Yacob: There was an asymmetry I saw in capital and resources when I helped build a pan-African accelerator in 2014/15 based out of Johannesburg, SA. What we witnessed and learned at the time was that the continent was full of ambitious, gritty, passionate and intelligent entrepreneurs and they had very little access to capital and resources to help them build/de-risk their businesses. Building Pariti is our way of helping and being a part of the lift to elevate our ecosystem. Our community-driven marketplace brings capital/talent/founders in one place. We started small and slow at first, low-fi tech and really being close to the founders to understand the pain points and over time grew and expanded the services and built a platform.
Yacob: Let's start with the name: Pando (Latin for "I spread"), also known as the trembling giant. It is a clonal colony of an individual male quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) determined to be a single living organism by identical genetic markers and assumed to have one massive underground root system. The reason we named the community Pando is because on the surface we may all look separate but this African tech ecosystem is intricately connected and for us to thrive we must remember that. Community and togetherness is at the core of being African and that mindset is the core of Pariti and the community we want to help build.
Yacob: Day 0, we've had some false starts, some glimpses of success but we're now prioritizing this and to signal that we've brought on our head of community who will serve as a community support system. We want Pando to be very community led. We want the founders we’re supporting to be in the driver seat, and for this to happen they have to be enabled. The new head of community would enable that. Ensuring that as a community, we create a valuable experience for each other.
Nkechi: I have spent the last 10 years actively building startups. First, I had my own business which I created to provide preventive healthcare and support to people. As a first time founder, I really struggled in my journey. I finally got accepted into the She Leads Africa accelerator which truly changed my life. I began to see gaps I didn’t know I have, and I enjoyed getting connected to the other ladies in my cohort. They became my first community. My business eventually got acquired by a larger retail pharmaceutical company. But I got to experience the importance of having a community of people going through the same stages of life or business as I was, and I wanted to bring that support to other people. So, I joined the Ventures Platform team and eventually became the CEO of Ventures Park. There I designed and implemented programs and initiatives that supported startups. In doing that I’ve been able to support thousands of founders on their journey. Hearing the feedback and the success that has come from that has been truly inspiring. And now at Pariti I see an opportunity to scale that and support founders in a way that changes the landscape of the African tech ecosystem and increases the chances of success. And that excites me even more.
Nkechi: I like that Yacob has mentioned the inspiration for the name ‘Pando’. That image depicts what we see the future of Pando to be; an ecosystem of interconnected people who support each other. Pando is not just about the size of the community, but the success it’s able to create as people interact with each other and create value that they get to enjoy.
We want people to find mentors, co-founders, investors, clients, great ideas, information, opportunities to give back and so much more at Pando. We want Pando to be safe, welcoming and filled with positive energy that can refuel you as you build your business.
And we want to be deliberate in enabling this ecosystem that we are co-creating. I use the term “co-creating” because we truly want the community to be active players in this process. We want them to drive the experience in the community and we’ll provide the necessary support.
So when I look at the future of Pando, I see it as a place founders come to accelerate their startups and get connected to solutions, people and resources they need.
Selman: Pariti’s mission from the first day was to help entrepreneurs in under-resourced markets succeed. 18 months ago, with the rise of remote work due to COVID we launched our first product, a review tool, to help entrepreneurs obtain expert feedback on their investment readiness at no cost. To date, we provided feedback for 800+ companies from 29 different countries in Africa. With a small team of four, our goal was to build relationships with every entrepreneur and deliver value to them to help them fundraise by using data & the power of community. Over this period, of course we learned a ton. We built a score that assesses how ready a business is for investment, called the Pariti Score (methodology & findings to be published soon). Besides learning where entrepreneurs need the most help and how we can more effectively support them, here are a couple of insights:
Selman: We have been conducting research and testing for the past couple of months and really trying to understand what will add the most value to entrepreneurs. Starting in January, we will be announcing a brand new product along with programs to help entrepreneurs across various stages in the continent not only get ready for investment but also, 🥁 drumroll 🥁, get connected to investors and raise capital.
Wossen: It seems like every week there’s a new unicorn being minted while startups are raising bigger and bigger rounds led by some of the most prominent tech investors in the world. Meanwhile, there are more investment collectives and syndicate platforms driving investment into African startups. There’s no doubt that we are at an inflection point in the African tech ecosystem. Founders have more options for capital – which any founder who has raised money can tell you has been a huge pain point. And African founders will need this capital; there are still massive problems to solve across the continent.
In the process, there are still structural issues that founders will need to solve for, including finding, supporting and growing the right talent to build their companies. I think we will see a lot more competition among startups to get the best talent. This only intensifies the need for a similar growth in the tech and product talent pool, not only to ensure that talent supply meets demand but also to make sure that the growth in the tech industry supports broad economic development across the continent by employing Africans and giving them upside through equity as the ecosystem continues to accelerate.