2020, The Year That Was: Sacha Haider, Principal, Global Ventures
"Having more meaningful time to think and rethink through an investment, especially in a changing and unprecedented global context, has proven to be really valuable."
When we talk about industries that have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, venture capital may not figure highly on that listbut that's not to say that this sector hasn't been affected by the crisis either. Consider the example of Dubai-based VC firm Global Ventures, which has, so far, announced investments in four startups through the course of 2020. One of these was the US$10 million funding round that it co-led with Japan-based Asia Africa Investment and Consulting (AAIC) in the Lagos-headquartered Helium Health in May, which also has the distinction of being a transaction that was conducted almost entirely online by Global Ventures Principal Sacha Haider. "I never imagined that I would close my first transaction with Global Ventures on Zoom," says Haider, who joined the company in early 2020.
"Although we started evaluating our investment in Helium Health –West Africa's largest telemedicine company- before the lockdown, I ended up completing diligence, establishing rapport with the founders, and closing the transaction all virtually. I always thought of VC as a very human experience, because it's a space that is predicated on building strong relationships with founders. The idea of breaking bread and meaningfully getting to know the entrepreneurs over a screen seemed impossible. When you're lucky enough to meet founders as stellar as Adegoke Olubusi, Dimeji Sofowora, and Tito Ovia, who are deeply passionate about solving a real, tangible, and very timely issue in healthcare across Africa, I was pleased to find the human element was not lost. One of the highlights of this year has been watching them grow their business, improving quality, access, and cost of healthcare across the continent, when it is more relevant than ever."
Another of Global Ventures' notable undertakings through the course of 2020 was its orchestration of a virtual internship program with 23 individuals located in 14 cities around the world. "This was a highlight because it truly demonstrated our ability to collaborate, create value, and build long-lasting relationships virtually, in a time where everyone was feeling relatively isolated as individuals," Haider explains.
"It was an intense but gratifying opportunity to learn from a diverse group of people, each of whom brought with them unique thoughts and perspectives to the table. The whole process was definitely challenging, from recruitment and content creation, to the management of the program and the engagement of the interns. The program showed the importance of expanding access to venture capital, a traditionally elusive space to most young people."
As for why this was an important effort for her VC firm to make, Haider just points to the world we inhabit as an explanation. "Around the world, we're at a stage where Gen Z investors are catering to Gen Z consumers," she explains. "As investors, it's helpful to have that perspective in the room as we analyze transactions."
Time for introspection: Sacha Haider, Principal, Global Ventures
1/ Slowing down isn't a bad thing "In the fast-paced and dynamic world of venture capital, "taking things slow' often gets a bad reputation. Having more meaningful time to think and rethink through an investment, especially in a changing and unprecedented global context, has proven to be really valuable."
2/ Sometimes the best advice is home-brewed "In the earlier part of the year, I found myself consuming plenty of content (notably from the US) about the best way to deal with "the new normal.' However, like many others, I began to realize that the pandemic had not manifested itself equally or similarly across geographies. The realities of emerging markets were different to those of developed markets– one that demands a nuanced approach. While it is comforting to look and learn from the more developed markets, it is important to not lose sight of the specifics of our own context and circumstances, and to appreciate them in their own right."