Aug. 30, 2023

#116 Kimoyo: Is This African Startup Venture Backable?

When Mariam Braimah led product design at Netflix she struggled to find participants in Africa to test new products. So she started Kimoyo Insights, a research analytics platform that helps companies like Microsoft & Flutterwave gather feedback from African consumers. But Kimoyo doesn’t quite fit the venture mold. Can Mariam convince investors to make a bet on user research in the data desert of Africa?


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Lisa: Day 1, Pitch 2

If there's anything you've gleaned from listening to this show it’s that fundraising from VCs is really hard. Like pushing a boulder uphill. Both ways. In the snow. 

VCs have very particular things they're looking for. Like vertical SaaS, on last week’s show. They’ve seen it work before, they think it’ll work again.

So when you show up in the pitch room with a business that doesn’t quite fit the venture mold… that rock you’re pushing up a hill? It’s not round anymore.

That’s what this week’s founder is up against. But on top of that? She has to also sell them on why Africa is market worth betting on. 

Have I set the stakes high enough yet? Yeah the bar is really high. But if anyone can clear it, it’s Mariam Braimah, founder of Kimoyo.

I’m Josh Muccio and this is The Pitch, where real entrepreneurs, pitch real investors, for real money.


Erica: Hi, I’m Erica Wenger, and I’m general partner of Park Rangers Capital

Jillian: Hi, I’m Jillian Manus, managing partner of Structure Capital

Martin: Hi I’m Martin Tobias with Incisive Ventures

Charles: Hi I’m Charles Hudson, managing partner, Precursor Ventures


The pitch for Kimoyo is coming up AFTER THIS -

And if you want to watch the video of this pitch, go to New episodes premiere on YouTube, Wednesdays at 7pm eastern. Join us in the chat. I’ll be there.


The information provided on this show is not intended to be investment advice and should not be relied upon as such. The investors on today’s episode are providing their opinions based on their own assessment of the business presented. Those opinions should not be considered professional investment advice. 

By the way, you won’t hear from Charles during The Pitch, because his fund is already invested. But you will hear from him after the founder leaves the room.

Alright. On with the pitch.

Mariam: Hello everyone, nice to meet you.

[hi theres]

Erica: Nice to meet you. What's your - Mariam?

Mariam: Mariam, yes.

Martin: I'm Martin.

Mariam: Nice to meet you.

Jillian: I'm Jillian. Nice to meet you. 

Mariam: Awesome. Okay, well, before I introduce myself, I want to introduce you to an industry that's currently experiencing 2x yearly growth, that you are not invested in. Companies are spending an annual $2.2 billion on research in Africa. My name is Mariam Braimah. I'm the cofounder and CEO of Kimoyo Insights, a research analytics platform helping global companies get feedback from African consumers. Prior to Kimoyo, I was a lead product designer at Netflix, spearheading products like the mobile only plan. And that product, like all others, started with research. It took our team two to three weeks to recruit participants in the UK and India. In Kenya, Nigeria, it took two to three months. It was so frustrating. And Netflix is not alone. Participant recruitment is the number one problem for teams around the world conducting research across the continent. Modern research platforms, like and traditional research agencies do not cater to African demographics. Kimoyo is changing that. Since launching last year, we have over 11,000 participants in our private beta, and have generated 115,000 in revenue, supporting companies like Microsoft and Flutterwave. We are raising a $1 million pre seed to automate the entire research workflow. From research logistics through analysis, Kimoyo will help companies build better products for Africans and with Africans, starting with the most important thing: talking to their customers. 

Jillian: Can you tell us about you? You seem to be like all that!

Mariam: Yeah, yeah. So yeah, like I said, my name's Mariam. I'm originally from New York, but I'm of Nigerian descent. I've always been a Nigerian American - Nigerian first, American second. Prior to Netflix, I actually managed a cross-functional research and design team. And I studied history of art and architecture at Harvard. 

Erica: Are you a first time founder?

Mariam: Yes, I am. 

Martin: Can you dig a little bit more into the technology that you have developed. 

Mariam: Yeah. So what we're building is a platform that you can automate the entire scheduling, the recruitment, the screening of our participants, and the qualification of our participants. Right now, we are more like that logistics intermediary. The actual research does not happen on our platform, just to start. If you are familiar with like, it's a similar play. So what that looks like is pretty much a two-sided marketplace where you have participants on one end and you have the scheduling and the payments portion on the other end. 

