VBAN MEMBERS – Q&A WITH ROBERT GICHOHI

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What is your personal background?

I’m a Kenyan citizen first and foremost. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Civil & Structural engineering and masters in project planning and management from the University of Nairobi. My work experience has largely being in the real estate sector and

What made you want to become an Angel Investor?

1. Entrepreneurial spirit: I’ve always found entrepreneurship fascinating. It’s not just about guts and grit and a whole lotta luck. One has to believe in the idea; see the enterprise in the start-up; the oak tree in the acorn. And then get to work on it to see through to maturity.

2. Lack of time to start up a business: it takes time and focus to build a great business. It can not be a “side hustle”, it has to be the “main hustle”.

3. Failed investments due to lack of proper DD and Mgt: I’ve had a few investments not turn out as I had hoped but it’s part of the learning process. I’m glad I learnt the lessons before committing a lot of capital but now I want to structure my investment approach hence why I joined VBAN.

How many investments have you done so far, and what sectors?

3. Two in retail (Fashion) and one in real estate. I have a bit of understanding in those sectors. However, I’m willing to explore investable opportunities in other sectors.

What are the benefits to group investing in your view?

1. Ease of mobilizing capital; it’s makes it easy to fill up/ commit a significant amount to a funding round if other angels are participating. When we come together we can participate in rounds we might not have done so before, that were too expensive for an single individual investor.

2. Networking; it’s always great to meet other like minded people and share experiences, both good and bad. These sort of interactions are also good in refining how you look at investment opportunities, which ones are good from the lame ducks etc.

3. Diversified/ Spread risk; the risk and responsibility is distributed among many people as opposed to bearing it all alone. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

What do you look for in a start-up before you invest?

1. Quality of management; angel investing is essentially backing a team and helping them deliver on the promise. With the right talent, there’s little you can’t achieve. Can’t gild the Lilly further than that.

2. Financial forecast and assumptions; it may sound like a cliche but numbers don’t lie. I mean they’re a form of verification that there is an existing customer base for the product or service you’re purporting to supply. They have to paint a positive future of the business.

3. Field of operations; I’m shy on investing in agriculture unless the weather and market risk are mitigated. Maybe earlier on when I said I want to explore other sectors I should have added “but not all sectors”. It helps to understand the sector not necessarily being an expert in it.

What would be your advice to people who want to become angel investors?

1. Toughen up and be prepared to lose money in the same way to prepare to make money. Simply put.

2. Invest in due diligence; do not attempt to play Russian roulette with your hard earned cash.

3. Commit some time to your investment to continuously evaluate its performance. As an angel investor, you create your own value.

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