Exclusive interview with Uneku Atawodi, CEO and Founder of Africa’s first impact focused equity crowd funding portal, Malaik  

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are currently the main source of  job creation in Africa. They account for over 95 percent of firms and 60 to 70 percent of employment across the continent. Despite this massive contribution to the economy, access to finance is still a major obstacle to the growth of the SMEs on the continent. In view of this problem, an impact-focused equity crowdfunding portal, Malaik has been created to connect investors interested in impact investment opportunities and entrepreneurs raising equity finance. Malaik aims to offer the global community clear and well-documented opportunities for high impact investing in African businesses a chance to participate in Africa’s growth story.

Following the launch of Africa’s first impact focused equity crowd funding portal, Malaik, Ventures Africa spoke with the Founder and CEO, Uneku Atawodi to learn more about the portal.

Ventures Africa (VA): Why was Malaik founded?

Uneku Atawodi (UA): Malaik was founded because access to finance is a problem for entrepreneurs in Africa. So many inspiring African entrepreneurs that have amazing ideas, that deserve to be scaled don’t have funds because it’s risky for banks to give out loans to start-up businesses. Malaik helps to close that gap by selling equity in start-up businesses to interested investors.

VA: Can you tell us how long Malaik has been operating and how it works?

UA: Malaik is four months old from idea conception until date. We were proud to preview for the first time at the African Leadership Network to the crowd fare.  So here is how Malaik works: firstly you log on to our website and register as either an investor or an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur can apply to raise funds for their company through our platform while an investor can apply to be an investor. Once the investor is approved he would be able to see the batch of companies that have gone through our due diligence report and then put the amount he wishes invest. Our investment calculator would automatically calculate how many shares in the company that the investor would get for his investment. For example if the company is raising $100 000, and you invest up to 20 percent equity, you invest $10,000, you get 2 percent equity in that company.

VA: What makes Malaik different from other crowd funding portals?

UA: First Malaik is an equity crowd-funding portal, though it’s not just for not- for-profit businesses. We are actually helping businesses that are highly comfortable with the potential to provide a lot of impact and raise funding to scale. The difference is that we only put up companies that have a big attraction and are selling equity finance. As opposed to other crowd funding platforms, Malaik finds you a lead investor or you come with your own investor and if your company is open to the crowd on the platform we would have identified the lead investor. The lead investor takes a minimum of 25 percent of funds that the company is trying to raise and then the crowd can invest in the same deal terms. So, we allow the crowd to get fair value for their money because the lead investor would have invested their own money in and negotiated deal terms.

VA: What are the risks involved in investing through Malaik, because as an investor you would want to know the risks involved in investing in a company on the platform?

UA:  Once you go on the platform, you have to be approved to be a sophisticated investor. A sophisticated investor understands there is the risk of their shares being diluted and the risk of losing your money investing in startups. We also have a full list analysis that a sophisticated investor is required to understand and we don’t open up to people who don’t understand the basic principles of investing in startups.

 VA: How much equity do investors get for their investment?

UA: Companies listed on Malaik decide how much money they want to raise in exchange for a certain percentage of its equity, and each investor’s equity interest will be proportionate to the size of their investment. So if a campaign raises $150,000 in exchange for 20 percent of its equity, and you invest $1,500 (1 percent of $150,000), you will receive 0.20 precent (1 percent of 20 percent) of the equity of the business.

VA: What are your Know-Your-Customer (KYC) checks and how do you ensure that the identifications given to you are valid?

UA: Before you enter the platform to make investments, you are required to send us a proof of identification, which can be a passport or a driver’s license and your proof of address. We have stringent KYC checks, if they have any doubts that the person is not who they say they are after they have had a conversation with the risk analysis crew then we will not be allowed to give passwords.

VA: So, how much can one invest in a business?

UA: The minimum investment for a company is $1000 except where specified. If the company comes up and says they want to sell their shares at a higher minimum, then that would be written on the company’s page. On Malaik you are allowed to choose what company you want to invest in, and you are advised to spread your investment through and not put all your money in one company but spread your risk in investing in either two or three companies.

VA: Is it possible for an investor to cancel an investment?

UA: There is a stipulated time that you are allowed to cancel your investment. You are not allowed to cancel if the company is already hit for funding but prior to that, you can.

VA: Do you have specific sectors which you raise funds for on your platform?

UA:  We like raising funds for all sectors. We don’t raise funds for companies we see as illegal businesses or immoral businesses. We raise funds for any high impact business. If you have a business that not only provides jobs for people but if you are going to hit them with the UN Sustainable Development Goals then those are the sort of businesses that we are interested in.

VA: Can you tell us about the impact tracker that you use and why it is unique? 

UA: The impact trackers focus on companies that not only can be comfortable but can also provide economic impact to the areas where they operate. We track impact using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For example, if an entrepreneur comes to us and says she will provide 500 jobs we’ll input that number in our impact tracker and then the entrepreneur is required to report every quarter what impact they’ve been able to have. We target many impact investments and we believe that companies that have trackable metrics can really help Africa hit its growth potential.

VA: In a situation where the company wasn’t able to provide a particular number of jobs as promised, what happens to that company?

UA: If you said you were going to provide 200 jobs by 2018 and you came back and said you’ve been able to provide 20 jobs, we will put that number into your impact tracker and all your investors will see that you have reached 10 percent of your total aim. So, the impact tracker is the dial that fills up as you hit your aim with what you initially reported to your crowd of investors.

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