Ep 44 // How to Build a Venture Capital Career in Africa with Mark Kleyner

Ep 44- Mark Kleyner

Are you interested in being an angel investor or a funder?

In this episode, Akua welcomes Mark Kleyner to talk about how to build a venture capital career in Africa. Funders are in high demand in this emerging market - listen to find out how you can play a direct role in birthing innovation in all tech sectors on the continent!

Mark Kleyner is a multi-time entrepreneur who actively mentors with a range of accelerators and incubators, as well as supports several companies as a consultant. He is co-founder of the Dream VC Initiative - a leading remote program helping founders, entrepreneurs, and professionals across the African continent to break into the venture capital industry as emerging investors. 

With a multinational background and a multitude of international experiences, Mark has the unique perspective of experiencing economic disparities between countries firsthand. These experiences inspired him to get involved and solve problems on a larger scale - and were the impetus for starting Dream VC. 

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What's Covered in this Episode About Venture Capital

  • Mark explains why he is passionate about empowering the private sector to take responsibility for making people's lives better.
  • Learn the differences in fundraising in North America vs. Africa and why Mark focuses on helping young professionals across Africa.
  • What is a venture capital firm and how does one differ from a brokerage?
  • Mark discusses the challenges facing those who want to become venture capitalists, and why, by nature, the VC industry has become elitist.
  • Dream VC helps young professionals upskill and break into venture capital. Learn how Dream VC is different from traditional schools, and how anyone in the world can participate.
  • How Dream VC’s core focus is to make sure that each individual comes out of the program with a network of high-net individuals they can leverage to build their career.
  • Recognize the challenges of VC in Africa and why very few understand how the market works.

Quotes from this Episode of Open Door Conversations

  • "To me, it seemed very familiar, it just seemed like the same journey that Europe or Southeast Asia gone through, but just maybe half of a generation back." - Mark Kleyner
  • "Our perspective is neither myself nor my co founder broke into the industry with any high net worth connections, we didn't have those connections to bear." - Mark Kleyner
  • "We already have two programmes that have fulfilled the demand, early stage talent and laser talent down the line, we want to touch on other things that perhaps we think people are avoiding." - Mark Kleyner

Get to Know this Episode's Guest 

Mark is the co-founder of Dream VC, an entrepreneur, ecosystem builder and early-stage investor in Emerging Markets. Mark has worked within VCs in the UK, US, Europe and Africa and actively advises, coaches and mentors several very early stage West & East African startups - who have gone on to raise upwards of $10m in Venture Financing, and joined programs like Google's Black Founders Fund Africa, PioneerApp, TechStars and Y Combinator. Mark is passionate about empowering the private sector to take responsibility for making people's lives better and is a big advocate for Consumer and Enterprise Software Startups as mediums to improve lives around the world. Mark is also a co-founder of Dream VC, a leading remote program, helping founders, entrepreneurs and working professionals across the African continent and among the diaspora to break into the Venture Capital industry as emerging investors.

Beyond these activities, Mark is an active startup mentor in 9+ Accelerators and Incubators at Startupbootcamp, Impact Hub Lagos, Seedstars, Founder Institute and Village Capital. Mark is also a startup mentor with FasterCapital and StartupLoungeAfrica.

Mark often talks about Angel Investing, Venture Capital and Investing in African Startups and African Tech.

Website: www.dream-vc.com
LinkedIn Mark Kleyner: @Mark Kleyner
LinkedIn DREAM VC: @Dream VC 
Twitter: @ _dreamvc_   @markkleyner

Get to Know the Host of the Open Door Conversations Podcast

Learn more about your host, Akua Nyame-Mensah.

Akua is a certified executive and leadership coach, recognized learning and organizational development facilitator, speaker, and former startup executive. 

Since 2018, she has had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations, from high-growth startups to multinational brands all around the world, to maximize people, performance, and profit.  Outside of her coaching and corporate speaking engagements, she is a regular mentor, coach, and judge for various entrepreneurship-focused organizations.

Stay in touch with Akua Nyame-Mensah, Leadership & Culture Advisor:

  • Read about Akua’s services if you’d like to learn more about how you can hire her to help you strengthen your organization’s culture.

