Episode #394: Africa Startup Series – Peter Nguyni, EarlyBird Venture Lab – Accelerating African’s Startup Ecosystem

Episode #394: Africa Startup Series – Peter Nguyni, EarlyBird Venture Lab – Accelerating African’s Startup Ecosystem


Guest: Peter Ngunyi leads the EarlyBird group of companies that support a growing portfolio of fast-growing tech startups. EarlyBird Venture Lab provides growth, acquisition and funding strategy for early-stage tech startups. EarlyBird Capital is the first institutional check to fast-growing Pan-African tech startups that meet our team and traction indicators.

Date Recorded: 2/9/2022     |     Run-Time: 38:11

Summary: In today’s episode, we’re talking to someone who’s seen the growth of the continent first hand over the last 40 plus years. Peter begins by touching on his recent transition from operator to investor to help solve startups get access to capital. He explains why African’s have historically mostly seen real estate as the only investment option but are now starting to invest in startups. We hear about areas he’s excited about like retail tech and fintech, and of course some companies he’s excited about.

As we wind down, Peter shares why Africa needs to pave it’s own path and not just copy the US or Chinese model.

Comments or suggestions? Interested in sponsoring an episode? Email Colby at colby@cambriainvestments.com

Links from the Episode:

  • 0:40 – Intro
  • 1:28 – Welcome to our guest, Peter Ngunyi
  • 4:18 – Starting out as an operator
  • 6:06 – Transitioning from operator to investor through EarlyBird
  • 9:17 – How EarlyBird has evolved over the years
  • 13:44 – Why African’s have traditionally invested in real estate instead of startups
  • 15:27 – Are African startups being funded domestically or is funding largely global?
  • 17:39 – Interesting and attractive investments over the past few years
  • 19:48 – Growth impediments Peter has seen for entrepreneurs in Africa
  • 23:02 – What will Africa’s model look like in comparison to the US or China?
  • 25:24 – The role government grants and foundations play in funding startups
  • 27:20 – Where Peter sees the most opportunity today
  • 33:50 – Peter’s most memorable investment
  • 34:40 – Learn more about Peter; peter@earlybird.co.ke; Instagram; LinkedIn; EarlyBird Deals


Transcript of Episode 394:

Welcome Message: Welcome to “The Meb Faber Show,” where the focus is on helping you grow and preserve your wealth. Join us as we discuss the craft of investing and uncover new and profitable ideas, all to help you grow wealthier and wiser. Better investing starts here.

Disclaimer: Meb Faber is the co-founder and chief investment officer at Cambria Investment Management. Due to industry regulations, he will not discuss any of Cambria’s funds on this podcast. All opinions expressed by podcast participants are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of Cambria Investment Management or its affiliates. For more information, visit cambriainvestments.com

Meb: Welcome, friends. We’re back with another episode in our Africa startup series. Our guest is the founder and CEO of EarlyBird Ventures, which provides growth, acquisition, and funding strategy for early-stage tech startups. In today’s show, we’re talking to someone who’s seen the growth of the continent firsthand over the last 40-plus years. He touches on his recent transition from operator to investor to help solve startups get access to capital. He explains why Africans have historically mostly seen real estate as the only investment option but are now starting to invest in startups too. We hear about areas he’s excited about like retail tech and fintech, and, of course, some companies he’s excited about too. As we wind down, he shares why Africa needs to pave its own path, and not just copy the U.S. or Chinese model. Please enjoy this episode with EarlyBird Venture’s Peter Ngunyi. Meb: Peter, welcome to the show.

Peter: Thank you very much, Meb. Nice to be here.

Meb: Where’s here? Where do we find you tonight?

Peter: Yeah, it’s tonight where I am. I’m in Nairobi, Kenya, right now. I just came back from New York. It was too cold. So I ran away.

Meb: New York this time is no good. A farmer’s son.

Peter: Yeah, that’s what my dad did to make sure we stayed in shape. So he moved us from the city. My mom, she did really well being a chicken farmer. And my dad watched her do this. He’s like, “Well, I can do it.” So he became a dairy farmer. And I think that was the last time we were friends. Because dairy cattle, Meb, that’s a full-time job. You have to wake up at 3 in the morning, milk those things. It’s Africa, so electricity would go out and you had to milk them by hand. So the minute I could get out of the farm life, I’ve never looked back.

Meb: All right. So we’re going to talk about all things Africa, startups, funding, VCs. I saw a stat come across Twitter the other day that Africa saw something like five billion in private funding last year VC, which was probably a double over the year before, which was probably a double over the year before. But that wasn’t always the case. So let’s get a brief whirlwind tour of your origin story, because you did some stops along the way in the U.S., too, right?

Peter: You know, had had to work for my dad for two years before I went to college. It was in some restaurants in some very shady sides of Nairobi. But he taught me a lot about how to run business. And I showed up in Kansas. I left Nairobi, it was 90 degrees. I think I showed up there it was minus 14 or something that day I got there. Real shock to my system. But pretty soon after Kansas, I met some buddies, we started working together. And I found myself in Austin, Texas. And that’s the first time I found the dot-com early people who would make some money in Silicon Valley, they moved to Austin, Texas. And I was like, whatever these guys are doing, that’s what I want to do. So I started honing my skills in strategy for early-stage companies, found myself in Atlanta for a bit, but I’ve been back in the continent.

And I think what made me really want to come back to the continent is, whenever I was in the States and I worked for any company, I was moving the needle like 0.000. And you can see things in Africa go from zero to one very fast. So the population is 1.3 billion, we are going to be 2.4 by 2050, and I think 4 billion by 2100. So all these people need to eat, roads need to be built, houses need to be, there is so much to do. And it’s just buzzing. So I’m happy to be back, happy to be supporting early-stage startups. That is the front place right now for me.

Meb: So like many investors, you got your start as operator first.

Peter: My first operating experience was I started a company in Atlanta that was doing image consulting, one of those early people to colonize Google AdWords. And people would come in looking for services. CNN became one of my bigger clients, TJX, Raymond James. I mean, I was having the best time of my life, then the recession happened. And that’s when … I think I learned more from bad situations than many others. People who’d seen me grow a company from 1 state to 13 states pretty fast started coming to me and saying, “Okay, how do we do this?” So I started doing consulting in growth strategy, but then the call to come back to Africa was really strong.

You had a lot of pioneers back then building the iHubs. That’s where you brought in a bunch of the early-tech people. Very good friend, David Kobia, was building tech startups that were serving the continent out of Atlanta. And I was like, “Okay, guys, listen, whenever you get some space or someone like me, let me know.” So as soon as I landed in Nairobi, I was an operator, I was president of a company called BRCK. It’s a hardware company. They put Internet in buses, in malls. And it was actually 2018, one of the top 50 Time Magazine companies of the year. So it was a great way to get introduced to the continent at the company.

Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Case, Brian from Airbnb, we used to come, just drop in on the iHub because all the tech startups back then were in just one big building. So that was the fun times. Then I realized there are a lot of young people who just didn’t have the experience you and I have of being around money, being around capital. But what could I do to be a catalyst for a bunch of very hungry, brilliant young people in Africa who just wanted to be shown, “This is how this tech building is done.”? So that’s when I started my company, and it’s bigger.

Meb: So what year would this have been?

Peter: 2018 is when I started. I think ’17 was no man’s land for me. I was really struggling on how I can support. So I ran around all the conference circuits, talked to a bunch of people. But in 2018, that’s when we started EarlyBird Venture Lab.

Meb: Talk to me a little bit about the vision in 2018. What did EarlyBird look like? And what does it look like now?

Peter: Funding in Africa has been non-existent. What we do in the West and what we do in Africa, it was just very small. You’ve had probably about 50 years of any money coming into Africa as grants. So Africa is resource-rich, a bunch of resources leave. We as a continent have not figured out how to get paid for what we produce. For an investment, a lot of it came in as grants and loans. And the golden rule is the guy with the gold makes the rules. So we were not making any rules about how money was getting into the continent.

Then you had the impact investors coming. And that was great. Let’s see how we can move the needle on really hard things. So you had agriculture, you had power, infrastructure. But for the tech people, this wasn’t an easy way for them to get funding. There was already a size problem. Most of the companies here are starting maybe a 50-grant check, that is a rounding error for most people who are writing checks. There was a communication problem. The way money speaks in the VC world is not the way we speak in Africa. There was allocation problem, because I mean, most of the funding didn’t get to the continent. If I’m an entrepreneur, I come out of Ivy League school, I can get the money then come and work in Africa. So generally, the deals were still not happening in the continent. So that was the general situation in, let’s say, 2015.

And even series As then, when we were doing series As for company, there were, like, a million and two million. It’s vortex, right? So 2018 we start going on this journey. And the idea was very simple. Find really smart ladies, gentlemen wherever, and then if you find the right team and the right traction, back then to the hilt. So it’s very high touch, it’s not like a one-size-fits-all. And that’s where we were in 2018. And I think it’s something that a lot of people talked about that should be done, but nobody was willing to raise their hand and do it. So I just decided this was the thing I needed to do. Both me and my little team, we went out there started in Kenya scouring the place in Nairobi for good teams to back.

2020 was when we hit paid at really good companies. And then the pandemic happened. And that has just been rocket fuel. Because generally, the companies people were building was like a different Uber for Africa or things that exist. But the entrepreneurs we find here are building for real problems that exist here. And the rest is history. I have companies that have provided incredible returns. Twenty People at the beginning of 2020 and 600 now, rocket ships of companies. And I’ve been really surprised and pleasantly existing in that world now.

Meb: How has it evolved over the years?

Peter: We started with two things. We started with…we don’t call it acceleration, because we don’t do cause. We just call it growth strategy. We work with a team and an entrepreneur who says, “Okay, we think you’re going to provide value to us.” We work with them long-term. And then that 60%, 20% of it is funding. I became really jaded on a bunch of accelerators, which will do all kinds of acceleration but no funding. I think that is damn. You need the fuel to push the company. So we back all our companies with real cash.

And then, like I said, 2020, 2021 things started happening and companies started growing. And we have this other arm that we are working on right now, but it’s heavily M&A and other value adds to the company’s growth by blitzscaling. And acquisitions have become something that we like. For example, if you’re running a company in Kenya and good at raising money, and somebody is in Uganda or Tanzania, those are markets that can’t raise money. It’s easier to acquire that team and not start over in that country. And so that founder gets money, they get folded into your companies quite well.

Meb: What are the main pain points of funding? Is it finding talent? I know you talk a lot about storytelling. I’m your newest Instagram follower, which we’ll talk about later. But it’s a great account.

Peter: Let’s start with funding. You know, I was listening to the podcast, you’re talking about trying to get your house. How difficult it is for people to get funding if just a little tiny aspect of the way you’re looking for the funding does not fit to the general thesis of people doing that. If you go to Ney York and say, “Listen, I have the smartest person you’ve ever met in Africa and this is what they’re building.” It still sounds so foreign to a lot of people. So it is difficult to raise money for African companies. But the returns are incredibly good. If you can be one of the people who has faith. I am a huge believer in history, we saw what happened in Eastern Europe, we saw what happened in Southeast Asia, China. And Africa right now, this is the next frontier and people are winning big. So funding is, I would say, that will be on the top of my list of how we can shake things up.

The second part is talent. People are really, really smart, but generally acceptable practices of how to do things, we need to grow into that. So I think what we’ve been doing is cross-pollinating. Finding people who’ve worked in companies that we know, bring in people from different parts of the world. I think we are going to talk about this. You know, I’ve been to 41 countries, and I’m a believer in just being a global citizen. And I don’t think you can build a soonicorn or a unicorn if you’re not hiring the best from all over the world. So that cross-pollination is something that we see.

The fragmentation of the market is quite annoying. You have 54 countries in Africa, and every one of them is trying to do its own thing. But there are new laws that are opening things up. Look at Indonesia, look at India, look at China. I like chaos. Because anyone who can fix a bunch of chaos does really, really well. I think most of us are used to the soft life. When you’re building in Silicon Valley, everything is nice. And there is a red carpet rolled out for you. You can get a loan here, you can talk to a VC there. The chaos that is in Africa, I think that’s where we are really winning is a few people are taking the risk, and they are figuring out how to succeed in the middle of a lot of chaos.

Look at Nigeria. Everyone was like, “Stay away from Nigeria.” Right now, they’re producing probably two, three unicorns a year because there is a lot to be done. The population is ready, the entrepreneurs are ready, if the money comes in and the people do it right. Right now I’m really bullish on Ethiopia, for example. A hundred million plus virgin territory. I remember Kenya in ’93, that will date me a little bit. The country was going through 100% recession. The IMF had closed its pockets on it, there were a bunch of corrupt officials all over the place. But within four years, the country was doing 12% year over year for 10 years straight. If you start seeing the government getting some of these parastatals privatized, they’re starting to get a stock exchange, you’re starting to get your monetary stuff in order. Anyone who knows and has followed what happened in any of the markets that we talked about, if you’re not the first person, then you miss a really great ride.

Meb: One of the classic ways that people both store and invest over time all around the world has been real estate. Are you able to talk some of these wealthy real estate moguls into the benefits of startup investing? What’s the sort of landscape right now?

Peter: Because of banks going under quite a bit, people just would never put money in banks, for one. It’s called land banking. Get a bunch of cash and just buy more and more real estate. And I would say, unfortunately, Kenya was one of those places where you could get 20% or 40% year on year benefits on real estate. But it so happened it was illiquid, most people, when they need the money, can’t get out of it. While you got the game, sometimes you really lose it on trying to get out. There are really favorable capital gains taxes on real estate, so that also kept people in.

A few things have happened to help us out. First of all, houses in my neighborhood are somewhere between 300,000 to a million. Nobody’s affording those things in Africa. You are able to sell a few of them, but really soon the population was like, “Hey, we’ve had our fill of these things.” So 2018, again, things started happening. For the first time, land stopped appreciating at what it’d done for the last 40 years. And then you start seeing unicorns out of Africa. So it’s the first time people are like, “Well, there’s this other asset class that we can start investing in.” And as of 2022, the angel group of people in Africa is really, really strong. So yes, we are being able now to have sensible conversations around people supporting early-stage companies.

Meb: One of the best things that can happen to any area certainly is you have, like you mentioned, a big success that then generates a lot of wealth for the founders, employees. And that often trickles its way through the whole ecosystem. Seems like we’re still early. Is the Africa scene starting to develop where it’s true grassroots local? And also on the same question, on the funding side, too, are you starting to see more Africa-originated investment involvement in startups scenes or is it still a lot of global focus?

Peter: If money was coming from a lot of these, like you say, pockets that we already know, it wasn’t finding the right entrepreneurs. We’ve been at this for 15 years. Something that I say is, if you look at where people put their money in 2010, you should be able, in 2020, to see a bunch of really solid exits. But most of the companies we are seeing, exiting people are younger companies who are talking to the guys at Chipper, Paystack, Flutterwave, Zack was talking about this, Kuda Bank, which I really like, these are really strong African entrepreneurs. And they got their initial money, most of them, from their friends and family network, which wasn’t that VC or IV pedigree.

So what we are seeing, and this has been a really, really good indicator of how we should look at the continent, is most of the exits are happening to companies or with companies that have local entrepreneurs. So these might be people who grew up in Africa and find themselves in London, or New York, or San Francisco, or people still who live in the continent. And what happened is that first cohort of entrepreneurs, when they got their secondary’s or got some form of exits, they’ve done what you say Microsoft people did, or people who backed PayPal or whatever, is they took that cash, and they doubled down on more entrepreneurs in the continent. And now we are starting to get this really good pipeline of locally-founded companies that are doing really, really good work.

Meb: What’s been attractive? What’s interesting to you over the past few years?

Peter: Kuda Bank, I was introduced to Kuda by Zack George. This was, again, the same time, 2018. And Babs, who I respect a lot, started talking to us about getting a Nigerian online bank started. And we were like, “Okay, nobody will get a license from Nigeria.” The guy’s just hardcore. He got it, and they’ve done really, really well. But right now, what I’m really excited about is retail tech. You have about a trillion dollars that goes through these mom-and-pop merchants, 7-Elevens, nobody’s digitized these guys well. There’s a company I’m really bullish on, it’s called MarketForce. And MarketForce, they’re trying and succeeding. They’re growing really fast on being the Amazon Prime for small businesses. So you tell me what you need, I’ll deliver it there tomorrow. And you don’t need to close up your shop and lose money while you’re away.

So if you take a normal 7-Eleven, they will have the potato chips, they’ll have the soda, they’ll have the lottery tickets, they’ll have burner phones. So MarketForce has figured out how to digitize the whole process. So half of it will be financial services. So do you need to buy phone credit? Or do you need to pay your electricity bill? So it’s a one-stop-shop ecosystem that delivers goods and also allows the shopkeepers to make a bunch of extra cash by selling a bunch of things that you would find in a merchant shop. They are a YC company, so that’s another question you asked is now we are seeing a lot of good founders. I think the success rate in Africa is a little high for getting into YC. Because if you have a good team and traction that will show, the MarketForce founders, this is their third company, and they had an exit last year. So that’s another thing that is making me respect founders a lot. Just because they’re African doesn’t mean they’ve not had the 10,000-hour rule. They’ve been at the grind for a long, long time. And I’m really happy to be supporting teams like this.

Meb: And are there any specific things that you see as impediments to growth for these entrepreneurs and companies that you have experienced over the last few years?

Peter: I am an opportunist. So give me traction. I’m really in all about just team and traction. If I find an entrepreneur who has a promise, and I think some entrepreneurs have privilege that others don’t. So I think some of the young people come in, and this is their one shot. And these guys, they give their all. And you can tell. But sometimes I run into entrepreneurs who come from privilege. And if you’re coming from privilege in Africa, like you can tell. And this comes from the background of monitoring and evaluation that is taught in Ivies, most of them work in huge funds, DFIs, that I want to test, I want to try, I want to learn.

Africa does not have time to test, try, and learn. You have to one shot at most of these ideas. So by the time you get to year 2 or 3, maybe you’re the smartest person in the room, but your Chippers, and Paystacks, and Flutterwaves didn’t do that. They just went out and crushed on the traction path. You learn as you go. And that is, I think, something that I really respect the people who figure out that Africa is completely different from any other place, just because we do not have the cash or the time to learn on the job. An investor team about four years ago calls me and they said, “Listen, we’re looking for a director of investment. We think you look like the right guy. We want to come into Africa, bring in a bunch of cash. And we want to teach people there how to lean startup.” And I was like, “Okay, great.” But that still doesn’t work.

It’s a good philosophy, but for my series A at BRCK was $3 million. A series A of an equivalent company in America will be $50 million as a hardware company. So you can’t teach me how to be any leaner than we’re already operating here. Right? So there is a humility and a respect that somebody needs to have when they come to a place like Africa. And it’s a two-way thing. I will respect the money you bring in, and you need to respect some of the challenges and the genius that exists in the people we back.

I’ll give you another example. There’s a friend of ours who has won the Hilltop prize and other prizes. And he works in slums to get better situations for the people who live in slums. And some of the genius things they are doing there, we’ve pumped in a bunch of money to try and get water in the slums. But we use old methods. We dig a trench, you put in the pipes, tomorrow you come, and half the people have dug the pipes out and syphoning water from everywhere. So they had this invention where you piped the water on electric poles, so everyone can see if you’re tapping. And it’s just such a simple thing. And it took the people who live in the community to say, “If you don’t want us to tap into the water, everyone needs to see the pipe at any one point so that we see who’s tapping into it.” If we want to succeed, if I want to take your money and you want to work with me in Africa, we need to agree that the people in Africa generally know more about how to run businesses in Africa than we do. That’s what’s been succeeding.

Meb: You talk a lot about the model, which may be the U.S. model or the Chinese model for doing things, and Africa needing to find its own path. What do you think that looks like?

Peter: I think things that really fun. For me, I just want to have fun. I have one life, I’m going to travel, I’m going to work, I’m going to put my all. Every young guy or every young lady still wants Jordan shoes, and they still want that nice makeup set from Rihanna. You’re finding the continent is working really, really hard. So one out of every five consumers in the globe will be out of Africa, I think, within the next five years. And half of those will be in the middle class. So anyone who’s doing anything, if you’re selling Coca-Cola, if you’re not doing work in Africa in the next five years, I think you’ll be missing on a huge, huge opportunity. What we are doing is we are doing a bunch of syndication. These companies are talking … in 18 months. So, anyone who’s into any kind of early-stage investments, like you say, they will find their way here and pretty soon. So syndication is the first early-stage investment that is happening a lot.

Then you have VCs who sit in the continent. Those ones are being able to absorb the seed and pre-series A rounds. But when you go to series A…right now, I’m raising a couple like 14-plus million. So that starts to be a global ticket. You’re starting to see companies that are 100 billion, 200 billion, 300 million in valuation, then it becomes exciting for those guys who can’t write a check that’s under $10 million or $20 million. So we are having a lot of conversations with those kinds of VCs. We had 5 billion come in, it’s probably going to be closer to 10 billion this year. And I think by 2025, you will start seeing 30 billion, 40 billion a year coming into the continent.

And I’m really a fan of the first people who went from America and went and started Hong Kong and putting their money in Alibaba and all those Chinese big companies. I think we are starting to see people actually coming into the continent and saying, “You know what, I’m going to take a big bet here, and it’s going to pay off.” And I think a couple of the companies we talked to you about already on the soonicorn list. I think the return on investment is going to be pretty sweet.

Meb: How much of a role are government grants foundations that may play a funding portion in the past? Is that reducing? Is it increasing? What’s the impact there?

Peter: I think it’s confused. The governments really want to do something, I don’t think they’ve set themselves up. But a lot is changing pretty quickly. You’re starting to see the Africa Free Trade Agreement, which will open up the whole market into one. We’re starting to see brands become smarter. And that happened by mistake. Grants, funds, and impact investments find themselves in a situation where people are saying no to their money. And they’ve never found themselves in that situation in 50 years of operating in Africa. And that’s because commercial funding is coming in with less strings attached and very fast.

I’ll give you a good example. In the last 10 years, I think in Nairobi impact funding was 90% of all the funding had some strings attached to impact funding. And I like impact funding, but the due diligence was you had to pass the commercial due diligence, then you had to pass the impact due diligence. And it would take six months. So if I came to you at a valuation of 20 million, and by the time you say yes to my deal I’m valued at 80 million, taken a bunch of safe checks, I can’t take your money. So once people sat in the offices and haven’t deployed for a year, they started to really sharpen up.

Another thing is that because of tying people to too many strings, those companies have grown really, really slowly. Which means most of the impact funds that we have in Africa have not provided every time. Most of them had to close up shop or get swallowed into another fund. So by mistake, we just find ourselves in a very fun, fast, and interesting funding situation right now.

Meb: What do you see that you think is a big opportunity that hasn’t been harnessed yet?

Peter: I would still say that the MarketForces that are doing Amazon Prime and embedding your payments, take Square or take Alipay and combine to retail tech, that gives you a really, really strong company. There is a company that is doing CDOs. We are very rudimentary here. Nobody’s doing it, you don’t know why anyone is doing it. There’s a company called BFree. They started out as a debt collection company. But now they are being able to get real huge amounts of debt put into the CDOs. And they’re doing really well piloting that out. I do not see why, as a human being living in today’s day and age, Africa should not operate at the same level as any other continent. When you have certain things that are working well there, I don’t know why we don’t do them here. We need to figure out how to do more electric vehicles here, we need to figure out housing. There is a lot to be done. And the tech people can do that quite well.

So if I was to talk about industries that you look at, again, fintech is huge in Africa. I live in Nairobi, home of M-PESA. While everybody is starting…you know, it’s interesting to see people doing catch up in Venmo. We’ve been doing this in Africa for 20 years. We need more retail tech, we need more logistics. I think what I want your listeners to hear is that anything that can be done needs to be done because you have four billion people who are coming online really, really soon, and nobody’s serving them yet.

Meb: So let’s say you have someone listening to this show, and they are interested and investing in what’s going on in Africa. What’s the best way to go about it?

Peter: What I’ve discovered is people like me are really bad at raising money. Because most people go with a traditional way of can I get money in a fund? Some of the best people I know in Africa who’ve had huge successes, still take six, seven years to raise a fund. I don’t have six years to go around raising funds. So what we do is syndicate. So if you want in, I’ll point you to a deal. If you like the deal, you put your money directly to that deal. That makes it really easy for people to know how to play with each other. And because you own the note in your own name, that’s super great. And that’s the quickest way to find deals and get involved. I think we’re doing now 20 deals a year on just syndication.

Meb: Do people just sign up for an email list? What’s the best way to go about it?

Peter: Yeah, I’ll give you my email when you ask for it.

Meb: We’ll put in the show note links and you can sign up. I will sign up as well, because I would love to see the deal flow. That’s great.

Peter: And the good thing about that is we have deals in different stages. We have super-early deals, you’ll know what the risk is on that deal. We have some that now post-YC really good traction, or any other metrics of signaling. So EarlyBird Venture Lab wants to be a signaling spot. So we find whoever we think is interesting and we say, “If you trust the way we think, these are the deals we should be backing.” And then we post out, okay, every quarter, “These are the deals that are raising, this is what somebody should be looking at.”

