FIP71: Fundraising 3/4 – Getting to First Close (Part 2) with Miora Randriambeloma of Chalkboard Education

Today we continue to hear from Miora Randriambeloma, co-founder of the ed-tech startup Chalkboard Education, which is changing the culture of African education through e-learning. Chalkboard Education aims to democratize learning by providing mobile learning solutions that work on all mobile devices – even without internet connection. On Part 2 of the interview, Miora tells us about the importance of having a strong network of critical friends and how long fundraising really takes.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Miora herself had to learn about equity investments, such as how do shares work, what are shareholder agreements, what are the long-term implications of equity, as well as other important vocabulary.
  • The different types of investors in West Africa, including venture capital, foundations, crowdfunding (including churches and local platforms), incubators, and business plan competitions, and the fact that there is not always a match between the capital that organizations can provide and start-up needs.
  • What issues start-ups should take into account when considering equity for acceleration programs, and what the implications of giving up 10-15% of equity to an accelerator can mean over the long-term.
  • Why she and her co-founder decided to launch their company in Ghana because of the growing tech scene, but also how they used their international networks to gain valuable connections and advice.
  • That for Chalkboard Education, raising the Seed Series took 8 months, even though they knew after 3 months that they would get the capital — and that she wouldn’t recommend accelerating the process because it was important for them to really understand what they were getting into.
  • How having strong advisors and networks was key for good decision making during the company’s first raise.

 

Resources:

Connect with Miora:

FIP70: Fundraising 2/4 – Getting to First Close (Part 1) with Miora Randriambeloma of Chalkboard Education

Today we hear from Miora Randriambeloma, co-founder of the ed-tech startup Chalkboard Education, which is changing the culture of African education through e-learning. Chalkboard Education aims to democratize learning by providing mobile learning solutions that work on all mobile devices – even without internet connection. Miora tells us what it was like for her team to secure their first investment and how they went about choosing their investors.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • The major shifts Miora has observed in education. She comes from a family of teachers and professors. When her parents were choosing a career, teachers and professors were a highly respected choice – now people are shying away from education. What has changed?
  • Miora tells us about her Liberal Arts background and how it has developed her critical thinking skills and ability to tell a good story. These skills were invaluable during her time as a Marketing Consultant and extremely important to her now.
  • Miora see Chalkboard Education as solving an accessibility issue – they are bringing the content of a university to individuals who may not otherwise be opportunity to pursue an education. Miora is simplifying a tech problem so that universities don’t have to invest in the tech and can focus on the content.
  • Chalkboard Education set themselves up at a university so they could get constant feedback from their users.They could work closely with those who would be using their product to troubleshoot problems in real time.
  • They tried selling the product before they had investors, figured if they could sell the product, that would be a good sign.
  • How did you know you were ready to raise money? Have a prototype or BETA.
  • Miora tells us about the value of competitions like Seed Stars. They learned a lot from other companies at these competitions. Everybody there was going through similar journeys and facing similar challenges. They created a Whatsapp group to formalize the community and get instant feedback from each other.
  • Entrepreneurship can be a lonely path! Find communities and join networks where opportunities arise.
  • Miora tells us what it means not “just look for money” but, to look for “the right money.”
    This type of investment usually comes with a mentorship relationship. Wait for investors who truly care about guiding you in a positive direction.
  • They needed support from someone who really understood their business. Miora didn’t want someone to just write a cheque and walk away.

 

Resources:

Connect with Miora:

FIP 69: Funding 1/4 – Are you ready to raise money? With Elizabeth West of iGravity

