Biola Alabi is a General Partner at Acasia Ventures, a venture capital fund with offices in Cairo, Lagos and Dubai providing early-stage capital to technology and technology-enabled start-ups in Africa, solving local, regional, and global challenges.
She is an active angel investor and advisor to African technology and media companies. She is involved in numerous start-ups as a board member, advisor, and investor. True to her reputation as a leader in the community and fuelled by her passion for supporting up-and-coming talent, Biola is also the founder of ’Grooming for Greatness’ (G4G), a fellowship and mentorship programme aimed at cultivating leadership skills in young, aspiring professionals and entrepreneurs.
She is an award-winning executive producer and founder of Biola Alabi Media – a pan-African media and technology advisory firm that has worked extensively with local and global companies, governments, and development agencies in the Telcom, Media, and Technology (TMT) space.
She is the publisher of ’The Adventures of Lara and Dara’ (named Young Readers Library’s Book of Summer, 2019), the executive producer of two award-winning feature films currently streaming on Netflix, and the executive producer of numerous television shows, including Big Brother Africa and the documentary series, Great Africans.
As Managing Director of M-Net Africa, Biola transformed the continent’s broadcasting and film industry, launching seven Africa Magic channels and the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, widely regarded as the “African Oscars.”
Biola graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Public and Community Health degree and has completed executive education programmes at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Yale University’s Jackson Institute of Global Affairs, and Said Business School, University of Oxford.
Biola Alabi is a Non-Executive Director at Unilever (Nigeria) and a member of the Audit Committee, Monty Mobile, a global telecommunications company headquartered in London, and the Chairwoman of Big Cabal Media.
WHY DID ACASIA VENTURES CHOOSE TECHNOLOGY AND TECHNOLOGY-ENABLED START-UPS AS THE SECTOR TO PROVIDE FUNDING FOR?
Acasia Ventures invests in tech-enabled companies because we believe in the transformative power of innovation and that innovation can happen anywhere in the world. We view technology not merely as a sector but as the driving force reshaping Africa, much like it has transformed Western and Eastern parts of the world. Technology is the key to unlocking Africa’s potential for economic empowerment, creating opportunities and wealth across the continent. We’re excited by technologies like mobile telecommunications and mobile money, which are already changing lives. Our commitment to tech-enabled companies isn’t just a business decision, it’s about shaping a brighter future for Africa. We envision a continent where technology empowers individuals, irrespective of their backgrounds, and positions Africa as a global innovation hub.
HOW DO YOU EVALUATE POTENTIAL INVESTMENTS? WHAT CRITERIA DOES ACASIA VENTURES CONSIDER WHEN DECIDING TO INVEST IN A START-UP?
Acasia Ventures evaluates potential investments by looking for start-ups operating in the technology sector with a clear digital solution addressing a local pain point. We prioritise founders who have a vision, exhibit resilience, and have a track record. Founders must be passionate about the problem and possess unique insights into the sector. Additionally, we assess their ability to build a capable team because collaboration is critical in achieving the vision. Ultimately, we seek start-ups with the potential to scale across their local market and on a continental and global scale.
WHAT VALUE DOES ACASIA VENTURES BRING TO THE COMPANIES THEY INVEST IN BEYOND CAPITAL? HOW DO THEY SUPPORT AND THE GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE START-UPS IN THEIR PORTFOLIO?
Beyond providing capital, we offer early-stage support, assisting founders with strategy, team building, and recruitment. We emphasize the importance of good governance policies from the start, we also help them with legal matters, strategy development, geographic expansion, partnerships, branding, and PR strategies.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE CURRENT MARKET TRENDS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN THE START-UP ECOSYSTEM?
The current market trends and opportunities in Africa’s start-up ecosystem are promising. As a continent, we’re just starting to harness the potential of technology to reshape our future. Africa presents one of the most significant opportunities globally to transform its economy and lift people out of poverty through technology-driven innovations.
Despite a global slowdown in investment, visionary founders are still building remarkable companies. Africa has to create at least 22 million jobs annually, and digital solutions remain a substantial opportunity to address this challenge.
Literacy remains a significant barrier, but technology can be a powerful tool. As technology advances and accessibility improves, we see immense potential for start-ups to make a meaningful impact, addressing local challenges and driving economic growth and empowerment across the continent.
WHAT UNIQUE INSIGHTS OR NETWORKS DO YOU BRING TO THE TABLE AS A GENERAL PARTNER?
