"Venture: An Entrepreneur's Journey" welcomes viewers into the entrepreneurial journey of a group of African entrepreneurs. The documentary begins at President Obama's 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), hosted in Nairobi, Kenya and follows the stories of four African entrepreneurs, the winners from DEMO Africa 2015, from the continent to Silicon Valley. To provide some context, DEMO Africa is a flagship initiative of LIONS@FRICA and a continent-wide venture launch-pad that provides the most innovative African companies with a platform to present their products to the global ecosystem. At the 2015 edition of DEMO Africa, 30 of the best and most innovative African start-ups made the final list from an applicant pool of over 600 startups to pitch at the two day competition. After a month long training program called Boomcamp, the top 30 finalists pitched their products to a room of investors and innovation stakeholders. The top four start-ups were then awarded with a week-long trip to the Silicon Valley for the LIONS Innovation Tour. This is where the story begins.
The principal subjects of the documentary are the four entrepreneurs, or LIONS, each representing an important and diverse role in the African entrepreneurial ecosystem. Kelechi Anyadiegwu is a young woman of Nigerian heritage who grew up in New Jersey. Her startup, Zuvaa, is an online community and marketplace for African-inspired fashion. Bayo Balogun, a native Nigerian who spent the latter years of his adult life working as a technology consultant and entrepreneur in North Carolina, is the founder of Car Parts Nigeria, a search engine aggregator for finding location-specific auto parts and auto service technicians in Nigeria. The third entrepreneur is Gagan Hayer, a native of Bombay, India and a resident of Nairobi, Kenya, who attended college in San Francisco. His startup,InsureAfrika, is a digital platform that allows people to aggregate insurance quotes and purchase a variety of insurance products online. Finally, we meet Karogi Kamau, a native Kenyan whose startup, Bamba-POS, allows retail merchants to access point-of-sale and inventory management automation with any smart device.
All four individuals and the start-ups they represent, participated in the 2016 edition of the LIONS Innovation Tour, a week-long knowledge sharing and networking experience in Silicon Valley, that exposes African startups to a select group of investors, industry leaders, diaspora groups and sector experts. During the tour, the LIONS spent their week traveling through the Silicon Valley, meeting with management teams of leading companies including, but not limited to, Airbnb, Ernst & Young, IBM, Salesforce, and Draper Associates, and attending curated events that allowed them to pitch their products and receive constructive feedback. The week culminated with the LIONS attendance at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, an annual gathering that connects global entrepreneurs with networks and resources they need to launch, develop, and grow their businesses.
The film provides a sincere depiction of the high stakes setting of Silicon Valley, and how this pressure can impact a hopeful entrepreneur. Through the story arc, the audience will witness that in embracing this journey, and in implementing the high-quality feedback from various Silicon Valley experts, the LIONS were able to redefine their business models and validate some of their strategic directions.
"Venture" pulls back the veil of the highly clouded and discussed environment of Silicon Valley, and presents it from the perspective of four founders who are vulnerable, authentic, and relatable. In the conference rooms of some of the most notable Silicon Valley businesses, the entrepreneurs presented their challenges and ideas to the people who have both the context, technical expertise, and ecosystem savvy to understand what they are experiencing. For an African tech entrepreneur, it is often challenging to demonstrate how their product or service brings values to individuals that may not understand the cultural and societal nuances that make their business relevant. The documentary also successfully portrays the intimate interactions between the LIONS and a select group of African diaspora entrepreneurs that have found considerable success in the Valley.
Through the variety of engagements shown throughout the story, the documentary also reminds the viewer of the role of the African female entrepreneur. While the story includes a strong female subject, the role of female venture stakeholders in Africa is further highlighted during the coverage of the African Women in Technology event that was hosted at Stanford, as a precursor to GES.
The story demystifies demographic, geographic, and sectoral differences across all the entrepreneurial ventures, and highlights common threads that run through venture creation on the African continent. These unifying themes are amplified as we witness the interactions and observations from various shots of the entrepreneurs living in one house. While these shots highlight the friendships that developed over the course of the tour, it also highlights that as business owners, their successes are also subject to the personal networks they create. And in fostering close relationships with other African entrepreneurs across the continent, they develop an invaluable continent-wide support system.
"Venture" brilliantly highlights the unique journey of the African entrepreneur. The documentary showcases the role of expats, repats, immigrants, and indigenous afropreneurs in re-inventing Africa's entrepreneurial future. While there is a lot to be said about the roles of innovation stakeholders across the continent and possible areas of improvement, this documentary celebrates the incremental progress that has been made across initiatives like LIONS@AFRICA, global events like GES, and platforms like DEMO Africa.
Most importantly, the entrepreneurial spirit of the brightest and most innovative minds on the continent and in the diaspora, will encourage aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators to rise to their full potential, thus bridging the knowledge gap across the continent and contributing to the continued growth of Africa's economic landscape.
About the Author
Chisom Oraedu is a 2017 Media Fellow with the African Technology Foundation in Silicon Valley, California. As an entertainment and media enthusiast, she actively seeks our stories and encounters that highlight African ingenuity, and showcase the growth and development of the continent at large.