Today we hear from Elizabeth West of iGravity on the subject of investment readiness and the first steps in fundraising as the first episode in our fundraising series.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • What it means to be “investment ready” and what are some preparation steps that enterprises should consider taking before engaging with investors, including taking time to build an advisory network and going one step further in terms of investigations or iterations on the product or business model. She notes that more than anything else, early-stage companies need constant advice and feedback from friends and critical friends.
  • For Elizabeth, investment readiness involves four main elements: an enterprise that really knows its customer segment and the value of its product or service, understands exactly how much capital it needs, and what they want to use investment capital for.
  • Elizabeth explains that when she is trying to determining the level of a company’s investment readiness, she does ask for signs of external verification of the company’s efforts, such as the names and numbers of customers and files with all the background research that the company has done.
  • Another important item that enterprises need to better highlight is the team – at the end of the day, investors interested in early-stage companies are investing in teams, not a particular idea or product, so the team should be presented thoroughly and professionally.
  • She recommends that even for start-ups, companies should go beyond initial signs of traction and do some real investigation into their markets and customers as a way to set them apart from other enterprises meeting with investors.
  • Elizabeth also mentions the importance of personality and that entrepreneurs should know that investors talk to each other, so it is important to represent yourself well in every meeting, because impressions will be shared.
  • Elizabeth advises enterprises to work closely with the investment officer to become an advocate for your company when the deal is presented internally and not try to push too quickly for the investment to be presented for an investment decision.
  • Finally, she shares that early-stage companies should try for multiple outcomes from a meeting with an investor, including a follow-on meeting, critical feedback on the business model, or connections with other investors that may be interested.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Elizabeth:

 

FIP 68: The Boardroom Africa with Marcia Ashong

Marcia Ashong and Tamsin Jones joined forces to start The Boardroom Africa (TBrA) with the objective of accelerating the appointment of women to boards across Africa. According to TBrA, it might take another 60 years, at the current rate, for gender parity to be achieved if things are left to run their normal course. While there are many qualified women looking to sit on boards, existing systems have evolved to favour men. Through referrals and extensive search, TBrA has compiled a growing database of more than 300 highly qualified board-ready women from 40 countries with over 10 years’ experience each in their fields.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • Importance of male allies that are willing to help boost women up. Marcia talks about how she found her mentors.
  • When you lose your safety net of people who can advocate for you – you are forced to fight for yourself. The barriers that affect women’s growth become clearer. Have you reached the ceiling in your industry?
  • Marcia has seen many female colleagues go through the same thing as her. She tells us what it feels like to be the only female in the room in almost all situations. How do you battle these extremely intimidating dynamics?
  • She tells us about the differences between men’s leadership and female leadership. Often women will adapt to their surroundings and try to mimic men’s leadership qualities. This can mean that women start to operate outside of themselves.
  • Are you surrounded by only male colleagues or like-minded people? Prepare to be less effective. Successful businesses need diverse opinions. Diversity leads to better decision-making and company growth.
  • Through all the research TheBoardroom Africa has done, they have discovered that the companies who had a quarter share of women on their boards performed 20% better in various margins. The argument isn’t about women being better or more qualified, the argument centres around diversity.
  • One woman on a board is not enough, you have to have at least a quarter share in order to see the value of that diversity.
  • Companies will have a majority consumer base consisting of women yet have no women on the marketing team. Not setting your business up for success!
  • The way the board operates dictates how the company runs. Can start change at the board level.
  • How does someone become “board ready?” You have reached a point in your career where you will be able to impart impactful knowledge to another organization. What does that mean? 10 years experience in specific industry? And more…
  • You don’t need board experience to be considered board ready. This is one of the major barriers for women!
  • Training to understand board dynamics. What does it mean to be a woman on a male dominated board?
  • How do you get more women on your board? First step is talking about it. You don’t have to be combative. Next step? Start to planning to fix it.
  • Are board meetings a check exercise instead of a place where you can engage and debate ideas?

