Flourish Ventures sees mixed impact of COVID-19
Arjuna Costa is a Managing Partner, Flourish Ventures, a venture firm of the Omidyar Group, that invests in fintechs and entrepreneurs whose innovations help people achieve financial health. In this interview with Jumoke Akiyode- Lawanson, he talks about the effect of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s tech sector, the future of startups in Africa, the company’s focus on venture investing across emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and other important issues. Excerpts.
What effect has the novel coronavirus had on your portfolio companies, especially in Nigeria?
The Covid 19 pandemic has affected businesses and business operations across the world and we are not an exception. We have seen a reduced uptake and use of some of our products and an increase in some, like Paga, which simplifies payments and expands access to financial services in Nigeria.
Roughly how much has Flourish invested in Nigerian startups to date?
So far, we have invested $21.35 million in our portfolio across Africa. In Nigeria, we have an investment worth $11.15 million. Across the world, technology companies are growing astronomically and are rated as very profitable companies. Do you think Nigeria is catching up fast enough with the rest of the world in the area of technology?
Nigeria and indeed the rest of Africa has a very promising tech space. We have seen the growth of many local tech companies and even the entrance of international players in the market. This phenomenon has further been fueled by a conducive regulatory space and a supporting government that appreciates the role of technology in different facets of Nigeria’s development.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more Nigerians were forced to rely on digital solutions for many things – cashless payments, electronic transactions, virtual meetings, virtual classes for school children, etc. However, there are still a good number who are still stuck in the analog age. How do you think technology companies can help build people’s trust in technology?
I think different companies should properly define their solutions in every endeavour that they do. In as much as a majority of the population are today embracing various solutions powered by technology, we have a population that is still left behind. As companies playing in the tech space, we need to find ways to properly integrate all the different levels of our communities whether through financial inclusion tactics or general awareness campaigns on the benefits of technology.
What does your job as Managing Partner at Flourish entail?
As a Managing Partner, I co-manage Flourish with a primary focus on venture investing across emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. I am driven by a deep compassion for vulnerable populations across the globe hence I partner with entrepreneurs using innovative technologies to enhance their customers’ financial well-being.
What is the future of startups in Africa as a whole?
Startups present exciting opportunities for Africa. In the next decade, we will see an emerging workforce of professionals employed by various startups offering solutions across multiple sectors of the economy. This will be activated by the increased penetration of the internet and the general appetite for consumers to embrace tech ideas and innovations.
What are your future plans for Nigeria?
We have investments in Nigeria. We will continue to support and grow our investments in the country, leveraging on opportunities presented especially in this age of digital penetration. We will definitely keep the media in the loop in case we have any exciting announcements in the future in country and beyond.