Jillian: Talk about how do you qualify the participants, how do you onboard the participants.

Mariam: Yeah. Yeah. What's - what's really awesome is I don't know how many Africans you all know, but in general if you don't even ask for an opinion, let's just say from someone like my mother or my father, I don't have to pay them for their opinion. And so it's actually very easy if I'm telling a bunch of - say, like we're gonna pay you for what you do for free. That's actually the easiest part of getting the participants. The harder part to your question is the qualification. And what we've done is we've created a three-step process that automates that qualification and trains actually participants on how to give feedback efficiently and helpful for our studies. So before you're even able to apply to a study on Kimoyo, we actually make sure that they're a qualified participant. 

Martin: Can you characterize the types of studies Are these consumer products? Are these software applications? Are these general market studies? 

Mariam: So what we've looked at are what are the fastest growing sectors and industries that are doing research at the highest rate. And so R&D spend, basically. Initially starting with tech, we focus on tech hubs right now to start. And fastest growing markets, I should say. So Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa are markets that we're targeting just now. But however we want to break into consumer packaged goods. That's actually our longer term play. 

Erica: So I wanted to talk to you about how much they're getting paid to do these research studies So let's say I want to do the Netflix study, how much am I getting paid hourly? And then also, how does that compare to like other jobs in the area, so I can kind of understand. Cos I know it's different, obviously by - Africa is so huge, so.

Mariam: Right. Thank you for saying that. It is not a country. Yeah, so typically where we - we typically charge around 100 to $150 per participant, yielding a 70% profit margin. And so what we charge, we fix our rates accordingly per - by time. So for an hour-long study, we might charge $20, and then kind of fix it along there. And that's 20USD. We pay in USD and it gets disbursed in the local currency.

Erica: And then how does the 20 USD compare to like - I mean, it just varies so much, it's so hard to even say, but like varies to a different hourly rate in the areas where you're -

Mariam: It's very good. 

Erica: Very good. 

Mariam: And I love your question because actually, ironically, we thought we would actually get more people that were for the just the money. And don't get me wrong - yes, there's that subset. But honestly, the majority of our participants felt thrilled that they were able to test cutting edge technology. They actually feel like they're a part -

Erica: They're on the frontlines. I mean, they're the ones deciding, hey, Netflix, launch this, don't launch this.

Mariam: Exactly. Exactly.

Erica: And they don't feel like they're - I think that's sometimes the problem with emerging markets, is you can feel like you're kind of the last to see things, the last to experience things. And we're kind of flipping that on its head.

Mariam: Exactly.

Erica: Which is really special.

Mariam: Exactly. 

Jillian: And who are your customers now?

Mariam: So we worked with - we are working, I should say, with Microsoft, Flutterwave, which is the largest fintech company in Africa, Chipper Cash, we've worked with BBC, Amazon. We've noticed that majority of our customers are tending to be in the fintech space. However we have been recently starting conversations with a large multinational corporation in the CPG space.

Jillian: Okay. And what are your revenues?

Mariam: Revenue, we've done $115,000 in revenue to date.

Martin: For how long?

Mariam: Since last - since launching last year.

Martin: So 12 months?

Mariam: Yeah. 

Jillian: So have you looked at your payment model? Assessed it? Re-assessed it? 

Mariam: We've been able to start looking at more like subscription based assessments. And Flutterwave is actually the first trial where we've had with that. We are officially their African research provider on a yearly contract. 

Jillian: And the yearly contract is… 

Mariam: With Flutterwave - it's 75,000 - but we're targeting around 55,000 for the cost of contracts, which is in line with the industry standard, like and userzoom

Martin: I know you have some US investors. Do you have local VCs from Africa as investors? 

Mariam: No, we do not have local VCs. We're in later stage due diligence with a few.

Jillian: How much have you raised?

Mariam: We have raised 30% of our round, so about 300,000 

Martin: How much revenue will you be at at 12 months?

Mariam: We've been targeting 300,000 in ARR. 

Erica: Are there any other research firms that are targeting the African continent the way that you guys are? Like what does the competitive landscape look like? 