Resources:

Connect with Marcia:

FIP 67: Profit vs. Impact 3/3 – with Arielle Molino of Intellecap

Today we hear from Arielle Molino of Intellecap, which is a firm that supports business solutions to poverty through consulting, impact investing activities, and the Sankalp conferences in India and East Africa.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • Why Arielle doesn’t like to say “profit versus impact” but instead “profit and impact” and her viewpoint that they are not competitive interests. She explains that this can be achieved when the impact is inherent in the business model itself.
  • Arielle highlights the importance of listening to and understanding the customer needs – focusing on whether the product is too expensive, not easy to use, etc. – and shaping a business model around that, not trying to start with a customer segment with a certain purchasing power.
  • Arielle explains that even for enterprises that are targeting the BOP, it is important still to do customer segmenting, as there are very real customer differences between low BOP and medium BOP.
  • With specific customer knowledge, enterprises are able to build products that enhance their clients’ productivity or quality of life, no matter where they are on the income spectrum, which is the real impact of the company.
  • She also notes that she doesn’t think it is always the case that entrepreneurs must target higher income customers, as it has been proven time and again that those companies can breakeven, it is just a question of scale and timing.
  • She does not advocate, however, that everything needs to be a business or be profitable, but it is important to know and acknowledge the difference between social businesses and social services.
  • Arielle also talks about the importance of the entrepreneur being able to “sell” or be convincing of the impact story of the company, as investors and donors have very diverse impact lenses. But she also makes it clear that the founder needs to be able to back up their impact story with data.
  • She also recommends entrepreneurs not to be too focused on the having to have every detail of their impact model figured, as the concept is not black and white for most stakeholders, even those very experienced in the impact space.
  • Arielle tells us that if an enterprise has a good business model, a high quality management team, and the impact is there, the money will come.
  • She also wants entrepreneurs to be picky about their investors and make sure that the investors are aligned with their business and do due diligence on the investors as well.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Arielle:

FIP 66: Profit vs. Impact 2/3 – with Tom Adams of Acumen

Today on the podcast Ashlee Tuttleman interviews Tom Adams of Acumen. As Chief Impact Officer, Tom leads the organizations’ work towards creating impact through patient capital investing. Acumen have pioneered Lean DataSM, an approach to data collection which helps to build more impactful businesses by providing them with data on their social performance, customer feedback and customer behaviour.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • What we do and don’t know about social performance – and why is that? Tom pushes us to examine our own biases.
  • Traditional aid can work, but sometimes a different type of approach is needed. People can pay for services instead of accepting pure charity. Tom tells us about philanthropic capital investment.
  • Tom talks about what it was like for Acumen to pioneer this type of program 20 years ago before anyone else had entered this space. It takes a lot of patience.
  • He tells us about what it is like to work in a space where standards and norms aren’t developed in the traditional sense. They’re looking for ways  to standardize social performance data on an on-going basis in the same way other industries do.
  • Need to build repeatable systems and methods to understand social performance. Impact from year to year will change. There is no playbook!
  • Acumen Invested in remote data collection to drive down costs. (SMS, text, phone calls etc. were an obvious place to start.)
  • There is always complexity around getting good data and avoiding bias. At its core, it boils down to listening to people and listening to your customers.
  • Be open to hearing about unintended consequences. Something that seems inherently positive can have unintended negative effects.
  • JD Power is a shining example of the successful use of consumer reports. Engineers had always ‘known best’ when it came to making cars. JD Power found they had more success when they included consumers in the equation and asked them what they wanted!
  • Invest in your monitoring and evaluation in the beginning of your work. (Needs to be a core part of a socially oriented organization).
  • Positive social change starts with listening to the user.
  • How do you get started in the beginning? Getting the basics of customer feedback in place can be simple. Net promoter score? General feedback? How likely are you likely to recommend? Build from there.
  • When it comes down to it, the basics of this work are continuous listening. You don’t need to overcomplicate it with specific measurements.
  • More remote you can be the more likely you can trust the data. (People are more likely to alter their response in-person). The goal is unbiased data.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Tom:

 

 

 

