Social Capital Hedosophia is Going to Change the VC Game, But Will It Really?

Several weeks ago, Chamath Palihapitiya did an interview with Kara Swisher on Recode/Decode that really got my attention. He was talking about how the venture capital industry was overdue for a shakeup to meet the needs of technology startups. He talked about using data science to identify investment opportunities and scale companies, similar to what he did while he was at Facebook to provide in depth services to these startups.

Further, rather than there being a ton of pressure for these companies to go scale quickly, they would have an investor that would be with them for the long term from the beginning. This sounded really interesting, particularly when he posited that this new iteration of Social Capital was going to surface founders who would typically be overlooked because of the way in which they will be looking at data.

One question that comes to mind is how would they overlooked founders get on his radar. What’s his plan to get data across a wide enough geography in order to capture these overlooked startups?

Admittedly, during Chamath’s conversation with Kara, I was unsure of what this new iteration of Social Capital would look like. Well, I got my answer a few weeks ago when Social Capital partnered up with Hedosophia to list on the New York Stock Exchange, forming Social Capital Hedosophia.

What is Social Capital Hedosophia? This is a publicly traded holding company that is designed to take unicorns public without them having to go through the traditional process of going public – roadshows, lockup period, etc.

Initially, I thought that this new model Chamath was talking about could be a game changer for startups run by black people. Perhaps, this new iteration of Social Capital could do like Chamath said and reduce the exclusion of underrepresented groups from taking the next step in building technology companies. But, I’m not sure that Hedosophia has the people it takes to address the pipeline issue.

Beyond using data science, Chamath cannot cut out the human component of how he builds out this new company. He’s got to build a team that has a global worldview that can see into the worldview of folks in Jamaica Queens, Kansas, Lagos, and Bogota. Layer the machine learning on top of that and you’re cooking with grease.

If Social Capital Hedosophia (I’m going to get carpal tunnel if they don’t come up with shorthand for this.) doesn’t do this important work, the company will just do what the rest of Silicon Valley has done, just more elegantly. Removing bias doesn’t matter if you’re pulling from the same pool of folks.

Sovereign Wealth, IPOs, Cool Jobs, and Cities

Cherae and I had a great time on New Rules Africa this week, covering:

  1. Zimbabwe established sovereign wealth fund
  2. Rocket Internet filed for IPO in Germany
  3. African Development Bank opened Young Professionals Program

Read the summary below to get up to speed on what we covered, and check out the show.

Zimbabwe Establishes Sovereign Wealth Fund

Last Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s Senate passed a bill that lays the groundwork for the country to establish a sovereign wealth fund – a tool used by countries around the world to maintain long term wealth and resist economic shocks. The African countries using the tool include Angola, Botswana, Senegal, Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, and Ghana. Countries like Uganda and Kenya are considering establishing their own funds with their new found oil resources. Let’s keep an eye on Zimbabwe’s fund as it is unclear what the structure of the fund will be and who will manage it. Countries like Nigeria and Senegal announced the managers of the funds pretty close to the establishment of the fund, and had a detailed governance structure.

Rocket Internet Files for IPO in Germany

Rocket Internet, the emerging market, uber-startup launcher is filing for an IPO on Germany’s stock exchange that would raise around $1.8B. For the past six years, Rocket Internet has launched emerging market copycats of some of the top internet brands in the US and Europe – Amazon, Paypal, and Zappos to name a few. In Africa, these include Jumia, Zando, HelloFood, and EasyTaxi among others. Rocket has absorbed a lot of criticism for just copying other business models, but is unapologetic about its business model and has raised more than $2B in venture capital since its founding in 2008. Jumia, Rocket’s flagship brand in Africa recently went under a management shift and has been relatively quiet after raising several millions in venture capital and building a 90,000 square foot warehouse in Lagos. Keep an eye out on the IPO and future Africa activity from the company.

African Development Bank Announces Young Professionals Program

The African Development Bank is recruiting young professionals, particularly women, to apply for its two or three-year rotational young professionals program. The bank will select 15-20 candidates who will be based in the bank’s headquarters in Cote d’Ivoire. The bank has been a critical part of the continent’s development, ensuring the contract negotiation skills of African countries, committing dollars to the combatting of threats like Ebola, setting up an infrastructure fund, among many other things. Apply. The folks that work there are talented and its a nice alternative to working at a place like the World Bank or IMF, if you are looking to work at an international development agency.

Preparing Cities for the Future

The Corporate Council on Africa is holding its annual infrastructure conference in the lead up to the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings, and the focus is on building resilient cities on the continent as rapid urbanization continues to take place.

As cities continue their rise, Africa’s cities will increasingly have to figure out where these people will live, how to provide them with services, make sure they are able to move around, and the list goes on. Investors are paying more and more attention to the threat/opportunity in these cities. If these cities develop well, they could be hubs of consumerism, new ideas, innovation, you name it. If these cities do not develop well, we could see the failure of institutions, increased political unrest, and the list goes on here as well.

What else? What are some other interesting things that happened in business in Africa this past week?

Zendesk IPO Predicts Dropifi’s Future

The Dropifi team probably felt chills running through their bodies while watching Zendesk’s share price rise 49 percent on day one of its IPO on Thursday, and then reach a $1B market cap on its second day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Here’s why:

1. Big Sandbox – In its Form S-1 filing, Zendesk highlights International Data Corporation intel pointing to the customer relationship management market being $20.7B, as of 2012. Zendesk did $72M in revenue in 2013. Couple that with IDC’s projection that software as a service (SaaS) platforms will grow 10x faster than legacy platforms in a world with 76M small-to-medium sized businesses, and you get the picture. Zendesk has 42,000 customers. Dropifi has 8,000 customers. Dropifi has a lot of sand to work with to build its own castle.

2. Little Sibling Effect – I’m the oldest of my siblings and after breaking through many new seasons of life, I’ve watched my siblings do everything better than me. Dropifi has the same opportunity to watch Zendesk’s missteps and capitalize on the lessons learned. This will be critical in customer acquisition. With more than 8,000 customers, Dropifi is behind the 10,000 customers Zendesk had in its fourth year of operation.

In David Cummings’ post last night, he pointed to design as one of the big differentiators between the first and second generation SaaS companies. Dropifi may have some work to do to compete with Zendesk here. This has been a tough post to write because I want to pull out my yoga mat every time I pull up the Zendesk site.

The bottom line is that Dropifi has an opportunity to scale massively. After hearing David Osei, CEO of the company, speak at Harvard’s Africa Business Conference, the company certainly has the hunger to make this happen. More than 10 500Startups companies, which recently eclipsed the 500 mark, have been acquired. Dropifi is already the incubator’s first Africa-originated company. If Dropifi can avoid acquisition by Zendesk, Salesforce, or another player in the CRM space, perhaps we could see it be 500Startups’ first company to reach IPO-status. 

What else? Do you think Dropifi has what it takes to compete with the likes of Zendesk?