As we promised in the first part, we are sharing with you our interview with Aya Zaghnin, the youngest investor on the show. For those of you, who didn’t read the first part, it’s about “Qui va investir dans mon projet“, the moroccan version of Shark Tank. So with no further ado, here’s what Aya has to say about herself, the show, and the Moroccan Startup ecosystem.
Who’s Aya Zaghnin?
I started my first entrepreneurial experience at the age of 19. I co-founded an e-mentoring platform called Jointify.africa, specializing in low-cost mentoring for SMEs. We were humbled when we had the opportunity to represent Morocco at the UNDP startup event in Nigeria. I ended up going to Lagos in 2019 to participate in the program and attend the Techcrunch event. I consider Nigeria my second home, and the place that motivated me to continue on the path. I was lucky enough to meet some of the first African unicorns, brilliant founders and investors. I returned to Morocco amazed at what I had seen, so I decided to immerse myself more in the opportunities, but from the investor side, not the entrepreneur side.
Upon my return to Morocco, I had the extraordinary opportunity to join a team creating one of the first venture capital funds in the MEA region. My brief tenure in the VC fund gave me the opportunity to work with GIZ at its German headquarters on its investment program in Sub-Saharan Africa.
During the GIZ program, I had the chance to work with over 40 startups in Africa, including Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Egypt, Rwanda, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda. I made sure to help the companies as much as possible, get involved in their day-to-day operations, and learn from each one. What I got (and still get) from the program is a deep market knowledge of these companies, at different stages and different geographical areas.
Today, I am an investment professional and early stage investor specializing in Africa. I currently work at Delphos International, based in Washington DC. Delphos is the leading provider of innovative financial solutions for businesses and development projects. We specialize in raising long-term, competitively priced capital for companies, fund managers, developers, sovereigns and entrepreneurs around the world. I also advise GIZ’s SAIS program, which targets agribusinesses and food technology start-ups in Africa. In addition, I co-founded a foundation to fight malaria for rural smallholders in northern Nigeria and plan to expand the same foundation model to Malawi and Tanzania.
My current ticket is between $10,000 and $50,000 in scaleable, pre-seed and seed stage startups in sectors I understand ie. Agtech – Foodtech – Fintech and mobility. I also like to support impactful entrepreneurs who are venturing out with a purpose.
I invest in a maximum of 5 startups per year, for the main reason that I like to give them my full attention. I highly value the trait of availability in business angels, it is much more important for me to invest in a few startups and be 100% available when they need me.
My investment style is not focused on exit, but rather on impact and risk tolerance. I stress on impact KPIs as much as growth KPIs. I believe that having a conservative attitude as an angel investor easily pushes entrepreneurs to have the same attitude. Trying to take the risk with the entrepreneur would change the mindset of the ecosystem.
Entrepreneurs today fall into the trap of paying more attention to what individual investors want rather than the needs of the business, which comes from a distorted channel of power given to investors. Fortunately, our investor mindset is changing to be more tolerant of risk and encouraging the entrepreneur to tolerate the same.
How and why did you join “ Qui va investir dans mon projet”?
I joined the show right after meeting Mehdi Alaoui. I left my meeting with him fascinated by his accomplishments, his zeal and his patience. Most of my ventures were based in sub-Saharan Africa at the time. After learning about the show and its impact on Moroccan entrepreneurs, I was immediately convinced to participate in this season.
What did you like about the show?
I liked the fact that the show brought together many like-minded people with the same goal. I also enjoyed communicating with all the entrepreneurs and the investors, especially the Lakhdissi brothers, Mehdi, Rachid, Khalid and Ilan. Most importantly, I think the show is one of the drivers of our entrepreneurial ecosystem, it gives founders the opportunity to speak out, talk about their challenges, showcase their solutions on a national scale, and raise seed investment to grow.
Why did you invest in Saide VTC ?
I invested in Saide because of the problem they’re solving. The mobility and Logistics sector in Morocco is complicated and highly fragmented. I find that Moroccan consumers deserve a better service. I found the idea of local entrepreneurs venturing into the sector and utilizing their expertise to find a business model that would work in the Moroccan context quite interesting. I will be sharing more information on our investment in the company post the due diligence.
Can you explain to us what happens after a deal is made on the show?
We sign a term sheet right after the show, then we move to due diligence. Lafactory handles this part for us, they collect and cross-check all the financial information. If everything checks well, we close the deal.
Will you be in the next season on the show?
I honestly do not have visibility on the matter. I’m taking this year to be quite close to Lafactory and the startups, to get to know them more, and assist them in their growth plans. I hope to increase my ticket size next year and enhance my portfolio in our country.
To conclude, we would like to thank Aya for her kindness and for taking the time to answer our questions, her answers were really helpful and informative.
Africa is often overlooked by Western media, but it has a lot to offer, that’s why we will keep an eye on the continent and report back on the most interesting developments of its ecosystem.