Why Foreign Aid Doesn’t Work… and What Does

The Problem with Foreign Aid

The following video does a great job of quickly summarizing the typical problems with foreign aid… So… if that doesn’t work, what does? For-profit capitalism. That may sound backwards, but it truly does work, when implemented correctly. I’ve seen this first-hand, as this is what I do as my main job. I find overlooked entrepreneurs in Africa whose work alleviates hunger and...

The “Missing Middle” of Capital

The Missing Middle of Capital

The “Missing Middle” is the funding gap for startups between their initial idea and their first few million dollars of revenues. Imagine the challenge of getting to $1 million in annual revenues without any outside investment. Now imagine that in Africa or LatAm or Southeast Asia. Hundreds of thousands of great companies in those regions, hundreds that get any funding in any given...

Where is your horizon?

harbor with sailboats

Where is your horizon? How far away from home does your daily life take you? How far into the past and future do you think about? I live on an island, and know quite a few people whose daily lives never even reach the beach. On the other end of the spectrum (to mix metaphors), few days go by when I’m not talking on Zoom to someone from Africa, if not also calls in the morning from Europe...

30,000x growth

Top of a 6502

There are two reasons for the incredible amount of money focused on tech companies. First, because of the 10 largest companies on the S&P 500, five are tech companies. Tech has made many investors a lot of money since Apple went public in 1980 and Microsoft in 1986. Second, the core technology powering all that software has sped up by a factor of 30,000 since Apple launched the Apple ][ in...

Investing overseas… Not as scary as you think

HALO regions

I was asked last week by the Seattle Angel Conference to explain why investing overseas is not as big a challenge nor as big a risk as most Angels think. TL;DR: it’s very similar to investing locally but with much larger market opportunities and far far far fewer investors and thus far more realistic terms. This is one of the topics often covered by The Angel Accelerator, itself inspired by...

Milestone by milestone growth (in Africa)

Cohort analysis

Over at Africa Eats we typically tout growth based on aggregate revenues. Growing from under $1 million to over $16.8 million in seven years is worthy of touting (see below). But this week I started looking at it another way, and that is even more interesting. This week the question came up… how many of the companies are small, medium, and large, and how has that changed over the past few...

From the investor side of the table


Most of the entrepreneurs I work with have yet to raise money from an Angel or investment fund (venture capital or debt or any formal institution). It is daunting to sit (face-to-face or online) across the table from an investor, as investors know more about the process of investing than entrepreneurs. Life on the investor side of the table isn’t as easy as entrepreneurs think. The...

Future Dollars (F$)

Market prices

Last week I wrote about the ancient system of Bills of Exchange and how useful they were for sellers to get paid sooner than 30, 60, or 90 days after the sale. A 21st Century systemic solution to replicate these benefits would be a marketplace that sells and trades Future Dollars (denoted as F$). A future dollar is a promise to deliver a real dollar ($) in a specific number of days. With this...

Fast-growing Elephant (Startups)

Annual revenues

Most startup investors chase mythical unicorns, ignoring the real, fast-growing elephants. What do I mean by fast-growing? 50%-100% year over year, with an occasional 3x or 5x or 9x growth spurt to kick that off: Above are four such companies, all fledglings, all now part of Africa Eats‘ portfolio. Four companies that earn over $1 million per year, which solve real problems, and with that...

Bills of Exchange, RIP

Hudson's Bay Company note

300 YEARS AGO, when the British Empire was still growing, the first wave of global trade was powered not only by the Pound Sterling, but by trades in Bills of Exchange. How did traders from London buy tea in India, porcelain in Hong Kong, or silks in Singapore? They didn’t haul cases of silver and gold in their outbound ships, trading coins for goods. They had to do that when global trade...


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