In-depth conversations and business advice from leading founders in Africa. Top CEOs from high growth startups, which have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in VC funding, discuss the strategies that helped them grow from startups into scale ups — while navigating growth to profitability along the way.
You’ll also hear about their personal journeys and why they are dedicated to their mission and what keeps them going.
Built Tough is hosted by Victor Basta, CEO of DAI Magister, and believes African companies are some of the best in the world, simply because African founders have to be. They have to be resourceful, do more with less, and face problems startups in other regions don't have to. They have to be BUILT TOUGH.
Laurin Hainy, CEO & Co-founder - FairMoney - Building a credit-first neobank for Africa
Born in Germany to a Nigerian father and German mother, Laurin began his entrepreneurial journey in 2015 by launching a food delivery company in Sweden. He then founded Le Studio VC, a Paris-based startup studio and €15 million fund he ran as CEO. Laurin realized that investing was not for him, and in 2017, he launched his next venture: FairMoney.
Laurin witnessed the rise of neobanks like Revolut and N26 across Europe and recognized the urgent need for a similar solution in Nigeria where more than 60 million adults do not have a bank account. Laurin made a bet: FairMoney would adopt a credit-first approach. Today, FairMoney is Nigeria's most downloaded fintech app and the leading digital bank in the country, with over 10 million downloads.
In this episode, Hainy talks about FairMoney’s strategy of broadening its financial services to merchants, scaling via acquisitions, and its expansion plans outside Nigeria.
Daniel Yu, CEO & Founder - Wasoko - Pioneering B2B e-commerce in Africa
Daniel Yu describes himself first as an international curiosity seeker, and second, as a software developer. Raised in a multicultural household in the US, Daniel dropped out of university to travel and study languages. In 2013, he was studying Arabic in Egypt when he noticed pervasive stock outs at the neighborhood retail shops. He co-founded Sokowatch (as Wasoko was called then) to solve the many problems facing informal mom and pop shops which sell $700 billion of fast-moving consumer goods a year across Africa.
Today, Wasoko serves 150,000 informal retailers across seven African markets: Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Zambia. Since its inception, Wasoko has generated over $234 million in sales and delivered more than 5 million orders.
In this episode, Daniel talks about the #1 trait of effective founders, the trade-off between founder scrappiness and seeking veteran expertise, why he’s bearish on M&A as a growth strategy, and whether he would have changed his fundraising strategy in the current downmarket.
Joseph Rehmann, CEO & Founder - Victory Farms - Feeding millions of Africans with fish protein
After completing his MBA program, Joseph (Joe) Rehmann got to work on a three-month aquaculture project in Ghana. Little did he know, he would become the CFO of the Accra-based Tropo Farms, a tilapia farm, for three years. While in Ghana, Joe learned invaluable lessons on scaling an aquaculture business, and for his next venture, he sought to create an end-to-end ‘protein plant’, a sustainable source of affordable fish protein for millions of Africans.
In 2015, Joe and his co-founder launched Victory Farms on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya in an ambitious move to build a fish value chain from scratch. Today, Victory Farms produces more than 10,000 tons of tilapia in Kenya and Rwanda. It estimates that by shifting consumers to fish, they prevent 160,000 tons of carbon emissions.
In this episode, Joe talks about taking a big bet on Lake Victoria for tilapia farming, the importance of discovering your company’s unique DNA, why vertical integration is key to de-risking scale, and the gutsy decision to run a no electricity distribution system for their fish.
Miishe Addy, CEO & Co-Founder of Jetstream Africa - Streamlining Africa’s complex supply chains to boost trade
In 2017, Miishe Addy moved to Accra, Ghana to teach at a technology incubator. She also pursued a side hustle exporting coconut oil and byproducts. Miishe wanted to ship her products to Lagos, Nigeria, but she abandoned her plans after running into logistical challenges.
Facing the complexity and fragmentation of African supply chains, Miishe sought the guidance of an advisor, Solomon Torgbor, who worked for Maersk. They found that the supply chain problem was not unique to her venture but affected all businesses across Africa. In 2018, they founded Jetstream to simplify supply chains. Their mission? To support African businesses with their exports and promote trade in Africa.
Today Jetstream Africa provides tech-enabled freight forwarding, trade financing, and cargo tracking tools for businesses in Africa. It is present in 29 countries, 12 in Africa, and has disbursed $9 million in loans to date. Default rates are low at 2%.
In this episode, Miishe talks about the lightbulb moment when she reached product market fit, her fundraising advice for early-stage African founders, the impact of COVID on Jetstream, and why she pivoted the business.
Yemi Lalude, Partner & Head of Africa for TPG's Rise Funds - Investing in African technology companies
Yemi Lalude’s journey is driven by his two greatest passions: Africa and technology. It is no exaggeration to say that Yemi is an early mover in African tech. In 2008, he founded Adlevo Capital, the first private equity firm investing in African tech companies. Under Yemi's guidance, the firm made early bets on (now) household names, like Interswitch and Paga.
After Adlevo, Yemi joined TPG as Partner & Head of Africa. TPG is one of the world’s largest PE firms with $135BN assets under management. In 2021, TPG’s Rise Fund invested $200M in Airtel’s mobile money unit. To date, it is still one of the largest deals in African tech.
In this episode, Yemi talks about his ‘strange pitch’ that helped him move into VC, why joining VC after the dot-com crash was a blessing in disguise, how he drew parallels from China to start investing in African tech, the back story to his Interswitch investment and common missteps made by African growth businesses.
Mark Straub, CEO & Co-founder - Smile ID - Capitalising on first-mover advantage
Mark Straub kicked off his tech career in venture capital. During his 10+ years at Khosla Impact, Mark led investments in startups that would become leading names in the African tech ecosystem, such as Flutterwave, Branch, and Kopo Kopo.
As he shuttled between Mumbai and Nairobi, he started to learn the immense problem of identity verification in emerging markets. Globally, an estimated one billion people lack proof of identity — 50% of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa. In India, Mark witnessed the impact of the ‘India Stack’, a comprehensive system that revolutionized identification and authentication processes through APIs.
In 2017, he and William Bares co-founded Smile ID (formerly known as Smile Identity). Their vision was to create the ‘African Stack’, an identification and know-your-customer (KYC) technology solution that would remain free from government influence. To date, Smile ID has successfully checked 60 million identities across Africa and is growing fast.
In this episode, Mark talks about his career in investment banking and microfinance and how it inspired him to build Smile ID. He also highlights the importance of first-mover advantage in Africa and Smile ID's rapid growth over the past two years.
Outstanding insights from leading Africa based entrepreneurs
Victor Basta asks some great questions to some of the leading tech and sustainability entrepreneurs developing fast growth businesses in Africa. Some great lesson for any one growing a business internationally but very much insights in a continent many I suspect don’t understand well.