“The wrong co-founder will bring your startup to the ground” – Eunice Ajim of Ajim Capital


Eunice Ajim, the Founding Partner at Ajim Capital, moved from Cameroon to Louisiana in 2012 so that she could begin her studies toward a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Statistics at Louisiana State University. She received very little assistance from her family, so she decided to start her own hairstyling business in order to make ends meet.

She was hired by Apple as a product specialist almost immediately after she graduated from the university. A job offer from Apple would make almost anyone ecstatic, let alone an immigrant from Africa; nonetheless, Ajim is unfazed by the development. After less than 18 months, she made another change, this time to launch her own company where she would work for herself.

"Apple was the company that hired me for my first job just after I graduated from college. At the end of the first year, I said to myself, "Man, I truly despise working in corporate America." It's not that creative, and I wanted to work on some more interesting projects. Being an ordinary worker wasn't enough to satisfy me as a career goal. Because of this, in the end, I found myself just trying to figure out what interesting things were going on in the world at the time and how I might get engaged in them. This time, I wanted to work in technology because companies like Uber, Airbnb, and marketplaces were experiencing explosive growth.

With her background in data science, she made the decision to create a marketplace for data science professionals under the name dataGig. A year later, she made the decision to raise some money from investors and during that time she came across an investor who was very interested in what she was creating. In the end, she decided to close down dataGig and work alongside the investor to establish OpenTeams.

From OpenTeams to Ajim Capital

Ajim dove headfirst into the process of founding OpenTeams, backed by the backing of a more experienced co-founder and the knowledge she gained from operating dataGig. OpenTeams was more successful and was able to raise almost $3 million from investors, but she quickly began to recognize that there were other issues.

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When you're the creator of a startup and you start making a little bit of money, you want to give back; you want to figure out how you can benefit the community in which you live. Regardless of whether it was dataGig or OpenTeams, I've always made an effort to find a way to incorporate the African ecosystem into whatever it is that I'm working on. In the year 2020, when the competition for jobs was fierce, I urged my fellow entrepreneurs to find employees in Africa.

" In the end, we ended up hiring a team of between five and seven people, but the process of hiring those people, paying them, and managing our team presented us with a number of obstacles. And I remarked, "There has to be a more effective approach." I have no doubt that somebody, somewhere, is working on a new business venture designed to address these issues.

img 8767 1024x682 0 1112Eunice Ajim, Founding Partner, Ajim Capital. Source: Supplied

I joined a few syndicate groups that were really focused on the Africat when I first started looking for things, and soon after that, I started seeing transactions that were helping me solve the challenges that I had. Clearly, making an investment was the best course of action to take. I realized that as an African living in the diaspora, I did not know what the African ecosystem was like as I started paying tiny checks into these companies.

Ajim made the decision to leave OpenTeams in order to launch Ajim Capital after observing several new businesses developing innovative solutions for the African continent. The company announced the creation of its first fund in January 2022, allocating ten million dollars to be invested in pre-seed and seed stage businesses all around the continent. According to Ajim, the company plans to make investments in between forty and fifty different businesses over the course of the next two years.

She is eager to increase the number of Africans who invest in new businesses, but she emphasized that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to educate Africans on the benefits of the venture capital asset class.

" I believe that a significant amount of work needs to be done in order to educate people in Africa about the many advantages of making investments in venture capital asset classes. My team and I have been working on figuring out how to genuinely educate Africans in the diaspora as well as on the continent about the possibility of investing in the private market; however, there are a number of other elements that we also need to take into consideration when capturing Africans.

The fact that venture capital is still relatively new on the African continent is one of the reasons, in her opinion, that so many Africans are hesitant to participate in new businesses. In addition to this, she mentioned that many people in Africa would like to invest their money in more traditional asset classes such as real estate or the stock market.

We attempt to invest in things that we are familiar with, such as real estate, the public market, our 401(k)s, and retirement plans, even if there are certainly many of us who are in the fortunate position of having a great deal of money. When you invest in the stock market, you have complete control over when and how you withdraw your money. When you invest in real estate, you have the ability to generate income in two ways: either by selling your property or by renting it out.

" In the venture capital class, I prefer to think of us as patient investors as opposed to investors who are constantly buying and selling stocks. Your funds will not be accessible for a minimum of ten years. If I give a founder money in the form of a check, I have no right to coerce that founder into selling the company.

The most common errors made by startups while trying to secure funding

Ajim is of the opinion that far too many startups make the mistake of trying to secure money from venture capitalists too soon after launching their businesses.

" I think one of the main ones I see right now on the African continent, and I could probably say this for virtually everywhere in the world, is founders seeking to raise money from venture capitalists too early in their businesses. Fundraising is like a full-time job. It takes a lot out of you to be able to raise money for a cause, yet even when you're raising money, you still need to manage your business.

Instead, she suggested that early-stage innovators devote more effort to determining the nature of the challenge they are attempting to address and the size of the potential customer base for their product.

Eunice Ajim, Founding Partner, Ajim Capital. Source: SuppliedPreviously, Ajim was a founder at dataGig and co-founder at OpenTeams.

"As a founder of a startup, one of the first things you should do is truly think about the problem that you're trying to solve. Who are the most valuable clients? If you were to solve this particular problem for them, would they be prepared to compensate you? If you are able to find a few people who are prepared to even pay you the money upfront so that you can fix that problem, then you may utilize that money to bootstrap your business for a short period of time.

This will help you show a little bit of proof of concept, which you can then exhibit to angel investors in order to earn a little bit more money. You will be able to expand on your achievement with the money you receive from them before approaching venture capitalists.

To obtain a co-founder or not to get a co-founder

It might be quite beneficial to have a co-founder of a company. Not only do many potential investors favor firms that have more than one founder, but having many founders also makes it easier to delegate the most critical responsibilities. Ajim, who has experience both as a sole founder and as a co-founder of a company, stated that she does not have a preference for firms that have more than one founder.

" When it comes to the concept of solo founders versus co-founders, I have conflicting sentiments about both. Certain investors will not consider companies that did not have at least one co-founder. That is not something I have any faith in. They will bring your startup to its knees if you bring in the incorrect individual on your executive team just because you feel like you need a co-founder.

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She suggested that entrepreneurs only bring on board co-founders in whom they had complete faith would be able to provide value to their company and collaborate effectively with them.

It's wonderful that you have a close-knit group of friends that you feel complete each other, and you believe that you have a good possibility of achieving your goals together. On the other hand, if you are a sole creator and you believe that you can launch a successful business without the assistance of a co-founder, then I believe that this is an option. Simply said, you need to recruit amazing individuals.