On Thursday, we re-commenced our conversational series of podcast episodes exploring the startups and entrepreneurs digitizing analog and fragmented industries across the continent.
This week’s episode features Goke Olubusi, the founder and CEO of Helium Health.
Goke is driven by a desire to see more data-driven decision-making on the continent. It starts with digitizing healthcare and collecting data at the point of care. And the need isn’t for more resources in healthcare, but to more efficiently spend the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars already being spent in Africa.“[I]f a country says they spent this much on healthcare, we should be able to direct every dollar to an individual person. This is not a strange concept, and this is not an impossible task, but we can’t do that. I look forward to that day.”
Have a listen to the full episode here.
Victor Asemota recently tweeted a thought-provoking thread on subscriptions.
Bank accounts are for saving and mobile wallets for spending, he argues. The goal for wallets is to create increased use cases to compel users to keep their money in the wallet, as opposed to cashing out (which costs money for the mobile wallet operator).
This, then, also creates an opportunity for micropayments – the sachetization of digital goods.
One startup doing this particularly well is StarNews – consumers can buy short-form content (and data) with airtime. Their partnerships with telcos are critical for both distribution and for availing micropayments via airtime.
And the bundles are much cheaper than the amount it would cost in data to use SnapChat or TikTok. They currently boast over 5 million users across Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon and DRC, and are launching in South Africa and Nigeria.
The Non-Dilutive Funding Problem
I think “non-dilutive funding” is one of my new favorite terms. It’s in quotes because it’s not actually non-dilutive.
The term is from a recent piece by Shopify’s Alex Danco, Why the Canadian Tech Scene Doesn’t Work.
Much of what Danco writes can and does apply to the African tech ecosystem, and his argument about drawbacks of “free money” is especially resonant.“The problem starts when founders think about SR&ED [Canadian R&D grants] as “free money”. It is not free. It has a cost of capital, like any capital. But instead of costing you your equity, it costs you your time, your focus… we obsess over mentorship programs and other kinds of “non-dilutive help”, without realizing that there’s a cost to everything, including these relationships…”
It is worth asking to what extent this arguments applies to both grants and impact investing on the continent, as well.
Vaccines, Risk, and the Status Quo
I feel especially disheartened by – even angry at – the failed vaccination distribution in western countries. That we’re letting vaccine doses go to waste is tragic.
As governments overly focus on an adherence to protocols versus just getting every-damn-body vaccinated, I have personally been swayed by the arguments that a) medical professionals have a responsibility to vaccinate and not let doses go to waste, even if that means vaccinating non-compliantly, and b) agencies like the FDA should have approved the vaccines sooner, because the opportunity cost of waiting even a day longer, at the current rate of COVID-related deaths, is greater than the risk of approving a vaccine one-day “too soon”.
The latter point addresses a fundamental question about risk. While it’s literally a life or death matter in the case of COVID, I think we can extrapolate this thinking to our work in the African tech ecosystem (and where, to some extent, the continent’s development is also a life or death matter).
This LinkedIn post has me thinking about a convo with @Ms_ZamaNdlovu on re-thinking risk in investing.— Justin Norman (@just_norm) November 16, 2020
Is investing in early-stage startups trying to solve hard problems risky?
Aren't safe investments that perpetuate the status quo much riskier for the future & economy? pic.twitter.com/zZAQCgojLc
A question I anticipate asking a lot moving forward – are our perceived risks as risky as a perpetuation of the status quo?
PS – in this week’s podcast episode, which we’ll publish Thursday morning, explores digitizing insurance. If you’re not already subscribed on your favorite podcast app, you can do so by searching “The Flip”, or you can check out where else to listen here.