  • Complete her contact form to jump on a call.

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Here’s the transcript for episode 44 about How to Build a Venture Capital Career in Africa

NOTE: Please excuse any errors in this transcript; it was created using an AI tool. Akua Nyame-Mensah 0:07 Welcome to the open door podcast. My name is Akua Nyame-Mensah. I also respond to Aqua and I'm a certified executive and leadership coach recognised facilitator and former sort of leader that loves supporting reluctant buyer fighting and overwhelmed leaders. I've worked with them to help them clarify where they should focus their time, and energy each and every day so that they can love themselves, love their work, and ultimately love their life. If you're looking to learn leadership information and hear different perspectives, you are in the right place. My aim in this podcast is to help you see that one of the most productive and profitable things you can do is deeply understand yourself. Understand how you show up, understand how you thrive, and allow yourself to align everything in your work in your life, and in your business to support that think of this podcast as your weekly opportunity to receive leadership support. And remember, there is no one right way to lead yourself or others. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Let's get started. Hello, and welcome to this week's episode of the open door conversations podcast. I am so excited to share this interview because I could talk to this guest for hours. We have an incredible conversation and incredible conversation all about VCs. And if you've never heard of VCs, VC stands for venture capital. And so today's guest talks about his incredible background, his incredible career, how we ended up building a programme to support others with becoming VCs, and why he focuses on Africa. So if you want to learn about how to start an investing career in VCs if you want to learn about the biggest mistakes made by those interested in this career path, and you want to hear about the career path of someone who actually was born and raised in Russia, continue to listen in. All right. So I am so excited because today I am joined by Mark Kleiner, and we're here to talk about building an investing career in Africa. Mark, welcome to the show. Unknown Speaker 2:27 Thank you so much for having me. All right. So Akua Nyame-Mensah 2:29 for folks who are meeting you for the first time, can you please share a little bit about who you are and what you do? Speaker 1 2:35 Sure. So all right, so what should you know about Mark? So firstly, I was born in Russia, raised in Russia, and then moved over to the west, to the UK, in fact, to study and then eventually start my career. I'm someone who's worn a lot of different hats in life. And so that kind of really shows if you haven't made me, I'm someone who's been a consultant in a former life, I found on several occasions, founder now as well, a VC and angel investment advisors, really all different walks of life. Now I'm someone who has really made it my goal, to do one specific thing, and that one specific thing I'm working on right now is specifically building up investor talent across the African continent. Why that is, is there's a whole story behind that perhaps we'll dive into that a bit later. But what I'd really love for you guys to take away from this is that I'm someone who's got a very multinational and international experience. And even though I've not been around for that long and perhaps might not have been, as experienced as some of that, I guess that's true. Hopefully, I'll be able to leverage my experience in working with some time in the US, Southeast Asia and Europe and more recently across the African continent, to give you guys some insight on how you can kick off your venture capital career in Africa, or more widely in India. Akua Nyame-Mensah 3:46 Amazing. Thank you so much for that mark. And actually, let's let's dive a little bit deeper. I think before we start to talk about what you do at Dream VC, can you tell us a bit about some of the awesome opportunities that you have had and how they've inspired you to get involved on a different side? Speaker 1 4:04 Sure. Thanks so much, I think to be honest, to see my whole career trajectory, it's important to get started from the very beginning. And the very beginning was the very first I ever worked at was, at the time, the only ever private equity firm to exist in the former Soviet Union. So this was a firm that was doing investments in the market. Most people believed it was market that was incredibly corrupt. Mostly, we believe there was a market that was not open to Western opportunities. It was not connected to China, Europe, African continent was Eastern European bloc that had been left after the collapse of the Soviet Union and seeing a company for the first time. For me, it was quite eye opening because I didn't quite understand what private equity was. I didn't quite understand what investment markets were. But the potential, even seeing that as a teenager, the potential of a company that was in the private capital space, and somehow impacting people's lives directly by building businesses that were not there before creating these small businesses into larger Businesses and providing them with capital seemed to me like a pretty exciting thing to do. And somehow that kind of fell apart because as I moved to the UK and like normal career began, I moved into consulting as people do into professional services, and jump between several major consulting firms to work in the UK in the European continent and more widely. And