Affiong Williams founder and CEO of reelfruit
Nigerian dried fruit snacks producer ReelFruit recently raised $3 million in series A funding from investors Alitheia IDF, Samata Capital, and Flying Doctor Healthcare Investment Company. In an interview with James Torvaney, the company’s founder, Affiong Williams, shared lessons from her fundraising experience.
1. Fundraising Takes Time and Persistence
When I look at other founders that have successfully raised, one common thread is persistence. Most of those who have been raised successfully have a minimum of five years’ track record in their line of business.
When you look at the agribusiness start-up space in Africa, there is not a huge amount of capital available. Ideas are not enough to raise money on, particularly when you are raising money towards physical assets. I started ReelFruit nine years ago and worked towards this funding round for the past five years.
2. Establish Traction and Prove You Have a Viable Model
Investors looking at pure tech plays often focus heavily on the individual founders of the business. If the model does not work but the founders are good, they can always pivot into something else.
You need to show investors that there is a proven market for your product and that you understand that market. We were losing a lot of sales because we could not process quickly enough.
3. Focus On Milestone Basis Fundraising
We focused on raising smaller amounts (less than $100,000 at a time) for specific purposes. This allowed us to raise more quickly, as funding was tied to a particular metric, It also helped us focus on specific goals in the short and mid-term, as opposed to spreading ourselves too thinly.
Now that we have proved ourselves and have demonstrable results, we can raise ‘big idea’ funding for more general growth. The danger in raising big amounts too early is that it creates an expectation that you scale whatever you have in place already.
4. Find Investors That Fit Your Business’s Personality
A lot of companies spend a lot of time speaking with investors that are too generalist. This can waste a lot of time, and draw you away from more relevant investors.
Realistically, especially when you are working in an area such as agribusiness, there are only a limited number of investors with the appetite and expertise to invest in your business.
Another point is that these relationships take time to build. Most of the investors who have invested in ReelFruit now are people we have been talking to for a number of years.
5. Understand What Specific Investors Are Looking For
Different investors are looking for different things. You need to understand exactly what each investor needs to see and focus on that. Are they looking to double year-on-year growth? Do they want to diversify the customer base? Do they want to export to a new market?
Businesses that are trying to do everything at once don’t end up demonstrating anything, just fragmentation. Different sectors have different drivers because it is a lot easier for technology to cross borders. It’s important that you have a really good grasp of the key factors that matter to your investors.
I am motivated by the possibility that I can change lives and create employment and wealth for myself and others.
— Affiong Williams, In an interview with How We Made It In Africa.
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