preparations to expand its standard investment strategy beyond supporting seed and series-stage companies. The VC wants to expand its deal flow and investments into pre-seed territory, to double down on its commitment to support tech entrepreneurs in Africa.
TLcom is not alone in resetting its lens to focus farther afield. VC juggernauts, Tiger Global and D1 Capital, among others, have also moved to bring capital to younger firms. This is partly a response to the different macro outlook for VCs and partly an acknowledgement that by coming in earlier, investors are better positioned to influence a business’ outcome and reap better returns from successful exits.
Another way of looking at it is that by seeking to invest early, fund life projections may have been reset. It is also conceivable that VCs expect the downturn to take some time to sift failures and inspire new ventures, so investing earlier is a better option for firms still looking to deploy capital and pursue a slightly longer route to collect on the boon of their investments. For investors like TLcom who are building a reputation for patiently walking their portfolio companies to maturity, investing early is truly doubling down on that strategy.
Omame notes that in choppy financing environments, underrepresented entrepreneurs tend to be worse hit. “That’s why it becomes important when you reference high-touch dynamics… [and] why it is important that the investors you have on the table are investors that have the experience and also have the commitment to help [the startup] navigate the more difficult environment,” she adds.
“The VC ecosystem [in Africa] is maturing… We want to make sure that we continue to have a meaningful position and that means having high-quality deal flow.”~ Maurizio Caio, founder and Managing Partner at TLcom
Commenting on TLcom’s strategy, Ido Sum, TLcom Partner described it as “more concentrated.” He admits that working closely with founders as they build their businesses may not work for other VCs, but notes that supporting the entrepreneur’s building journey rather than financing is how TLcom prefers to operate.
In addition to seeking pre-seed investment opportunities, TLcom is expanding its ticket size. The firm will now commit between $500,000 to $15 million to the startups that it invests into. With 13 companies in their portfolio, the TLcom team wishes to invest in an additional 17 to bring the total to 30.
Recall that in January this year, TLcom announced a $70 million first close of its $150 million TIDE Africa II fund. The TIDE Africa Fund itself was set up to invest in mostly infrastructure-type tech startups. That focus shows in TLcom’s portfolio. The firm backs Kenya’s Twiga Foods and Nigeria’s Kobo360, both of which have strong physical components as part of their business.
“The VC ecosystem [in Africa] is maturing,” Maurizio Caio, founder and Managing Partner at TLcom tells TechCabal on call. “We want to make sure that we continue to have a meaningful position and that means having high-quality deal flow,” he adds.
To the north’s “star”
TLcom is not only deepening its commitment to African founders, but the company is also expanding longitudinally with a northward push that will see it consider investment opportunities in Egypt.
Egypt is on a bull run in terms of funding Egypt-based or focused startups have received recently. By the end of the first quarter of this year, Egyptian startups had raised $150 million, with a significant number of the deals being seed and early series rounds.
“When we look at where the opportunity lies,” TLcom’s Caio says, “it is very clear that over the last few years, Egypt has emerged as a very strong candidate to produce entrepreneurs that can generate those returns that will attract over time more capital.”
“It is our duty to make sure that we play all of our cards to deliver the best possible returns including picking the environment and the ecosystem that, in our opinion, have the best chances of producing successful entrepreneurs,” he concludes.