FIP 65: Profit vs Impact Series 1/3 – with Arjun Bolangdy

For the first episode in our three-part series on “Profit Versus Impact”, today we hear from Arjun Bolangdy, Associate Vice President – Strategic Projects of Pollinate Energy, with a mission to improve the lives of India’s urban poor. Through providing energy products to BOP markets, Pollinate Energy works to improve their customers everyday lives, while at the same time empowering local entrepreneurs in India and raising awareness of social business across the country.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • Arjun explains how Pollinate Energy’s unique fundraising model – with a non-profit enterprise in Australia which wholly-owns a for-profit in India – allows for the organization to scale to different cities and finance other value-addition activities.
  • How to low income customers pay for these products? Arjun details how Pollinate Energy extends credit to make their products affordable to their customers and how that relates back to making the company financially sustainable in each city.
  • Arjun details the overall model of the company, including the different and important roles of Pollinate Energy Australia and Pollinate Energy India and how the integration of these roles supports a growth model that covers Pollinate Energy India’s costs during the 18-24 month period it requires to breakeven in new cities.
  • What are other interesting aspects of Pollinate Energy’s model? Arjun shares about the company’s multiple fellowship programs that include “scout” fellows to map urban slums in new cities, as well as city “co-founders” to lead Pollinate Energy’s expansion into the city.
  • Arjun talks about the importance of balancing impact versus growth, for which the company uses city financial sustainability as a key metric. He explained the enterprise’s strategic decision to pause expansion for 2018 to focus on deepening its impact in the communities it already serves versus continual growth.
  • Finally, Arjun also spoke to some of their impact measurement tools, which center on customer surveys on direct impacts (shifts from kerosene-based to solar energy use) and indirect impacts (such as improved health, education outcomes, etc.), and how that data relates back to their fundraising model.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Arjun:

 

Failure finding impact

FIP 64: The Failure Files – Six Guests Share Their Stories

Six guests share their stories of failure. Our undercover reporter took to the streets of Oxford during the 2018 Skoll World Forum to uncover the stories of failure. Let’s face it – this isn’t talked about enough, and this is what this podcast is for: learning from others so we go further and faster to the impact we’re aiming for.

On this episode, you’ll hear responses from the following awesome folks:

Thank you to all of the guests who have shown such vulnerability by paying forward their hard lessons to all of you.

Working in social entrepreneurship is not easy. The path is strewn with obstacles and many times we will stumble. The best thing to do is make good of the failure, and share it with others in the hope they learn from it. That’s what this episode is about.

Thanks for tuning in to this special episode. If you liked it, then please let me know. If you didn’t then I also want to hear it. Leave a comment below, or reach me via the contact form.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons at the bottom of the post.

Also, I’d love it if you could leave a review of The Finding Impact Podcast on iTunes. This will help me reach a broader audience – I’d be hugely appreciative.

What was your favourite lesson from this episode? Let me know on Twitter by clicking here!

FIP 63: Human Capital Series 3/3 – Creating Company Culture and the Role of Self-Confidence with Ayla Schlosser

Today we hear from Ayla Schlosser, co-founder of Resonate, whose mission is to unlock the leadership potential of women and girls in East Africa. Through storytelling, confidence-building workshops and leadership training, Resonate is aiming to close the confidence gap that impedes opportunity and potential in women. Resonate takes this missed opportunity and turns it into action. As of February 2018, Resonate has worked with over 3000 participants across East Africa and partnered with forty different organizations, including a few big names like Kate Spade, Imbuto Foundation (the flagship organization of Rwanda’s first lady Jeannette Kagame), and the Segal Family Foundation