Mariam: Yeah. If you're talking about traditional research agencies, if we call those firms, you look at Ipso, Kantar or even McKinsey to some extent. But they're mostly, those traditional research agencies, where they're usually partnering with smaller agencies on the ground to help execute the research on there. So typically what you notice with them, is that they are specifically very siloed in the markets that they focus on. So they might say, we do research in Nigeria, or we do research in Kenya, but to do research across the continent, which is typically what is needed, they're not doing that, which is how we've differentiated ourselves 

Erica: And then how do you guys partner on the ground there? Like I'm trying to understand, you said that your competitors work with small agencies and that's not what you do.

Mariam: Yeah.

Erica: And I'm trying to understand like what you guys do that makes you really special.

Mariam: I see. Our competitors work with smaller agencies, yes. But where our competitors are not doing is they're not using tech to actually outreach to their participants, so they're a lot slower. So that's where it takes two to three months.

Erica: Oh, gotcha, gotcha. That's the differentiator.

Mariam: Exactly. And so you can't do that with the competitor on the ground cos they're literally recruiting face to face. 

Erica: How do you think about the defensibility of this? So let's say I listen to what you're doing. I'm like, this is genius. $20 an hour versus 1.5 a day. We all know Africa's exploding. If you are in venture in the slightest, you know this. Why wouldn't I go - ha! I'm gonna build this platform. And I'm gonna get contracts. And I'm gonna go, you know what, you've got Microsoft or whatever, and I'm gonna get Netflix and all the other - and like, just kind of split the market. Like, how do you think about your defensibility? 

Mariam: Yeah. Our defensibility comes into the third portion of the research workflow Analysis. For every hour that you spend talking to a customer it's estimated that you spend two to three hours analyzing that study. The way we look at it is that we wanna get to the point that you can click a button and be able to say, just get insights, and maybe in two to three minutes, you're able to pull those patterns out. So where the defensibility actually comes from is the fact that we want to be able to take a lot of the information that we're learning in these videos and be able to build our own model that understands that local colloquialisms. For example, what does it mean to say “japa,” which is the process of leaving Nigeria, that is very colloquial. You wouldn't be able to build that into your model in the same way that we have. And the more customers that we have on our platform conducting research, the more participants that we have on our platform conducting research, the stronger that our model actually becomes and the analysis becomes. 

Martin: I have two questions. You say you've already got 300,000 of commitments on this $1 million. Do you have terms on that $1 million?

Mariam: Yes. A $6 million cap.

Martin: Okay. And then the second question is, I don't know anything about how to value these kind of companies. Do you have any comparables or ideas how these kind of research companies are valued?

Mariam: Yeah. So we can talk about and userzoom cos they're the leaders in this space. reached 100 million in ARR, I believe it was in about 15 years. They started in 2008. They weren't subscription based until about 2015, and then from there, I think by 2021, they had crossed over the 100 million mark. With 2300 customers. When you look at userzoom, on the other hand, they learned from and they went as quickly as they could into the subscription model, and they were able to do that in, I believe, ten years with 1000 customers. 

Martin: And you think Africa's big enough to get to $100 million? 

Jillian: Are you looking at markets outside of Africa?

Mariam: Africa has 54 markets. We're looking at Africa only. in seven years, Africa will be home to a third of the global population of youth. By 2050, one out of every five customers on the internet will be in Africa. Africa in the past decade has, out of the top ten countries with the fastest growing GDP, five of those markets are in Africa. Retail spend in 2018 was about $1.4 trillion. Two thirds of that was consumer packaged goods. And it's considered one of the fastest growing regions for consumer packaged goods spending in the world. On top of that, when it comes to profitability margins, it's the most profitable region bar none to East Asia.

Jillian: This is when you drop the mic.


Jillian: That was - what!

Erica: She knows her stuff. Are you guys a Delaware C Corp?

Mariam: Yes, we are.

Erica: Okay. Cool. Just making sure. 

Martin: I really like what you've been building. I did my first investment in Africa in Tanzania -

Mariam: Oh awesome.

Martin: - a couple months ago. A fintech company. I'm looking for more. You seem really deep involved in the market that you're in. I unfortunately don't understand how to value these kind of companies and a company growing to only $300,000 of revenue at the end of this thing. It seems to me, a little bit like a land grab versus a technology play. I know you're saying that you're able to compete with the other companies because of your technology, but this seems to me like the kind of thing that, somebody would want to buy because of your market penetration in Africa. One of these other companies. And those other companies took 15 years to get to $100 million. In my mind, that's just too damn long. And so I'm a little - because I don't understand the dynamics of how you would value this company two or three years from now, versus a B2B software company - this is not, this is a people business where you're basically renting people. And for that reason, it doesn't fit my thesis and I'm out. 