somehow that was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to work in a market where I felt that I have more substantial impact, not impact from just a social point of view, but impact in a visible way. I'm someone who's always lived very visibly, I like to see things around. Some people say that's materialistic. But to me, the idea that I can walk down the street and see an Uber bike is a change in life. If that bike was not there before, then I can immediately associate that with the company, Uber, with investors behind Uber with a team that we put together. And the same thing applies anywhere around the world. Things as simple as being able to call a doctor, when previously no telephone and medical services existed, things like booking a cab and cabs or previously unavailable, things like having any commerce opportunity, these things are things that I take as granted in my life. And I believe that everyone should have these as granted in their lives as well. So when I actually had the experience of working in different markets, and so how desperate the situation was, how the environment in any consumer sector is substantially different than for example, New York, again, Singapore against Lagos, to me, that was the immediate realisation was okay, what can I do about that? Right? So I guess the trajectory there then took me away from consulting and away from this problem solving for other people to start doing problem solving for the ecosystem and much, and that's when I started joining various other startups. I wanted to surround myself with other people who had that kind of entrepreneurial perspective, who had that perspective of thinking, Oh, I also am a problem solver. I see something I don't like, I want to change this. And I've managed to be quite fortunate in starting my very first startup career in London in a food tech startup, it was doing alternative food startup kind of work before this even kicked off. And now alternative foods is a really big thing. But back then they were one of the first members. To me, it was super, super exciting. And in fact, the very first project I got to work on, I had to lead a new product to launch. And this made me really excited about the potential of working in a startup business, one thing led to another and several years later, I already worked in a food tech startup and ecommerce startup, a Fintech startup, an ad tech startup jump between all of these always wearing something akin to a growth hat. At the time, the roles were never called growth, they were called something related to BD consulting operations. But growth was a core underlying element of that, because every business I worked in was at a stage where they were either raising venture capital funding, going through that process, or using the recently raised round to expand into a new market. And again, to me at the time, as someone who didn't really understand startups, this was just an exciting company to work for doing something that seems like an exciting problem to so which I as a consumer can relate to. Well, so fast forward a couple more years. And after working in several startups, I thought, well, maybe I want to do more than just do this one thing at a time. I'm someone who's very impatient, I always want to get started with all the 10 problems I have in front of me. But unfortunately, there's my team always reminds me, there's only 24 hours in the day, if you work all 24 of them, you won't live to a very ripe old age. So as a result, I thought how can I be more efficient with my time, and that's when the investment world came in. And that old ringing bell from having seen the company in Russia, can I give give light again, that was when I first discovered venture capital. And that was really a couple of years just before COVID really came about. To me that seemed like an industry that dentists and anything about, I didn't have an MBA, I didn't have a Master's at school in the UK. But I never knew anyone in venture capital space. And all the people who I had known in startups are my former teammates. For my place. It wasn't really a great network to leverage. But that all said, I applied for way too many venture capital firms and ended up joining one of them a German based firm that actually exposed me to a wider network called Rocket Internet. Now, this, to me was a pretty substantial step in the venture capital space. And actually, they exposed me by proxy to a range of really large companies in East Asia, Southeast Asia and West Africa. And these were ecosystems that to me seem like the most interesting to be in right now, East Asia by the nature of an enormous consumer market that was consolidated and allows you to scale a new idea or a new product 200 million people plus Southeast Asia as a market that was reaching the same population density, but didn't yet have the financial capacity or the same consumer culture as East Asia had already reached. And then West Africa as a market that had a substantially larger demographic potential, and yet had almost no inkling of the same level of consumer convenience. Nothing of the equivalent examples mentioned before, like easily accessible telehealth easily accessible ecommerce easily and fast and cheap, accessible delivery. None of these products were easily available not accessible to the wide majority of the population. And it wasn't just a financial barrier. It was simply that the current companies in the market and offering. So one thing led to another and somehow I found myself in West Africa, random white guy was born in Russia, who lived in the UK, who was experienced in something, some kind of hybrid mix of