Preserving the pipeline: Ventures Platform's Aina on alleviating the effects of Covid-19 on early-stage Nigerian companies

Kola Aina, Ventures Platform

When the Covid-19 crisis hit, Kola Aina (pictured), partner at Abuja-based early stage fund Ventures Platform, started comparing notes with partners the company works with around the globe. The end result was the launch of the Nigeria Impact Startup Relief Facility, or NISRF, to bring together early stage investors in African startups that have been hit by the pandemic.

"The focus of the program is on early stage companies that are high growth, high impact and post revenue, in order to support the lifeline of companies that ordinarily would do well apart from Covid. The first phase is mainly focused on companies in Nigeria," says Aina.

The initiative is backed by two founding partners: New York-based global impact fund Acumen and Ventures Platform. The third partner is called LoftyInc Allied Partners, a VC firm based in Lagos, Nigeria. The founding partners are open to other investors joining the consortium of contributing investors.

"During one particular conversation with Acumen we reflected on the potential impacts of some of the progress we had been making in the ecosystem over the last five years, particularly around the increase in quality of startups that we’re starting to see," explained Aina.

“If you were in our ecosystem looking to invest five years ago, for instance, you would struggle to find high quality early stage companies. So for us it seems like the pandemic was really going to frustrate a lot of the work and improvement we’d been seeing in terms of an increase in investable companies. So for one, it was really about preserving the pipeline for the ecosystem,” he added.

Aina continued: “The other reason we designed this program is to encourage more philanthropic capital or grant capital that is designed in a way that doesn’t distort the market. Every developed innovation ecosystem requires different forms of capital: equity capital, philanthropic capital, and we haven't seen philanthropic capital being applied to driving innovation in high growth businesses to the extent we should have across the continent.”

Listen in to the podcast to find out more about early stage funding in the Nigerian ecosystem, what advice Aina would give startups at the moment and how he believes the pandemic will affect the African economy long term.