No. 15: 3 Thursday AM Reads – Paga Raises $13m | Organic GMOs | Reid Hoffman is Networked

  1. Tayo Oviosu and the Paga team are pushing their dominance in Nigeria’s mobile payment space to the next level with the $13 million Series B round of financing they announced earlier this week. A couple things I need to look into: Now that the Central Bank of Nigeria is implementing its cashless policy, how is it going? Also, what is Paga thinking about Bitcoin?

  2. A couple weeks ago, Cherae Robinson and I were laughing about how ┬áher schooling me on GMOs led to me joining the Afripolitans in Equatorial Guinea a few years ago. Here’s a compelling piece on the prospects for organic GMOs. I wrote about my concerns with GMOs several years ago. My thinking on GMOs continues to evolve and I found this piece helpful in surfacing more questions.

  3. Those who know me will understand why I got lightheaded reading this profile on Reid Hoffman. Towards the end of the piece, his conversation with James Manyika, someone I’ve followed for a number of years, chrystalizes the types of conversations that drive me. Hoffman’s practice of pulling out a list of things to discuss during his conversations with friends is something I’ll probably copy (those hits to the head while playing football seem to be showing their effect on my memory more these days…).

What is Happening in Africa’s Cybersecurity Space?

Andreessen Horowitz just wrapped up a series on the current cyber security landscape. It got me thinking about what the cybersecurity landscape looks like in African countries. In particular, I’m interested in cybersecurity work going on at the intersection of telecommunications and banking. Nigeria has a policy of reducing the circulation of cash in the economy by 2020, and launched a national ID card program last year that incorporates banking capabilities. The dominance of mPesa and mobile money in Kenya has been the talk of the town for several years now.

My two main questions are:

1. What are the cybersecurity risks companies and the respective countries are dealing with here?

2. Who are the leading companies working on these issues?

Look out for a future post on this after I talk to some folks and read up a bit.

Here are links to the Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z) security series:

Getting Security Right Isn’t As Hard as You Think (But the Effort Never Ends)

Barbarians at the Gate — How to Think About Enterprise Security Today

Making Security More Usable

My three takeaways from the series are:

1. Companies can no longer think about their security in binary terms, that is, “We are breached. We are not breached.” Today, the thinking is more, “We are probably breached right now. What are we doing to mitigate the impact of this.”

2. Security and speed historically have somewhat of an inverse relationship. As content moves back and forth faster, the harder it is to ensure that nothing compromises it.

3. After seeing what happened to Target’s executive team after their highly publicized credit card breach, company executives are communicating more with their security teams to ensure that they have the systems in place to mitigate similar attacks that could get them fired.

Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital: Brazil v. African Countries

Entrepreneurs across the African continent are developing highly innovative technologies that are meeting real needs and improving the ease of life for people from all walks of life. At this year’s MIT Venture Capital (VC) Conference, I sat in on a panel that covered Brazil’s VC space. Two things struck me as very different from how entrepreneurship is developing on the African continent and present a case for investors to pay more attention to entrepreneurship in Africa.

I was surprised to learn that Brazil’s entrepreneurs are more active in meeting the needs of the middle class by providing some of the technologies already available in the US like Groupon copycat, Peixe Urbano. In a year and a half, the company has expanded from Brazil to Argentina, Chile, and Mexico. Another Brazilian company, Vostu, is locked in lawsuits with Zynga which is arguing that the company is committing copyright infringement of its games including Farmville, a Facebook favorite.

In Africa, we are not seeing a lot of “copycat” or “geographic innovation” technologies as one of the panelists preferred to call them. We are seeing technologies like Paga in Nigeria that enables mobile bankers to use any bank they choose. We see Sproxil, a company that has developed technology which uses text messaging to confirm that the drugs you are taking are not counterfeit. These creative innovations are exciting developments and ones that increase the fundability of entrepreneurs across the continent from investors both inside and outside the Africa

The second observation that struck me was the presence of VCs encouraging entrepreneurs to try new things in bringing various technologies to Brazil – providing entrepreneurs with mentorship that can help them increase their success rates in the country. Earlier this year, Ndubuisi Ekekwe, an entrepreneur and scholar wrote a nice article on African entrepreneurs’ need for nurturing. Mentoring fell under this bucket. As entrepreneurs learn from the mistakes of their mentors to avoid those same pitfalls, stronger products enter the market. I am extremely happy for Tayo Oviosu, CEO of Paga and the access he has to a mentor like Tim Draper. I think we will see more mentorship as time elapses but the involvement of Brazil VCs in the growth of their companies bolstered my understanding of the importance of mentoring.

Two takeaways came from the panel – the African entrepreneurial market is more disruptive than the current Brazilian entrepreneurial market, while more African entrepreneurs are going it alone as Brazilian entrepreneurs more readily have access to mentorship. Both are interesting phenomena and ones whose evolution I look forward to tracking over the next few years as I believe the presence of venture capitalists and mentors will grow rapidly over the next two or three years.

The following are recent CNBC Africa conversations on entrepreneurship in South Africa and Africa as a whole:

Photo Credit: Afrinnovator