consulting, but somehow doing venture, and whether it was the best place person to do that or not, I can't say. But what I can say is that, to me was super eye opening. And that experience of working in several African companies in Nigeria and Ghana at times, between 2018 2019 really, totally changed my mind. Doing that kind of work, it really changed my mind in terms of realising what I wanted to do. For the first time, I was surrounded by people who I felt actually cared about the ecosystem they were, they were not just interested in their own startup, they were interested in uplifting other startups, they were not just interested in their fun, they were interested in working with other funds and collaborating and building out that collaborative ecosystem. And that's something that I dove into. And ever since then, since about 2018, it's been about three or four years, and I've not really done anything. Now that's not been specialised just on the African ecosystem. So that kind of transition really kind of left me in the VC space, and definitely the VC space in Africa. And yeah, we can dive deeper into that now. Akua Nyame-Mensah 11:05 I mean, throughout this time, I know you can't see me, those of you listening to this episode, but incredible, thank you so much for taking us through that. And I think it's amazing how you've been able to share how you've gone full circle, and that you focus is not just on how much money I can make. But I like being in this environment. I like being around these people. And the fact that you were open to experiment, I think is absolutely amazing. So tell us a little bit about how you started dream VC, because that's what you're doing currently. Tell us a little bit more about that. And thank you so much for sharing the background behind how you actually ended up on the continent. I wasn't aware of all those pieces. Speaker 1 11:43 Yeah, I mean, it's a long journey. But I think the journey, the dream, you see is a much shorter one. So when I started doing work in West Africa, specifically for me, it was always a private capital thing. There was no some workers or myself as doing charitable work. Again, I was someone who had grown up in a country that in one generation had gone from having no apps or tech focus on convenience to having tech available at your fingertips. And a lot of people didn't understand that. And so when I came to Nigeria, and I saw similar companies trying to do that, I saw that Jimmy is there long term, the short term delivery companies, the E commerce companies trying to do the same kind of financial inclusivity. And the same kind of convenience culture. And to build that out. To me, it seemed very familiar, it just seemed like the same journey that Europe or Southeast Asia gone through, but just maybe half of a generation back. And the fact that this was going very quickly, in just a matter of years to me was really exciting. So I thought first thing I should do is understand the markets better. I think there's also many people who come to African continent without any context and try to apply a US mindset or a European mindset of growth, which doesn't necessarily translate, whether it's culturally, whether the geographically there's too many nuances to keep in mind. And again, being someone who likes being overloaded. first thought was, okay, where's the best place where I can get the maximum exposure, either that would be a venture capital fund, where you see a lot of startups approaching you for capital, or it will be an accelerator where you're working hand by hand with us startups at an early stage to bring them to the venture capital funds and help them set up the first will be possible, but we'd have to use our own capital and risk it without knowing what we're doing. And the second was much more feasible considering our operate a bit of a background. So what I did was I pulled some of my teams from earlier work in Singapore in the US and the UK and in Europe, pull them all together, sold them on this vision and idea what I had what I believed we could do an African continent, and we set up an impact accelerator called MCC Africa. This was something that was branched off from a larger pre existing accelerators that are by a friend Yvonne in the US. And one thing led to another programme ran for about two years. Over those two years, we worked with 2425 startups out of them all, but one still alive as amazing. Yeah. And in fact, I think more than 50%, somewhere close to 60% of them went on to raise VC funding. So essentially beating the typical odds of about 1% of startups actually going on to every race. Now, for us, this was a great success criteria, not just because the startup as well, which was obviously the end goal, keeping, making sure that we actually delivered some value for the startups. But much more importantly, it proved to us that at least we knew a bit about what we were doing in these markets. I think what most investors are talking about is most investors are also taking guesstimates. They're taking guesstimate, they just can't talk about doing that. Or else nobody would trust them with their money. Realistically, the most investors want to continue learning and they want to continue proving that they're still relevant in the market. And to us, there's no better proof than 2425 Really happy startups that told us, you know, we've been building in this tech market in Tanzania and Kenya and South Africa and Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Ghana and a couple of other markets. And in all of these cases, we help them achieve their goals in a three month window of what they wanted to accomplish