It’s been some time now since we published any podcast episodes, so I think we ought to give a bit of a State of The Flip.
We are currently working on the next season of thematic, narrative episodes – good content takes a lot of time, especially as a one-and-a-half man show! But as I engross myself in select topics for the podcast, it’s been difficult to switch modes and write about something different for the newsletter each week.
So in today’s edition of The Flip Notes, I am compelled to share a bit more on the thoughts and questions that are guiding the editorial decisions for this upcoming season.
In the earliest episodes, we were starting from square one – while there are many misconceptions about African markets and its tech ecosystem, I learned through tens of conversations with founders and investors that there is consensus on some topics. We largely explored that consensus.
But as the ecosystem evolves, and as The Flip matures, I wonder if it’s time to turn our attention back to these topics to explore if reality has outpaced collective sentiment. It’s the lens with which my cynical brain is currently choosing to look at the various topics we wish to explore.
A tweet from week really resonated –
Are there consensus beliefs within the African tech ecosystem that we collectively don’t put enough thought into, or that may not (or no longer) be true?
I don’t actually think the answers are as important as the question itself, which remind us that it’s especially useful to think critically conventionally held beliefs. But a few thoughts come to mind.
Take growth strategy. It’s a commonly held belief that the “growth-at-all-costs”, blitzscaling, negative unit economics approach does not work in African markets. (Indeed, we wrote about this in TFN #55.) It’s a strategy that requires an unending pool of capital, and even with an unending pool of capital, it’s believed that it work because of the low purchasing power of the mass market consumers in question.
But its a strategy more or less being employed by fintechs like Chipper Cash and OPay, bolstered by their recent 9-figure Series C rounds ($100 million and reportedly $400 million). Surely the executives at these companies have heard that these strategies don’t work, and they are employing them nonetheless. Are Chipper Cash and OPay narrative violations?
Perhaps things are actually more nuanced and idiosyncratic.
Take payments. We likely all believe there are better ways to pay each other, particularly across borders. (And even if that is true, that’s not to say that, within borders, cash is ineffective, as we wrote about in TFN #54.)
Telco-led mobile money. Fintech-led mobile money. Bank-led mobile money. Virtual cards. Crypto. Who will be right? Will there even be one “winner”? And what about cash? Could cash win? (Isn’t cash currently winning?)
And to explore these questions we’ll need to take a step back – which we intend to do – to try to understand why solving problems in payments, for example, are so hard to begin with. (Where there is mystery, there is margin, as they say.)
A final thought – I’ve always had mixed feelings about investors who claim to be non-consensus, or contrarian, or in search of narrative violations. Smells like survivorship bias to me. Likewise, the questions I ask above, and that are guiding our podcast editorial strategy, cannot be answered in real-time. We can only know looking back who won.
And that reality guides how The Flip both looks at the world and creates content. Very explicitly, this newsletter is a medium for asking questions and sharing half-baked thoughts. Many of these ideas will become fully formed for the podcast, but questions are never fully answered.
Instead, we endeavor to present a diversity and variety of perspectives about a given topic, and let the listener (or in this case the reader) take away from it whatever is relevant for them. We’re not prescriptive because the nuance and complexity do not allow us to be.
Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about, and how we’re approaching the next season of the podcast, coming soon(-ish). And as always, I welcome – and would appreciate – your thoughts, feedback, and suggestions (and encouragement 😁).
Thanks for reading 🙏