3 Thursday AM Reads – Fashion Startups | Wizkid Hits New Levels | 3D Printing in Africa

  1. The retail industry is so different from just a few years ago. I remember buying a shirt from Everlane when all the startup made were t-shirts. The kicker that got me to spend my money was that I could get better quality for cheaper because there were no retailers like Macy’s selling the product and trying to get a cut. My pieces came directly from Everlane. This model has really caught on with fashion startups going from raising $22m in 2010 to nearly $236m in 2015.

  2. Aside from the awkward photo of Wizkid sitting on an imaginary toilet, here is a cool piece on the attention the Nigerian vibe-dispenser is attracting globally. This was quite the year for notable collaborations. Wizkid, Drake and Skepta took the cake with their remix to Ojuelegba. I’m vibing to it as I write, in fact.

  3. Here’s an interesting case for African countries taking a coordinated approach to investing in 3D manufacturing capacity development. I would be interested in seeing some data on the growth of 3D printing globally.


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Osiakwan: Africa’s Time is Now

Eric Osiakwan stated this at the Africa Technology Summit a couple weeks ago, and from what I hear the Summit was a great success. Something of a debate broke out on what sub-sector of the technology industry was the next big thing in Africa. Eric pointed out communication, content and commerce and their impact on health, markets, and education. Another panelist, Pat Wilson, argued for trade finance, supply chain finance, agriculture, and women’s content (would be interested in hearing more about this).

Along the lines of the infrastructure-related solutions mentioned by Eric and Pat, I have questions like what are the latest technologies for road pavement so tractor trailers can move goods more reliably? Who is working on oil valve technology that enable oil companies to deal with oil theft a bit better? Who is developing technology to better manage port traffic?

If you have suggestions of folks with whom I should connect who are working on this stuff, let me know!

From my perspective, I think Africa’s time being now will become more tangible when conversations tackling these sorts of infrastructure questions are happening. I’ve been thinking about these questions ever since watching Something Ventured earlier this year. Watch it and let me know what questions come up for you regarding Africa’s technology sector.

Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, posted a tweet that I haven’t been able to track down. It said something to the effect of Silicon Valley is the product tester for the world. I bristled when I saw this, though it may be true to some extent. For Africa, mPesa has been the flag bearer for taking some of that market share away from Silicon Valley, but there has got to be more of this across the continent.

Bright Simons made a good argument in a post from years ago on leapfrogging being a set of tools and techniques that will enable Africa to hack infrastructure. Framing leapfrogging that way opens the door to systematic thinking about this: the end goal is “X”. Here is the road map to get there. Events like the Africa Technology Summit, Demo Africa, among others help get us to that systematic thinking. At least I hope they do.

This was a bit of a ramble, but I am interested in what you think about Africa’s technology sector. Leave comments below or email me.


3 Tuesday PM Reads – Power Struggle | Renewables Rescue the Day |Startups for Demographics

  1. Jacqueline Musiitwa shares personal anecdotes on the struggle of working in Lusaka when the power is out. Lights off is a situation Africans across the continent experience, and it impacts education, bottom lines, and general quality of life – for women, especially. Jacqueline points to initiatives like the Power Africa initiative as important in alleviating unreliable power supply across the continent.

  2. Speaking of power, Jake Cusack and other players in the renewable energy space recently shared insights on the possibilities for renewable energy and power provision now that renewable energy costs are competitive with fossil fuels. Some highlights from the piece – global subsidies for coal, oil, and natural gas totaling $550b compared to $120b for renewables; 10k customers in African countries signing up for renewable energy; and global investments in renewable energy growing from $40b in 2004 to $320b in 2011.

  3. Ablorde Ashigbi wrote a really solid analysis of the prospects for venture-backed firms seeking to serve a particular demographic. He uses Walker & Company and its first brand Bevel, a shaving system targeting black men (whenever I get out of Sampson mode and shave my beard, I look forward to using the product) as a case study.


3 Friday PM Reads – $50M to GetYourGuide | Race and Justice in America | Bitcoin, the Blockchain and Black People

  1. Kudos to fellow Woodberry Forest Tigers Johannes, Tao Tao and the rest of the Get Your Guide team on the $50m they raised from KKR. More vim to them as they continue helping folks have enjoyable trips around the world. I would be remiss to give a shoutout to Cherae and the Tastemakers Africa team and their push to get folks to see Africa as a destination for dope experiences, not just safaris.

  2. The Atlantic and Ta-Nehisi Coates hosted an important session yesterday on the state of race and justice in America. Consider taking some time this weekend to watch some of the conversations – in particular, take a look at the conversations on incarceration, sentencing drug offenders, and hope.