in six or seven months. Wow. So to us it said, Okay, if we can do this with like a semi remote team than what can we do if we actually doubled down full time at bringing all these people in on a paid contract and we actually have a team that's doing this more substantially. That was going to be a next step. And we were fully committed to running was easy into a full fledged programme turning this into one of yet another YC for African style accelerators. And yet, maybe it was 2021. And we realised that in the process of building a community around MCC around what we're doing at MCC Africa, a lot of people, among our mentors and advisors, we're saying, Yes, this is great. And it's helping startups. And yes, the other programmes that are also great, and they're helping startups, but we don't think that what you're doing is actually the maximum impact. It's not similar to the vision we had when we came in. Because there's actually a much bigger challenge here, where what's going to happen if we uplift hundreds of entrepreneurs, and they 1000 Plus incubators across the continent bring several 1000 entrepreneurs to the point of receiving funding, and there's no funder waiting there for them. And for us, it seemed like a bit of a strange question. Well, why wouldn't there be a funding we always worked Singapore, in the US, Europe, Eastern Europe, environments where you have more more than enough founders, and not enough founders, because entrepreneurship is not cool as part of the culture. It's not cool in the US, it's not cool. In the UK, it's certainly not coiste in Europe, where the vast majority of people don't this entrepreneurship. For us this idea that there could be such a huge balance seemed like, perhaps just you know, maybe it's something that we need to investigate, we did investigate it. And it seems like we had almost like a goldmine. So in fact, it seemed that the average entrepreneur was facing an incomparable barriers to fundraise in any African market, as compared to the exact same entrepreneur, if they were just located in Canada with the US. In a matter of about a month, I think we spoke to somewhere over 500 entrepreneurs, and out of them almost every one of them really the same story that if they were based in Africa, building a product, the exact same product that could potentially raise 1 million or $2 million in a month in the US, but sometimes spent six months trying to raise $100,000, even if it was based in one of the big four funding ecosystems, being based outside of this funding ecosystems meant that you might as well not try because the investors who were currently active simply wouldn't meet you. So for us, it was a quite okay, so maybe, instead of leveraging our experience in venture capital, and entrepreneurship, to build intrapreneurs, and ecosystem builders, we should focus more on this middle ground of people who are Empowering Entrepreneurs, but also on this investor class. That's how GBC came about JVC came out with a core idea that not being an easy way for someone to become an individual or an institutional investor on the continent, and us wanting to make it super easy for people to think I want to get an education, I want to learn about venture capital, I want to learn about angel investing, I want to become an investor myself, how would I do that? Previously, we didn't find an answer. And now we want to provide people with that answer with that African context and say, maybe you don't have high net worth connections. Maybe you don't know how to split startups. Here we go. Akua Nyame-Mensah 17:48 Amazing. Once again, thank you so much for sharing that and giving us all that context. I think this is a really great segue to start a little, you know, start to talk a little bit more about VCs. And maybe we should start off by defining what a VC is, for some of you listening, you might have no idea. So what is a VC? Speaker 1 18:04 Sure. So a venture capital firm is essentially an organisation that receives money from larger investors. Larger investors can be pension funds, governments, foundations, or other corporations who II know that they want to invest that money into small businesses. But these corporations, their core function isn't investing money, perhaps for example, their core function is savings, your savings or pensions are their core function is mining, a core function is another enterprise. So they want to give them money, somebody to manage those assets, who knows what they're doing, but indirectly allowing said big company to get exposure to startups. And that's where we see comes in, we see is very much the intermediary there, the merchant and that transaction, the only difference is that they are very, very honed in Merchant. So unlike a broker or somebody who is just executing the demand of that client, and we see it takes absolute autonomy over their decision, so it's more like you hire a mercenary and give them your capital and say, Please accomplish our strategic aims by putting our money to good use, while also giving us a financial return. So these VCs then take this money, and then they give it to small businesses, very, very small businesses that are often just newly formed, that they believe have the potential and the capacity to become very, very large enterprises in the process, one birthing other innovations and other future startups for these VCs to invest in and giving a substantial enough return in terms for this VC to repay the money they initially received from the ledger investors. Akua Nyame-Mensah 19:29 Amazing. I love that's the best definition I've ever heard. And I love this idea of it being a mercenary, because