No. 204: Morning Reads

Creative Stock: Why Intellectual Property is Africa’s Most Valuable Resource (Medium)

Losing $2m in Nigeria’s music industry (Medium)

The failure of Reconstruction was a ruthless act of sabotage (Washington Post)

Nipsey Hussle had a plan to beat gentrification — in South L.A. and across the U.S. (LA Times)

Why Ramaphosa is probably not in a position to end corruption and patronage (Daily Maverick)

No. 203: Tackling Gentrification | Fourth Industrial Revolution and Africa | Kathryn Gould – OG VC

Chris Tyson Is Smart About Cities (Protege Podcasts)

Protege Podcasts host Rory Verrett and East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority CEO Chris Tyson had a fantastic conversation that eventually moved to focus on gentrification and what to do about it. Tyson argued that the “buy the block” efforts pushed by the late Nipsey Hussle, Jay-Z and others is not going to move the needle in keeping neighborhoods affordable for folks. His position is that policies that have boxes poor people and minorities out are what need to be dealt with in order to move the needle on housing avoiding the bad effects of gentrification.

I agree that we have to deal with policy and believe that the “buy the block” mantra is a key part of pushing policy. Policies going back to redlining and other discriminatory policies did not emerge in a vacuum. Certain powerful individuals lived and invested in certain neighborhoods they wanted to keep a certain way for themselves and their friends. This reality shaped the policies they wrote or influenced. Similarly, while folks like Nipsey invest in neighborhoods leading the charge for other black folks to invest in their neighborhoods policymakers like Randall Woodfin can shift policies to ensure folks don’t found themselves boxed out of the neighborhood they grew up in. Moving the needle on keeping neighborhoods inclusive and affordable for folks requires massive effort at the individual or group and policy-level.

Artificial Intelligence, at Africa’s Door (UNESCO)

Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice Chancellor at University of Johannesburg, discusses what the rise of the fourth industrial revolution means for Africa. The fourth industrial revolution is essentially where we will see major breakthroughs in technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and biotechnology.

Marwala points out the importance of the private sector and policymakers in Africa paying attention to developments with industrial robots and data gathering. He also pushes the importance of African countries participating in the development of technology and figuring out how to develop their manufacturing capacity.

Two of the many realities of the future face African policymakers. Industrial robots will shift the appetite manufacturers have for labor costs. African countries need to craft environments for enormous job creation for their ballooning populations. These are only a sampling of the factors that have opened an opportunity for African business leaders and policymakers to take a creative approach to handling these issues.

While Marwala suggests leaders create plans like China’s Made in China plan or AI strategy, and I think it’s key leaders avoid copying and pasting while pushing themselves to really think outside the box to find the levers that might swing Africa from trying to catch up to being in the thick of the global competition to shape the future.

The Kingmaker in the Background: Kathryn Gould (Strictly VC)

I stumbled across this fascinating interview with the late Kathryn Gould, clearly a rockstar in the venture capital world for decades beginning in the 1980s. A great quote from the interview:

You also hear VCs talk about how one company in their portfolio will be a huge winner, two or three will be also-rans, and the rest will be write-offs. Well, that’s bullsh_t. I didn’t go into a deal unless I thought it was going to be a winner. All 10 had to win, that was my attitude. A lot of VCs run and hide, but I worked hard, I was a good fixer, and I earned my money.

No. 202: Rebecca Enonchong is a Rockstar | Nigeria Pushes Business Environment | Ghana’s Mobile Money Regulatory Environment Matures

Founder, Investor, Activist: Rebecca Enonchong’s Multi-Lane Road as a Tech Powerhouse (techcabal)

Nigeria Extends 50% Discount For Business Name Registration (The Will)

NCA drafts Mobile Money quality of service regulations for Ghana (Ghana Business News)

No. 201: Edouardo Jordan Remembers Black Food | Ghana at Venice Biennale | Satya Levels Up Microsoft

Showing Up at Your Dream Job Uninvited (Without Fail Podcast)

Ghana arrives at the Venice Biennale, bringing new narratives with it (Financial Times)

The Most Valuable Company (for Now) Is Having a Nadellaissance (Bloomberg)

No. 200: Ozwald Boateng x Harlem

Ozwald Boateng put on an incredible fashion show today at the Apollo Theatre. I loved that he called the show AI for artistic intelligence. Africa flows through his designs and the combination with the title struck me as a strong statement of the confidence with which black folks must carve out our role in shaping the future.

