As one of the most active and influential early stage investors on the continent with his venture capital fund, Future Africa, Iyinoluwa ‘E’ Aboyeji, 31, spends his time helping young African tech entrepreneurs fulfill their ambitions. Aboyeji and his team have tried to lower the barriers to launch for African founders by making startup investments simpler and more transparent, with a goal of building a pipeline of entrepreneurial talent. He’s also been outspoken on social media and other platforms to raise awareness around issues that come up in a young, fast-evolving ecosystem, advising founders to resist investors taking advantage of them or warning founders about believing their own hype in negotiations with investors. He has done this sometimes at the cost of offending his fellow investors and other tech industry grandees.
Aboyeji, or ‘E’ as he’s widely known in the ecosystem, was just 23 when he helped co-found Andela, the developer training startup, in Lagos in 2014, and just 25 when he helped co-found fintech startup Flutterwave as its first chief executive. Both of those companies are now some of the biggest names in Africa’s tech industry, as unicorns valued at billions of dollars. His early risk-taking also means he has been a firsthand witness to some of this ecosystem’s growing pains and difficulties.
Aboyeji often obsesses over ways to scale up opportunities for young Africans in every sense. Asked what he sees as his biggest challenge as an African entrepreneur, his pithy one-word answer was “talent.” He explained: “The vision is huge, but it is very difficult to find mission-driven talent that has the courage and competence to execute against the vision. This makes me extremely grateful for the talent we have on our team.” He quotes a line from the Christian Bible’s Book of Matthew to describe the “dull ache” he feels over this challenge in the face of what he believes is Africa’s huge tech opportunity: “For the harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few.”