it is really about having that control and then once again, providing that duel both profit and impact at the same time. So tell us a little bit about some of the hurdles or the challenges that individuals tend to have when they want to start an investing career. Speaker 1 19:48 Sure, well, I think the biggest problem is in really identifying how VC is different from a standard investment career. So while you might live in any market around the world, and perhaps some of the listeners are very much global, you If you think of investment, you think of investment management, you think of giant companies based on Wall Street and London and Singapore and Beijing somewhere sitting with billions of dollars in nice suits investing money in huge assets. That's very different from the reality of the venture capital investment space, or the startup investment space. In general, we're talking about startups, these are companies that are so risky, and they have so little collateral. And so it's such a high rate of failure, that none of the big investment sectors want to touch them other than we see. What this means is inherently the VC space is always very small. And whenever something is small, it's usually less documented. And that leads to all kinds of issues. In the case of VC, that's something that's happened systemically over the past 70 years, the venture capital space was only born in the 1950s. But since the 1950s, it's historically been very small compared to the other investment sectors, very much network driven, and very much a pain, because there's no incentive for someone who is directly a VC right now to bring other venture capital investors into the market. If your idea of making a profit is being the first or the most fastest and most efficient person to identify an opportunity, this is the classic case of as symmetric information. That means you don't want to have perfect equilibrium where you have as many people participating in the market fairly and equally, so that they can potentially compete with you and take that deal that you wanted to participate in. As a result, what we see is that historically, we see something congregating in cities where you are someone who already has those resources going into the industry, you're someone who already knows founders. Therefore, we see entrepreneurial clusters and Kenya intrapreneur clusters around California intrapreneurial clusters in particular parts of East Asia. And simultaneously, you're someone who is very wealthy, who has that capital to deploy, or who has connections, individual or institutional, who can give you the capital to manage on their behalf, which, again, provides a certain barrier. So these barriers are manifested in three things, we now have a knowledge barrier, where if you want to find out about VC, nobody particularly wants to teach you because the incumbents have no incentive to teach you and someone who has left the industry is usually too too far out of the industry to be relevant to actually teach you on what's going on. Since it's an industry that changes yet to yet, we have a problem of access, where to access the industry, there are very few opportunities because the sector is still very, very small. So it's not documented. And you don't really see VCs recruiting on traditional websites, they're not on German, or indeed other big websites, or even on LinkedIn. Quite often, I think, by my estimates, about 75% of venture capital careers, agreed on informally, which means that if you want to find a VC job, it's really an employers market. It's not an employee's mind. And finally, there's this wealth barrier, where quite often people say that to be a VC, you first first have to have an investment track record. But how can you have an investment track record if you have no assets and no ability to invest? There's almost a continuous chicken and egg scenario, which has resulted in the current state of affairs, the status quo, where I think globally, the average angel investors about 50 years old, and the average VC only hires about four to 10 people. This means that compared to an investment bank, where the average age might be 25, the you know, number of hires ranges into the hundreds per year, the industry has, by nature become super elitist, relatively exclusionary, and very concentrated around particular hubs. Akua Nyame-Mensah 23:21 Yeah, so tell us a little bit about how Drean VC helps to, yeah, support people to get over some of these hurdles and challenges. Speaker 1 23:29 So I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is that opportunities should be equally distributed, but they never. So if you're someone who's listening, who's based in the US, you have statistically a more than 100 times higher likelihood of breaking into a venture capital fund than if you have, for example, listening in Nigeria and Kenya and South Africa and Ghana or anywhere else. The reason is that space and the distribution of venture capital firms is not equal around the world. And the ability to find a trajectory into this firm is also limited to those geographies, what we're doing is we're trying to break that concept apart, Jimmy see is fully remote. All our programmes are also fully remote. This means that anybody around the world who is interested in our target geographies can participate. It doesn't matter if they're based in Colombia, they're based in Malaysia and the US in North Africa, South Africa, Europe or any other place across the world they can take. Secondly, a vast majority of our content is provided Live, which means that you build that direct relationship with your professor with the person