Mariam: I will just clarify a few things. We are a B2b platform. That's first. But then the second I would say is that one company, which was the first in this space, took 15 years. The other took 10. but your company that's in Tanzania, glad to have them as a customer.

Martin: Absolutely. 

Mariam: I think the silence is the money that you all are thinking about investing. Yeah. 

Jillian: You're good. I am so torn about this -

Erica: Me too.

Jillian: - I'm killing myself. And the reason I am is I've actually invested in six companies in Africa. Okay. Five went belly up.

Mariam: Yeah. 

Jillian: I am worried because I have scars because I have invested in Africa and just didn't know what the hell I was doing. Right. So I have no idea. I have no idea.

Mariam: Yeah.

Erica: Okay. I'll give you more time to think if you want.

Jillian: Yeah, please.

Erica: Because you have no idea. Okay.

Jillian: Killing myself.

Erica: I will say I'm a big like founder over everything else, and I think you're brilliant.

Mariam: Thank you.

Erica: You know your numbers, you're whip smart. I really like you. What I will tell you is I only invest in US-based companies, typically with US customers. So I've never invested in Africa before. But I really like you and I really - I think that this is an underserved market and I really like you. So that's why I'm struggling. I think, I just don't understand the market well enough.

Mariam: Yeah okay.

Erica: And I think I have to be out.

Mariam: Okay.

Erica: But I will tell you that I am like - I really, really like and I might like call you tonight and tell you that I messed up. and I really think you're a star. I just don't invest in Africa and I don't know the market.

Mariam: I'll let you know, Microsoft is a US company but, just saying, and they've done more than four studies with us in the past year.

Erica: That's exactly right. And you're a Delaware C corp. I know. I just don't - yeah. I'm gonna think about it. 

Mariam: Yeah. For sure. For sure. We'll talk tonight. Jillian. 

Erica: Jillian, you should do it. 

Mariam: Yeah, you should do it.

Erica: Because you do invest in Africa.

Jillian: But I got burned.

Martin: She got burned.

Jillian: Five times. 

Mariam: Wouldn't it have been nice to have research to help justify your -

Jillian: Yeah, you know, you're absolutely right. But I just - this is a hard lift. I'm out. Okay. But what I can do is I can introduce you to four funds that invest in Africa. And I wish I could. I think it’s my scar tissue. 

Mariam: I think you mentioned that there's six companies that you invested in, over what period of time was it? Not to trigger you!

Jillian: No, no, that's okay. That's okay. It was been over the last six years.

Mariam: Over the last six years. I mean, cos a 12% success rate sounds really good for a fund.

Jillian: Oh, no, no. Listen -

Mariam: One out of six.

Erica: You know what, that's actually not a bad point.

Jillian: Truthfully, Mariam -

Mariam: I mean, and it's - I don’t mean to cut you off, but I'm just saying, like, what I'm getting at or what I'm trying to - I also try to reconcile is a lot of times I feel like when I'm talking about, you know, our company, I'm really trying to sell people on Africa first. and it makes sense, but you know when you look at the way that they dynamics of, you know, the venture capital space is, this is not off. You know, when funding goes down in America, it goes down in Africa at the similar rate. Right, and in terms of success rate, 12% for a fund, is amazing. So Jillian, what are you doing? What are you doing?


Jillian: I know. You wanna know something, truthfully. Mariam, I also don't think I can add the value that some of these other funds we're going to make introductions to, who have boots on the ground.

Mariam: You've got four funds.

Jillian: Right. I mean, so I truly also think what can I add here? 

Mariam: Of course. Of course. Of course. yeah. 

Jillian: Thank you, Mariam.

Mariam: I look forward, I’ll send my information

[thank yous] 

Erica: She is so bettable, it is unreal.

Martin: She's very impressive. I'm surprised that she has no local VCs. I get a little concerned when I see only US VCs in a foreign country -

Jillian: Maybe she hasn't gone - has she pitched to -

Martin: I mean, maybe because she's in New York, I mean, do you have any background on that?