Boateng’s designs were full of complex simplicity and boldness – two characteristics that I believe are core to black design – chicken and waffles, kente cloth, and hip hop sampling are just a few examples. We can bring the same design ethos to the shaping of artificial intelligence. I’m sure in a lot of ways we already are.

Kunle Olukotun through his development of Afara Websystems, changed the game for server rooms back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, increasing their ability to avoid power outages. Over the past couple years, he has been building a new company developing a platform on which artificial intelligence applications can run.

The thing that bothers me about this example is that the intellectual property Olukotun and his team is developing is in the U.S. The use of mobile phones across Africa is still pointed to as the primary example of leapfrogging. I think the next wave of leapfrogging has to take place at a foundational level – African countries figuring out how to remix how commercialization of advanced research takes place.

In order to accomplish this, what education looks like across Africa needs to be a primary focus. How do we make sure students are getting all the exposure and resources they need to maximize their curiosity from elementary school through college and that there are resources that can support them even if they do decide to study at a Stanford, CalTech or Harvard. How do we create an environment where an incredible researcher like Olukotun feels like he could be really productive in Nigeria. Even if it doesn’t make sense to conduct research on the continent, researchers should be confident they can look to countries across Africa for support.

My thinking here is still pretty rough and I’m writing this with very sleepy eyes. I’d love to engage with folks who have a point of view on this.

What do you think is key to Africa participating in the development of artificial intelligence?

No. 199: The Coming AI Upheaval

This is a fascinating conversation between Fei Fei Li, a computer science professor at Stanford and co-director of their new Human Centered AI Institute, and Yuval Noah Hariri, a historian and author of the widely popular book Sapiens. The two have a respectful go at one another on what the future looks in an AI world.

No. 198: 20 Year Exit | VC Selling Off a Fund? | Late Stage Venture

The Long Game (A VC)

You don’t hear about venture-backed companies founded in 1999 that are still private or operating at all. Companies like Netscape and Amazon went public in short order. Others like Pets.com crashed out of the race. Return Path took the path less traveled, surviving as a private company and 20 years later finally selling to another company.

One of their investors, Fred Wilson, penned a nice piece about the impact his involvement with this company has had on him. Matt Blumberg, Return Path’s CEO reflected on his journey as well. The 20-year mark this company hit shocked me. Uber just crossed the 10-year mark and the question of when that company was going public has caused investors so much angst, I don’t know what they would do with a company not exiting somehow for two decades.

This Seed-Stage VC Founder Sold His Entire First Fund At A 4x Profit. Will Others Follow? (Forbes)

Speaking of impatience, I found this story quite interesting. I hadn’t heard of VC firms selling off all of its stakes from a fund in order to satiate its limited partners (LPs). How does this impact a VCs perception among founders? Will they feel like they have an investor who is going to stick it through with them?

Late Stage Venture (Andreessen Horowitz)

I don’t mean to write about Andreessen Horowitz so much, but I find the firm fascinating. In this post, General Partner Scott Kupor announces two new funds and a shift in their strategy to be more specialized with each of their funds.

One of the new funds is focused on late stage venture, the language they prefer over growth stage. The explanation for why they’re calling this late stage venture seems to align with the trend of venture-backed companies pushing off exits.

I don’t know that I buy the argument that the fund will enable them to invest in companies with unusually large visions that need more time to see them come to fruition. I think about Genentech going 14 years before it hit a liquidity event. That company changed the life science game. Andreessen Horowitz has invested in some really interesting companies that are going after changing foundation realities of our world, but I wonder the extent to which their flashier portfolio companies suck out the attention those companies are able to get. Perhaps this dedicated fund will help with that.