Very popular in the United States and Europe, investors and coaches of young companies, also called business angels, now have their Ivorian counterpart. They are African, European or members of the diaspora and form a new network very influential and respected.
In a small room at the Dream Factory in Abidjan, a start-up incubator, lawyers and a French magistrate come to explain the ABC of business law to young Ivorian entrepreneurs in their Sunday best. In the assembly, timidly hidden behind several start-uppers, Firmin Kouadio comes as an observer and as a business angel to, perhaps, invest in a company of the future. “This is the project, but especially the profile of the entrepreneur that interests me,” says the manager of ICO Pub, a large advertising company in Abidjan.
During this two-day seminar, young Ivorian entrepreneurs undergo accelerated training in various fields: management, administration, communication, law … then are potentially identified by the business angels and investment clubs of the country. “The idea is to create a network and push companies that have potential. We must train entrepreneurs, educate them in the market, finance, so that they can get out and convince big wallets “, summarizes Julien Achille Agbe, director of EIC Corporation, the organization that puts Ivorian start-ups and related business angels.
Invest in several
Clearly, the objective is to avoid reproducing the error of many young Ivorian companies that launch without business model or long-term vision and lack of structuring to attract investors.
Last year, Firmin Kouadio financed and accompanied two “handpicked” structures out of the 120 starting: Allomiam, a fast food company and Gabea, a limited liability company specialized in agriculture. The businessman therefore owns the shares of these companies for 5 to 7 years and offers his expertise during the entire period so that “start-ups become large SMEs.”
In Western countries, business angels use their own funds and invest alone in the companies they choose. In Ivory Coast, the model is a little different. “In Europe, business angels ask for a check for 50,000 or 100,000 euros. Here, we invest in several, between 5 and 20 people per sector, not to break the figure, “says Julien Achille Agbe. Business angels contribute 500,000 CFA francs (760 euros) every year to the Ivory Business Angel Network (IBAN), a network launched in 2015 by the influential businesswoman Suzanne Abrogoua.
200 business angels in Ivory Coast
On that day, Hubert Yao, a seminar participant and GreenTech’s chief energy economist, has set out his ambitions. “We need to understand the funding mechanisms to get there. In order for the business angel to finance our business one day, so that it helps us to progress, we need to acquire a legal strategy. Without that, we are not strong enough and we do not get fundraising, “says the Ivorian entrepreneur who says he needs 15 million F CFA.
For five years now, EIC Corporation has been bringing together influential investor clubs to promote young Ivorian and West African companies. Among the big names in this circle, Michel Abrogoua, founder and CEO of the financial group Phœnix Capital Management or Malick Bakaya, former manager at Coca-Cola. “Today, there is a thousand, all professions, to be part of these clubs and about 200 to have the title of business angel, believes Firmin Kouadio. But in France, they are 12,000! What is innovation here is becoming tradition elsewhere. We are very far from our objectives now. ”
A tutorial that can be learned
Every May, EIC Corporation even offers training to attract business angels in the making. About 50 “BAs” are trained there. “It’s not enough to have money and to invest to be business angel, you have to know how to analyze a start-up, how to get in and out of the business, it’s a real job. We become business angel, “says Agbe.
Today, the only competitor of EIC Corporation is Ivory Angels, launched just a year ago in Abidjan by the Canadian Jean-Michel Larouche. But the world of alternative finance is difficult to access and the network takes time to build. “Nearly 100 start-ups have come to see us for funding and support,” says Rodrigue Sekongo, Ivory Angels. We have validated two interesting projects, but European investors are cautious, they come with more fears, want more controls, more standards. So, for now, it does not work, “he grieves. The company is thinking of “changing the model” and finding African investors, even Ivorians. “It takes time, Julien Achille Agbe analysis. We, it took us ten years. ”