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Ayla came to create Resonate. Ayla found that there was a huge emphasis on building skills and education for women, but the internal transformation needed to build confidence and put these skills to use was often overlooked.
  • Ayla was the problem that she was trying to solve. A big part of her growth came from understanding the difference between standing up for an idea vs. yourself.
  • What about men? Ayla confirms that women struggle disproportionately. This is due to societal roles, history, and a number of institutionalized and systematic inequalities in other spaces.
  • Ayla tells us stories about women VPs and Founders that she has met at conferences who have struggled with confidence and the feeling “not enough-ness.”
  • Too much cake? Ayla and her team celebrate their achievements and successes a lot. They have a slack channel dedicated to acknowledging the good work of their team!
  • Resonate worked backwards into their culture and have been very careful with every hire. A couple years in, they realized that they had a strong culture, but had never codified it. They found times when they felt most proud and uncovered their core values.
  • Ayla and her team acknowledge that there will be times in the future where they may need to call out times where they didn’t embody their desired culture.
  • They like to check in on their team on a personal level too. “What are you going to do to take care of yourself this week?” Then be accountable and follow-up! Show that you care about your colleagues beyond the work space. It builds trust.
  • Have you invested in your onboarding process? Resonate has made this a priority. They encourage their staff to, “keep learning and welcome challenges.” New hires are given an on-boarding project. It is meant to be 1-2 weeks long and gives them a quick iteration of project cycle and feedback process.
  • Be like the Hummingbird! Ayla shares one of her favourite stories and how it has inspired a recognition award within Resonate.
  • Ayla talks about the important of transformations within your own team. Their current Director of Operations began as their administrator and is now working with Execs and Phds in the US.
  • When employees say “I can’t do that or I don’t have the skills”; there is a temptation to bring in the experts. Ayla tells us how she has fought this off. That’s when people get better. When they are given the opportunity to do something that is slightly out of their depth.
  • Create a network of mentors and advisors – surround yourself with people who know what they are doing.
  • Grow your people at the same rate as you are growing your organization and you will be way better off. Invest in everyone!
  • Ayla tells us about an example of her training having an impact at one of the Kate Spade operations in Rwanda.. Employees were given the confidence to speak up and see their own worth. Ayla considered this a huge step forward.
  • In start ups, we are always sprinting and moving on to the next thing. Pause to acknowledge. Pay attention to how your employees want to be acknowledged. Some like cake and some would be so embarrassed by that. Knowing the difference will build trust and a rapport.
  • Feedback can have an inherently negative feeling to it. Positive feedback is super important too. Ayla narrows it down to three different types of feedback – goal oriented, appreciative, and constructive.
  • Lastly, Ayla reminds us that even experts are always doing some things for the first time. If you don’t know something, chances are you can still do it anyway.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Ayla:

 

What was your favourite lesson from this episode? Let me know on Twitter by clicking here!

FIP 62: Human Capital Series 2/3 – Recruiting and Retaining High Performers at more Mature Organizations with Sarah Perrott

This week, Sarah Perrott is my guest for the second episode in our human capital series. We’re talking about recruiting and retaining high performers at more mature organizations. Sarah is the Founder and Managing Director of Cresco Consulting which is a boutique consultancy offering both executive search and development for organisations and individuals. Cresco provides clients with a bespoke service, tailored to their needs founded on the belief that anyone can flourish in the right environment

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • Some useful advice on how to build a positive team including recruiting, strengthening, building cohesion and building motivation, as well as some tips for the jobseeker.
  • How Sarah, with over 25 years of experience working with CEO’s and senior leaders of many well-known organizations, went on to start Cresco Consulting.
  • How Cresco uses psychology and behaviour change theory to match employees to companies. Some of their principles are 1. recruit for attitude and train for skill; 2. align the values of the candidate and the organization; 3. align the personality and approach of the individual to the issues on hand.
  • What tools to use and what not to use at various stages of your organization including, (a) MBTI Type tool for teams in existence; and (2) trait tools for recruitment like 16pf, and Hogan’s Dark Side tool.
  • What must an organization do to attract top talent and build a cohesive team? To actively source from a diverse pool of candidates from different avenues to ensure that creativity and innovation are encouraged by eliminating unconscious bias, like how to use a well worded advert in recruitment. Headhunting, social media and networking are other ways.
  • How to prevent hiring people in your own image, including using interview panels to eliminate unconscious bias.
  • How to use different tools to improve the cohesion of your team. Using the MBTI Type tool to understand the individual’s preference, tendencies, blindspots and motivation which builds self-awareness.
  • What tools to use to keep the high performing team motivated? – Sarah’s view is that there should be precise and immediate feedback for improving performance. Nancy Kline’s tools in “Time to think” methodology are recommended. Also tools of appreciation are effective at improving how people work together.
  • Tips for the job seekers in the audience on how to assess the offer from a potential employer. Sarah emphasises that job seekers should spend time with the organization and the people, then trust your gut.

Links to resources:

Connect with Sarah: