In terms of startup and innovation in Africa, two schools of thought confront each other. The first has the ambition to implement international standards in the market while the second seeks to create unique solutions specific to the continent. Toro Orero has chosen a third way. The DraperDarkFlow investment Bank is seeking the African entrepreneur that will offer a leap forward not only for Africa but also for the whole world.
Leaders League. After leaving university, you launched your first tech startup. What did you learn from this experience that is useful as an investor today?
Toro Orero. Two things caught my attention when I launched my first company: the first was seeing how difficult it was to raise funds, and the second was that I saw a lot of my friends who were brilliant students in college take up boring jobs because there is no structural ecosystem to encourage startups. I realized that this was how I could be useful: encouraging young local companies and helping them to become global. We want African startups to not only be strong in Nigeria and Cameroon but also globally.
Leaders League. At the launch of DraperDarkFlow, your first words to entrepreneurs in front of you were: “You are officially free to be crazy”. According to you, are African entrepreneurs not crazy enough?
T.O. African entrepreneurs have as much drive and determination as those elsewhere. They are passionate and the environment in which they operate makes them more resilient when confronted with difficulties compared to their peers in developed countries. One of my friends was complaining to me about electricity shortages twice a week in his country. I said to him: “Are you kidding? In Nigeria there are electricity shortages twice a day!” African startupers are motivated every step of the way and are daring, but they often limit themselves to the local level. Many of them would like to evolve into a bigger structure but they can’t find adequate resources. This is the mission statement that we’d like to have with this investment bank.
Leaders League. In what kind of startups does DraperDarkFlow invest in?
T.O. We like to invest in different startups that are not scared to push the limits. To give you an example, few people believed in an Artifical Intelligence company, of enhanced reality or in drone fabrication coming from Africa. Yet, these are companies that we invest in. We are attracted to talent capable of building practical solutions locally but that are also able to grow on a global scale.
Leaders League. Are there specific sectors requesting financing that stand out?
T.O. From reading projects and listening to entrepreneurs present their project we notice over time that there are several ideas and model types. Our approach indeed consists of looking outside the trends that are being drawn and to distance ourselves from what makes a huge buzz so as to focus our attention on what we don’t already talk about. This way of thinking outside the box has opened up new investment opportunities.
Leaders League. You admitted to us that when you were nine years old you tried to launch a rocket into the stratosphere. Today, you are looking for entrepreneurs capable of changing the world. Is Africa in need of new heroes?
T.O. We clearly need to write a different and original novel about Africa. I think that the time has come for Africans to do two things: write their own stories and take action to be able to launch these stories. African project leaders have to ask themselves how the products they develop can transform their country, and how they can expand to countries outside the continent. My vision for young African entrepreneurs is that in a few years, we will all use new technology, ignoring whether the developer comes from Madagascar or Zimbabwe. I am impatient to see multinational companies with headquarters in Africa.
Leaders League. Why look specifically in Africa for entrepreneurs that will change the world?
First of all, because I believe in Africa and its huge potential. Also, I think that there is talent all around the world but opportunities however are not equally distributed. African talent is not better or worse than the rest of the world but the opportunities to tap into this talent are not as big as they should be.