As a General Partner, my value proposition lies in over two decades of global experience spanning Asia, North America, and Africa. My background includes diverse industries such as digital technology start-ups, automotive, FMCG, media, entertainment, and telecom. This hands-on experience equips me with a deep understanding of real-world business challenges. I bring a unique blend of strategic thinking and practical insights to the table, making me a valuable asset in navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship, especially on the African continent.
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO ADVISING START-UPS? HOW DO YOU TYPICALLY ENGAGE WITH FOUNDERS AND TEAMS TO PROVIDE GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT?
My approach to advising start-ups is first to listen and understand the founder’s challenges and expected outcomes. Once I’ve gained insight into their perspective, I evaluate how to add value. If someone in my network possesses the required expertise, I facilitate introductions to ensure the founder gets tailored support. Additionally, I act as a thought partner, offering a platform for bouncing ideas and gaining different perspectives. I’m also committed to opening doors whenever possible to help start-ups access valuable opportunities.
SHARE WITH US ABOUT BEING AN ANGEL INVESTOR AND WHY.
I became an angel investor for several compelling reasons. To give back to the entrepreneurial community, to actively contribute to the transformation of sectors I’m passionate about, to share my knowledge and experience, to be part of the journey towards success, and also to make a return on my investment.
Angel investing is a potent driver of economic development and a catalyst for realizing entrepreneurial dreams. It is what we do at Lagos Angel Network, where I serve on the board. We’ve built a community of believers who invest in start-ups, provide mentorship to founders, advocate for the ecosystem’s growth, and actively educate and recruit more angels to support our collective future.
TELL US IN DETAIL ABOUT ‘GROOMING FOR GREATNESS’, THE VISION, GOALS, RESULTS AND PROJECTIONS.
‘Grooming for Greatness’ is a year-long leadership development programme for young entrepreneurs and professionals. Its primary goal is to accelerate its growth by offering valuable resources, including mentorship, one-on-one coaching with a professional career coach, and participation in a peer group of like-minded, goal-oriented professionals who meet regularly. This programme is a vital support system for individuals on their journey toward building successful lives.
Having successfully run three cohorts, Grooming for Greatness has already achieved notable results. Many of our fellows have gone on to launch thriving businesses and have established highly fulfilling professional careers. Our vision for the programme is to continue nurturing and empowering the next generation of leaders, fostering their growth and success.
WHEN AND WHY WAS BIOLA ALABI MEDIA ESTABLISHED? WHAT IS THE SUCCESS STORY?
Biola Alabi Media was founded to address a gap in the media strategy landscape, initially assisting companies across sectors such as traditional media, telecommunications, and government in developing streaming and digital media strategies. We also ventured into media platform and content investments, including early support for Big Cabal Media, the publisher of Tech Cabal, and the film ‘Banana Island Ghost.’ Additionally, we produced ‘Lara and the Beat’ a coming-of-age story set in Nigeria’s music industry. We created five seasons of ‘Bukas and Joints’ a show promoting Nigerian cuisine globally. We also published a book series featuring the adventures of Lara and Dara.
Today, our primary focus at Biola Alabi Media is strategic investments within the creative industry, shifting away from direct production. Our success is rooted in these investments, contributing to the growth and development of the media and entertainment sector.
AS THE FORMER MD OF M-NET AFRICA, WHAT DO YOU LOOK BACK TO AND ARE GRATEFUL FOR?
Reflecting on my tenure as the former MD of M-Net Africa, I’m deeply grateful for several significant achievements. First and foremost, I cherish the opportunity to have played a pivotal role in advancing the industry, fostering job creation, and reshaping global perceptions of Africa’s creative economy. Witnessing the remarkable growth of the media and entertainment sector fills me with immense pride and satisfaction.
I take pride in my contributions to this journey, which include introducing and advocating for indigenous language channels, spearheading the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, establishing production hubs, and nurturing talent across the continent, all in the face of initial objections and scepticism. These initiatives have not only shifted the narrative but have also propelled the industry to new heights.
Most importantly, I’m grateful for the privilege of serving, learning, and building a community of dedicated individuals who share the vision of a thriving and vibrant creative economy in Africa. Together, we have made a lasting impact on the industry’s trajectory.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR BIOLA ALABI?
I’m optimistic about Africa’s potential, particularly in the technology and creative sectors. I aspire to remain deeply involved in these industries by investing capital and nurturing founders. This approach can create significant value for both individuals and society as a whole.
Despite the challenges, Africa’s finest moments are yet to come. My commitment extends to my work at Acasia Ventures, where I will persist in discovering, investing in, and fostering the growth of the continent’s next technology innovators.
In this journey, I remain dedicated to staying curious, open to learning, and committed to personal growth. I am excited about the possibilities, and I am eager to contribute to Africa’s ongoing transformation.