This week we gathered together the (co)founders and managers of our portfolio companies under a tent in Nairobi, Kenya. Over 50 attendees, flying and driving in from 10 countries across the continent.
Over two days we worked together to discover new common challenges, to solve issues, and to find new ways to work together to seize the opportunities building the food/ag supply chain across Africa.
We’ve been doing some of that work over a series of Zoom conferences since Africa Eats first began, but the company was founded after the pandemic lockdowns and thus this was the first moment when everyone was vaccinated and thus sufficiently safe to meet face-to-face.
The hypothesis going in was that putting 6 or 8 or 12 entrepreneurs around one table would solve problems in an hour that would take weeks or months over email, WhatsApp and Zoom. Despite everyone getting used to virtual meetings, no technology is a substitute for looking at others eye-to-eye, or to continue a table conversations over a break or over a meal.
That hypothesis was proved true within the first hour of discussion, and proved again and again over both days of the gathering.
Day 1 focused on leveraging the diverse network of companies to find partnerships, joint ventures, and other structures for working together between the companies, as as well finding more common services that Africa Eats itself can provide to all the companies. Over a dozen ideas came out of those discussions, and we’ll share the results here on this blog when they turn into reality in 2022.
Day 2 focused on leveraging the knowledge across the companies to solve internal challenges. The day began proving the Birthday Paradox true, first with actual birthdays and then with the challenges of the companies in operations and finance. The Birthday Paradox says that given 23 people, odds are two will share a birthday. Given 28 companies, odds are any business challenge has already been seen by another company.
There are daily challenges doing business in Africa, and now that our investee teams have met each other, talked face-to-face, and shared some meals, we expect their lives to be quite a bit easier as now they access to dozens of other homegrown African entrepreneurs and managers to call upon when the next challenge arises, in addition to the advice they’ve always had from the Africa Eats management team.