  3. Bitcoin, and increasingly the blockchain, has been on my mind. I got an email earlier this week listing two venture capital firms as having made more than 40 investments in startups working on bitcoin and/or blockchain technologies since 2012. Bitcoin is a completely new digital currency. The blockchain could completely change the way we give and receive information, data, money, making all these transactions instantaneously and centralizing the recording of these transactions. I am concerned about the extent to which the conversation around these technologies is not penetrating communities that underrepresented in Silicon Valley. Some next steps for me are to keep learning about the technology and to acquire some, and connecting with minorities working on developing bitcoin or blockchain technology. I’m happy to connect with people in your networks who are working on this.

3 Tuesday AM Reads/Views – Talib Kweli and Indie 500 | Kara Nortman Breaks Down E-Commerce | NJ Ayuk Takes Centurion to New Heights

  1. Within five minutes of meeting NJ Ayuk a few years ago, his gravitas came through clearly. After hanging out with him a bit longer, I figured his law firm, Centurion Law Group, was going to be a force across Africa. Here’s a cool video the firm just released. Be sure to check out the rest of the site and sign up for the firm’s newsletter.

  2. Talib Kweli penned a short history of how he got to the point of releasing his latest album, Indie 500 with 9th Wonder. I look forward to checking out the album.

  3. Kara Nortman, a partner at Upront Ventures, breaks down the categories within the behemoth that has become e-commerce. While I see the categories she outlines as more layers within e-commerce than buckets, her points are very interesting. In particular, the merchandising section caught my eye. Having a catalog of my wardrobe and companies selling into that is pretty compelling for someone like me. I have clear needs and criteria for what I will purchase (no more than six/seven shirts that all work with a suit or jeans, brown shoes always, etc), so something like this would be helpful for me as winter is coming and I am yet to purchase more blue v-neck sweaters or have my boots re-soled.

Thursday AM Thoughts

Apologies for missing Tuesday’s post. I’m a bit jumbled on helpful content to post, but here’s some of what’s on my mind.

Alassane Ouattara’s Second Term

Alassane Ouattara stepped into his second and final term as President of Ivory Coast earlier this week. Five years ago, President Ouattara was barricaded in a hotel after Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters refused to step down after an election that didn’t go their way.

Today, Ivory Coast has taken its cocoa production to new heights though it is having to deal with the effects of El Nino and questions about the country’s export policy favoring President Ouattara’s stepson. Important power and transportation infrastructure projects are in the works, and foreign investors are paying ever closer attention to the country. Meanwhile, former president Gbagbo stands trial next month for his role in fomenting violence in the country over several elections. Granted, there has been conversation about President Ouattara’s role in violence while seeking office at several points over the past decade and a half.

I look forward to seeing where President Ouattara takes the country in his second term.

Henry Kissinger and the Cold War Years

I’m in chapter 81 of Niall Ferguson’s biography of Niall Ferguson and this peek into the shaping of foreign policy during the Cold War is amazing. Twenty chapters to go!

Ferguson’s recounting of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations is less than flattering. The Kennedy administration’s corruption in securing the presidential election, hand in three or four assassinations of leaders around the world, and penchant for women is a rather sobering cocktail.

The anecdotes of the Johnson administration’s ignorance of the global players in this fight against communism was pretty shocking. This was a time when the future of so many countries was being shaped by the United States! I’ve had many a chill reading some of the stories.

Also, the recounting of Barry Goldwater and the 1964 Republican Convention was pretty amazing. The narrative seemed so reflective of the narrative around Donald Trump. I don’t know whether that is a fair comparison, but Trump kept coming to mind while reading.

Ferguson makes a pretty convincing argument for Kissinger being an idealist. It is very interesting to see his disgust at the Kennedy administration’s unwillingness at times to thoroughly face itself on the question of nuclear power and take a position. Kissinger’s concept of morality doesn’t seem to be so much concerned with whether one’s morals were good or bad, but that one had taken the time to think and take a position no matter how ugly that position may be. I’m still wrapping my head around this, but it is interesting to consider.

3 Thursday AM Reads – Netflix for Black Folks Mais En Francais | Atlanta Investors Building Tech Ecosystem | Always Be Closing

  1. Francophone Africa and Europe can expect access to more African and African-American content through Afrostream. The two-year old startup led by Tonjé Bakang has been on a tear this year, finishing up at Y Combinator and landing funding from Troy Carter’s Cross Culture Ventures (have they finished raising their $50M fund?), Orange Digital Ventures, Ace & Company, and The Family. Yesterday, Afrostream announced a content deal with Viacom to stream BET France content and collaborate on developing content. Earlier this fall, the startup inked a content partnership with Sony. The startup wasn’t on my radar before, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out now.

  2. Atlanta’s technology scene continues to grow. Paul Judge and Allen Nance announced a $25M fund that will support hardware and data entrepreneurs in their Tech Square Labs. According to Urvaksh Karkaria, the partners have raised about half of the total fund size, including $2.5M they personally invested. Around $7M has gone into developing Tech Square Labs. These two are really digging in to help entrepreneurs “build something from nothing” as Judge likes to say.

  3. David Cummings’ post on customer acquisition versus product development has been on my mind the past few days. Always be closing!