Then the next step is working with people like Zack and Future Africa who we’ve had here. So these are other funds that we’ve said, “These people think the way we do. They are really supportive to the founders. They look at team and traction and not too much else, and then they support these founders to the hilt.” Those funds, too, are also raising. So if you want to be early or middle, that’s the pipeline. Then how I think people who are advanced should help us, I spend time in London, I spend time in New York, San Francisco, LA, Mexico, I’m a world traveller, if you want to really learn about investing in Africa, just hit us up. We will come in train your team. We will talk about what’s happening. We are here to serve the continent. So we will help you figure that out.

Meb: Great, Sign me up. All right, we’re going to start with some random shorter questions. You got a lot on your plate, taken up piano, taken flying lessons. What’s on your schedule for the next few quarters? Where are you travelling? What are you doing?

Peter: Probably by the time this show goes, I will probably just be getting to London. So we have really good support from ventures platform, which is at Oxford, so we will be there. Then New York, we will be back in New York, San Francisco. But the U.S., we are just a plane away from wherever you are. So if someone wants to connect, let me know. As soon as things start opening up a little bit, we want to go back to Southeast Asia. There’s one of my companies right now that is doing an acquisition. And that’s a first, African company acquiring Southeast Asia. It’s usually Middle East coming down or Europe coming down. So we are starting to see really interesting stuff, African companies moving into Southeast Asia. And if anyone is around for World Cup, I hopefully will be there at the end of the year.

Meb: Are there any must-attend that are worth attending? Then also, when should I come visit?

Peter: Kenya is about 75 degrees all year long.

Meb: So anytime.

Peter: Anytime is a good time. I would say the periods between, let’s say, May through October are really good times to be here. February is the crazy conference season. You have Africa Tech Summit, which is really strong fintech summit. You have Sankalp. That has been a really, really strong conference for impact investors. Really admire the work they do there. For the purpose of conferences, February’s about the time to be here. Mid to end of February, everybody descends on Nairobi.

Meb: So now, right about now.

Peter: Yeah, right about now. Nairobi is a place where even American ambassadors come, and they refuse to leave. The weather is great. Turnout of life is really high. Then you’re always near the coast where you can go kite surfing, and the mountains are great. It’s a beautiful country. Maybe some of your listeners also want to find work in Africa. A lot of our startups are hiring. And that necessarily doesn’t have to be Nairobi. Some of them are in New York, some of them in the Bay Area, some of them in Europe. So if somebody wants really to get in at the grassroots, that might be a different way to do it.

Meb: What’s been your most memorable investment so far? Good, bad, in between.

Peter: I’ll say MarketForce because these guys are crazy. They are two founders, they met at the University of Nairobi. They exited a travel tech last year. And their growth is 40% month over month. Yeah, so MarketForce for the win.

Meb: What’s the future look like for those guys? Are they just going to kind of head down growing? Are there new venues they are pursuing?

Peter: They will be in seven countries by the end of this year, and the combination of the seven countries will put them at half a billion population. They want to be the biggest supporter of merchants. The future is to be the biggest merchant bank in the continent. All these guys we talked about, nobody’s banking them. So yeah, I think they’re going to get there soon. I’m excited for them.

Meb: So I want to sign up for your list, updates of you travelling all over the world. Where do I go? What’s the best places?

Peter: The email is peter@earlybird.co.ke. You might have to say that word for me because I can’t pronounce the name of my own company correct out loud.

Meb: We’ll add it to the show note links, listeners.

Peter: My IG is in.and.outofafrica. I post nothing about work there. That’s going to be all fun. And I try to have a lot of it, we live once. Then on LinkedIn, that’s another good place there. I’m very active on LinkedIn. So it’s LinkedIn, my name is Peter Ngunyi. That’s the best way to get a hold of me. Please feel free to ask any questions. I’m pretty open to engagement.

Meb: Thank you so much for joining us today.

Peter: Thank you, Meb. This has been great. Thank you for the opportunity.

Meb: Podcast listeners, we’ll post show notes to today’s conversation at mebfaber.com/podcast. If you love the show, if you hate it, shoot us feedback@themebfabershow.com. We love to read the reviews. Please review us on iTunes and subscribe to the show anywhere good podcasts are found. Thanks for listening, friends, and good investing.