delivering the content. And our content creators are not someone from the academic space, we're very conscious that the industry moves very quickly. And so we move very quickly with it. Our experience of universities and many business schools is that they often struggle to build that industry competitiveness. So instead of facing that issue at all, all our sessions, all our delivery providers, everyone who actually teaches is someone who's actively in the venture capital or angel investment space. As a result, you know, 100% that you're getting live up to date industry trends, and you're learning on the go keeping you on your toes. Finally, to make sure that the program's actually as impactful as possible. If you recall, I mentioned you need to have a community and you need to have a knowledge of high net worth individuals to really succeed as an individual in the venture capital space. And our perspective is neither myself nor my co founder broke into the industry with any high net worth connections, we didn't have those connections to bear. So what we do is we bring together people and we put them in a community, we bring the community very closely together, that means having continuous community events, having retreats, having get togethers, having meetups having every week social events, that mean that anyone who takes part in our programmes, he's not taking part in a course like a Coursera course, or perhaps even going into university, where the core focus of the institution is to teach our core focus is to make sure that each individual comes out of each programme, knowing what they need to know as a minimum, but most importantly, having a network of people they can leverage to then build that career, whether that's building a career as an entrepreneur, and investor and ecosystem builder, something else, and perhaps a legit cherry on top, we do work with a whole range of the venture capital players active in the African continent right now. And I think we're one of the only companies that actually do that. So instead of reaching out to them and having them come in, we continuously showcase the opportunities, we continuously showcase those funds. And we allow people to build that connection with industry leaders on the programme, meaning that even if you're 19, or you're 45, and you exit the programme, you come out with 100 new people, you know, who can potentially give you a job. And considering how again, it's an employers market, that puts you substantially above the average individual out there wouldn't have that network to leverage I Akua Nyame-Mensah 26:37 love it. I love it. I mean, I know the first time I had a chance to connect with you. And I saw the website and I saw more about it. I was like, This sounds like such an incredible way to really build more than just the skills, right? Because as you mentioned before, it really does start with the relationships and the connections. And so I think it's it's absolutely amazing. Um, you've been able to build this, and you really are sort of taking this across the continent. So what what is next for Dream VC? What are you and your co founder looking forward to next? Speaker 1 27:05 Yeah, so I think the first thing first was identifying that there is a problem with the venture capital market, there's not just a problem with supporting entrepreneurs, there's an innate problem in the venture capital market in Africa. And our understanding of this is that there are very few players who understand how the market works, even among incumbents, even among people who are actively investing, they often don't have an opportunity to go to someone and ask for help. Because once you're in a market, you're going to go and look and potentially risk your customers or partners finding out that you don't know what you're doing. So what we want to do is, first and foremost, break that culture that we see is something where you learn it or you don't, we want to build a culture where everybody can continuously learn, and this community supports each other. So if our graduates go on to work with other people, they can then share that knowledge. We don't want it to seem like there's some golden knowledge that you can only gain at UBC, we want it to be a way of movement, where every time we have a new programme, that's another dozens or hundreds of graduates that go out, share the insights and potentially impact hundreds of others, also opening up the doors for them to the VC space. Secondly, we're also trying to expand beyond just our core focus, which started with breaking people into early talent. And the way in which we started was, let's make it easier to make people enter the VC space from an analyst associate principal point of view, those are the most junior roles in the venture capital environment. But once we realised that this was something we could solve, we then thought, Well, why can't we also solve the senior decision making, that's an equally existing gap. So to actually get more VCs to operate on the continent, you need to make it easy to recruit early talent, to recruit senior talent and to find co founders for you as an aspiring VC to set up your fund and to really build that investor network. So that's what we're already doing. Now. We already have two programmes that have fulfilled the demand, early stage talent and laser talent down the line, we want to touch on other things that perhaps we think people are avoiding. VC lawyers are still really difficult to find, especially once you understand the complexities of working across West African markets, Central African markets, East African markets, specifically, Venture Capital