Meet the judges for Startup Battle Africa 2018
TechCrunch will hold its second annual Startup Battlefield Africa contest in Lagos, Nigeria on December 11. The pitch-off competition highlights the finest talent from across the region, from which TechCrunch’s panel of experts and judges will select “Sub-Saharan Africa’s most promising startup”. The winners will receive US$25,000 in no-equity cash, and a place to compete at TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield to be held at Disrupt 2019.
This year, the judges selected by TechCrunch have a background in fintech. Business Chief takes a look at the five startup veterans that will choose the most promising startup south of the Sahara.
Olugbenga Agboola, Flutterwave
Headquartered in San Francisco, and with offices across Africa and Europe, Flutterwave is a payment service provider for global merchants, providing an integrated platform for international transactions. CEO Olugbenga Agboola has a background in software engineering, and helped develop fintech solutions at companies like PayPal and Standard Bank.
Barbara Iyayi, Element
Element Inc is a global artificial intelligence software provider specialising in deploying mobile biometrics software to develop digital platforms. Barbara Ilayi has served as the company’s chief growth officer since August. Previously she was part of the founding team for Atlas Mara, an investment vehicle for African financial institutions. She also spent three years as the vice president of global investment banking at JP Morgan in New York.
Aaron Fu, MEST Africa
Spending the past five years focused on the African region, Aaron Fu specialises in early stage investment, entrepreneurship, and providing strategic advice services to startups looking to scale up and to corporations exploring the opportunities of disruptive innovation. He currently also serves as the managing director of MEST, where he manages a portfolio of over 30 fintech, media, e-commerce and agritech startups.
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Sam Gichuru, Nailab
As founder and CEO of Nailab, one of Kenya’s leading business incubators, Sam Gichuru “ has been instrumental in propagating the development of a strong and vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem” in the region. In 2015, Gichuru served as a key speaker at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, held in Nairobi, which was officiated by then U.S. President Barack Obama.
Olufunbi Falayi, Savannah Fund
Serving as a partner at Passion Incubator since 2013, Olufunbi Falayi provides investment and guidance to early-stage tech startups across the region. He has co-led investments in 12 startups, including Riby, BeatDrone, AdsDirect, TradeBuza and Waracake.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.