VC Eunice Ajim Discusses the Importance of Showing Up and the Nuances of Africa's Startup Scene

VC Eunice Ajim Discusses the Importance of Showing Up and the Nuances of Africa's Startup Scene

If anyone knows about perseverance, it’s Eunice Ajim. A former founder and tenacious entrepreneur, Eunice learned very many lessons about the trials and tribulations of startups the hard way. Candidly, this badge of honor is not something many other emerging VC managers can claim. Listen to her journey and you will understand exactly what we mean.

Eunice sat down with Stonks CEO Ali Moiz for the latest episode of the Stonkcast. In it, she discusses her outlook on private markets and how it influences her mentorship/advice to African founders. Don’t miss how Eunice describes her journey from being a founder living in her car to raising her first institutional fund.

For the audiophiles out there, listen, subscribe, rate, et al (you know the drill people) on either Spotify or Apple.

The ocularly-inclined can scroll down for some conversational highlights

Nota bene: The below conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and Stonkyness.

On Founding a Company and Becoming Homeless

I always wanted to become a billionaire and I knew that there was no way I was  going to get there if I had to climb the corporate ladder. So, in late 2016/early 2017 one of the biggest challenges that I kept hearing from businesses was how difficult it was to find competent data science professionals because all the very best practitioners were employed by the Fortune 500 companies.

I naively thought, ‘How about I launch my own startup? I'll serve as the marketplace connecting data science professionals to small to medium-sized businesses.’

I quit my job and embarked upon my very own founder journey for about a year.

I did everything from building the product to acquiring customers. We started growing slowly, but not quickly enough to keep up with all of my expenses. I actually became homeless because I was running out of both  time and money, and unfortunately, my car became repossessed because I couldn't make the payments.

That tumultuous time taught me the importance of showing up; waking up every single day, putting on my makeup, wearing my suit, taking the bus, and showing up to crush every single thing that stood in my way.

On Jumping into Investing:

When working at my startup, I kept running into the same problem: there was no easy way for me to work with African talent. The more I searched, the more I came across amazing Africa-based tech startups. When I discovered them, some of their many challenges included access both to funding and to the right entrepreneurial resources.

Instead of just mentoring the ones that I could, I began writing small checks. Over time, I became more and more curious about this massive space and saw that there were so many opportunities on the African continent being solved by a myriad of amazing founders doing great things. I found it crazy how overlooked these founders were by the rest of the world. That realization became my distinct edge.

On Getting into VC:

I get this question a lot. How did I go from being a startup founder to launching my own VC firm?

The simple answer is: I just did it.

There's no formula.

There's no step-by-step guide.

There were very limited resources on the Internet covering how to go about launching your own fund.

Just like before, when I was homeless, it was about consistently showing up day after day and continuing to move forward.

On Investing in African Startups:

I look for opportunities that have already been proven in other markets and I ensure that when I find those opportunities, the timing is right within the particular African market.

The African market is massive but very, very different. Merely copying business models and startups from other regions will never work due to the many intricacies of doing business on the continent.

On Today’s Market Environment:

When I have tremendous conviction in a company, I'll write a check regardless of market conditions. In fact, in Q4 I will probably write the most checks out of this whole year. It’s crazy, I know, especially compared to what I did earlier in the year. So yes, there is a slowdown in the market.

Yes, I have seen and experienced it.

That said, as an investor, I think if you come across the right opportunities, you have to be bold and write a check.

The venture capital asset class is geared towards the long term. I'm investing to work alongside a founder for the next five to ten years, and I know that despite today’s turmoil, we will get to the other side by showing up.

I'm very optimistic about the world. I know 2022 has been crazy and I actually think 2023 is even going to be crazier, however, I'm very optimistic for 2024.

Other Recent Stonkcast Episodes

#20 | SignalFire Partner Elaine Zelby Discusses Investing for Tomorrow and Discovering New Opportunities on Apple or Spotify

#19 | Michael Devellano — Automating Growth, Building with Community, and the Need for Grit on Apple or Spotify

#18 | Itamar Novick — The Solo Investor, Team & TAM, and Recession Lessons on Apple or Spotify

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