Adaora Oramah has been waiting for this chance for years as she straightens her blazer before making her pitch to a group of foreign investors.
The 26-year-old has raised about $700,000 for her digital media startup, Amaka Studio, which aims to unite women all over the world by sharing Pan-African narratives. She is currently trying to raise $1.6 million to improve the platform’s advertising options and make it easier for creators to monetize their work on it, particularly in regional currencies.
It’s difficult to raise money in the current economic climate. “I know that’s particularly difficult for women; typically harder for a Black woman as well,” the London-based founder admits.
Amaka Studio, based in Oramah, is one of ten tech-related businesses that made it to Morgan Stanley’s demo day for startups at its Canary Wharf offices in east London this week. Morgan Stanley chose five companies out of 1,200 applications to take part in a program that had only been available in the United States since 2017.
One shows slides with pixel art like Tamagotchi; another gives out golden tickets with prizes from her online artisanal food store; and a third says that her startup has gotten an investment that will keep it going for 30 months. A live stream of the New York cohort’s pitches is being broadcast to the rest of the world.
As the entrepreneurs walked in, they were told that Atomico, Silicon Valley Bank, Google for Start-Ups, Black Seed Ventures, Lakestar, and Cornerstone Partners would all be there as investors. They are given time to talk about the proposals after the presentations rather than making a quick decision about funding.
“Oramah says, “It was thrilling. “Insights from the investor community and the startup ecosystem have been invaluable.
Dora Palfi states that during her time in the program, she saw a pivot in her company, Imagi, which teaches young women to code, to place a greater emphasis on forming partnerships with educational institutions. “It seemed like a great time to take stock of how far we’ve come in the past few months.”
Rising inflation, recession fears, and the crypto winter caused investors of all sizes to take a breather last year, making it tough for anyone trying to raise money. However, the going was already tough for women-led startups.
According to a report by investment firm Atomico, about 87% of all venture capital funding in Europe was raised by male-only founding teams in 2017. Compared to 2020, when they raised 3% of all funds, women-only teams only raised 1%.
“To boil it down to its essence, (venture capital) is a game of connections.” “And because it’s a network game, investors have certain expectations that founders should meet,” says Precious Oyelade, the head of the Google for Startups UK program. “Today’s environment is more competitive, making it more difficult for founders from disadvantaged backgrounds to secure funding,” she said.
According to the Wall Street firm, over 69 startups that received funding from Morgan Stanley’s program have gone on to raise over $670 million in additional capital. There will be fifteen American companies and ten from EMEA joining the lab in the following year.
Finally, Oramah’s time to pitch has come. The phrase “I raised that amount in three weeks” is thrown around every once in a while. On the other hand, I will not be ashamed to admit that it took me close to a year to save up enough money to pay for this. And it has taught me the value of steady revenue increases. She has also learned how important it is to be able to support one’s own business in ways besides fundraising.
She then adds, “At the same time, it would also be really great to have somebody that can back us as well.”