Advisors are still very few and far in between, there's a lot of disinformation in the market. And more widely, we want to break that cultural perspective that enterpreneurship is risky, and not only for those who have somehow failed to get a corporate career so that we can get more collaboration with a larger corporate space. I think the biggest misconception people have when they look at the venture capital market right now in Africa, is everything is divided. Everything is tiny, and everything has been built from scratch. But it doesn't need to be that way. There are some very, very large, very successful companies out there Vodacom, MTN net bank and among them, Stan bank and many, many others as well. If these companies started engaging the innovation ecosystem more than their results could be tremendous. And what I think is Dream VCs responsibility and that is sitting behind the scenes and making it easy for those connections. to happen on an individual level, so maybe GVC won't be the news altogether of that much. But hopefully the next steps for us is continuing to build a Pan African investor ecosystem that was not just investors, but everyone around that as Akua Nyame-Mensah 30:14 amazing. Absolutely amazing. And before we end, I'm just curious, what's next for you as a person? Mark? What are you excited about? Speaker 1 30:23 Well, I think I mean, a personal shameless plug is I'm really excited about a whole range of startups. To be honest, even as I work in BC, I've always been someone who is very easy to reach. And I work with a whole range of other friends who are founders or existing builders in various markets. In about nine or 10 cases, I work with them efficiently. I sit on several boards, and several of the startups I believe, are doing exactly the same thing that I experienced five or six years ago. They're trying to build convenience culture. And they're trying to encourage the convenience culture and various pockets of the African continent by making it easy for people to get convenience. And I think that's something that I feel super strongly about. And I really hope that they actually succeed. So that for example, when someone visits from Singapore to Rwanda, they should think, oh, I want to stay here, not vice versa. Right. So I think that's very feasible. more widely, I'm excited about the potential of changing mindsets on just the familiar family based level around what's going on with enterpreneurship. When I started working in African markets, every person I knew we used to have this joke is, if you told your mother or your father, you were intrapreneur, they probably kick you out of the house. So people were hiding this idea or they were doing something but time will keep into the corporate roles, or they were living alone. But if the case, one of the other. But I hope that seeing so many amazing foreigners, as we have seen in 2020, and 2021 2022, who are now financially stable, who build financial businesses, more parents out there are also going to start thinking, Oh, what is this venture capital? What is this intrapreneurship, maybe my son can actually go pursue this, my daughter can actually go and pursue this degree. That is discipline and I want to penalise them for them, I'll support them. Because if we had that kind of societal support, then the number of Intrapreneurs could skyrocket and the number of aspiring investors but also skyrocket, and that would make our lives so much easier if we didn't have to teach people about how they can generate value and wealth for themselves. And so yeah, really excited about that. Akua Nyame-Mensah 32:19 amazing, absolutely amazing. I mean, Mark, I have so many more questions I could ask, but we are gonna wrap it up here. So this is honestly been incredible. I know. I've learned so much. But where can people find out more about what you do? And about dream VC online? Speaker 1 32:35 Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think it's really easy to find in VC. If you just search dream space DC, you'll be able to find this and most search engines. But if you're very specific, it's dream dash vc.com, you can find that on any browser. You can also find GBC, or myself directly on most social media platforms, we make it very easy to find ourselves. So dream VC is usually just at Dream VC. And in my case, it's at Mark Kleiner, you'll be able to find myself, ask me any questions and hopefully engage in the investment world where the parallel to myself with our programmes and our communities are just more widely, because again, it's something that can only be brought together. So impact only happen if we all start doing small step forward. Akua Nyame-Mensah 33:15 Amazing. And we'll make sure that we link everything in the show notes. And when he says he will make himself accessible, he will make himself accessible. He is incredibly open and always willing. So thank you so much for joining me today. This has been an absolute Unknown Speaker 33:28 pleasure. Thank you so much. Akua Nyame-Mensah 33:31 Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to today's episode. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please share it with your friends. We can continue this conversation on social media the links to my socials so that is LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. You can find them in the show notes. If you tagged me in a story and include the hashtag hashtag ask Akua I will share a special little gift with you. Thank you so much once again for your time and I cannot wait to share my next episode with you stay safe and sane.


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