Charles: We've had totally polar experiences. We've had some companies where we've had tons of local capital and it's been highly problematic.

Jillian: Yes.

Martin: Yeah, yeah.

Charles: And we've had other cases where we've had it and it's been absolutely essential. I don't know how many - I know it's not zero. I just don't know how many of the African funds she's pitched. 

Jillian: Josh? 

New investor acronym about to drop. EBITDA.

Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. But for the purposes of this conversation, you can think of EBITDA like net income. Actual profits of the business. Alright. Back to me.

Josh: Why do you need to know how this is gonna be valued in a couple years? Is it cos -

Martin: How the f**k do I know what the thing's worth in the future? Like, you've got 300,000 k in revenue, what's that worth? If you value it on - like EBITDA cashflow or something, if this is a traditional business, because those people renting businesses are typically valued on multiples of EBITDA, not multiples of revenue. Like so this is not a SAAS software company that could get 20x revenue. This is probably like 3x EBITDA, and at 300k, you're EBITDA is zero. This is project based, this is like a consulting company. Consulting companies sell at 3 or 1x revenue, maybe 3 or 5x EBITDA. I mean, I just, I'm trying to figure out - like I'm investing at six. Okay. In order for me to make 10 times my money, this thing has to be worth $60 million. What kind of revenue and multiple do I have to get to to get to a $60 million valuation? If you're talking three times EBITDA, they need to be spitting out $20 million of EBITDA

Charles: That's a lot.

Martin: And that's a lot of f***ing EBITDA on this kind of business. I just think -and it took the competitor 15 years to get to $100 million and you probably need to be $100 million topline to get $20 million in EBITDA and then your thing's worth $60 million. I'm really - my brain's exploding trying to figure out the thing is worth - how do I make 10x my money. 

Josh: So what valuation would have made this interesting?

Martin: I don't think it's a valuation thing. For me, it's a business model thing. I just couldn't get around this being - this having a premium multiple at any kind of exit. I mean who knows, she could create the leading brand in Africa, but it's more likely that or somebody else comes along and buys it. This seems like a land grab. Okay, you're the number one user researcher in Africa, you've got Microsoft and blah blah blah, and one of those $100 million companies comes in and buys her. But you know, then the question is at what price? Right. I don't think it ends up being a billion dollar exit, or even a $100 million exit. I think it ends up being a maybe mid double digits exit.

Erica: That's actually a great point. Like, everything I invest in, as an emerging fund, needs to have the potential to 100x. For the math to make sense.

Martin: Yeah. And I just do not -

Erica: Not 10. Even 100.

Martin: I cannot get my brain around that, this one. Cos you're basically renting people, right. There's not a lot of technology scaling and enablement there, and it's not a recurring model business - it's a project by project business.

Charles: You're not selling software.

Martin: You're not selling software. You're renting people.

Jillian: It's not defensible.

Martin: That is not defensible at all. And you're renting people for, you know a 75% margin, next guy comes along, does it at 50% margin and there will be somebody that comes into this business and is willing to operate at a lower margin because there's no technology barrier.

Jillian: Yes. That's it.

Martin: And that's just not a venture scale fundable business in my opinion. 

Josh: I feel like you were more likely to invest before I walked in the room and started asking questions.

Erica: Oh 100%. He made a really - 

Martin: Sorry about that.

Erica: No, he made a really smart point that I actually didn't think about. Was it's actually you're renting people, not software.

Martin: You're renting people.

Erica: And I think - and we all talked about the defensibility; that was obvious. We all saw that. But you - not being able to value the business properly and - yeah. I didn't think about that. 

Right after this I ran into Mariam in the lobby… and she told me this would be her last pitch for a while. 

When we come back, why stopping your fundraise could actually help your fundraise. 

The episode will Africontinue after this.


Welcome back to The Pitch: Africa Edition.

Jillian and Erica did connect with Mariam after the fact, but nothing came of it. A month later, I called Mariam to check in, and first things first -

Josh: How do you feel about your pitch on our show? 

Mariam: I felt good about it. I thought Jillian was going to flip. 

Josh: I know

Mariam: I was like, come on, Jillian. Cause I read her bio earlier and I was like. You've done this [laughs] there was one mistake I did my math wrong, which is I always know not to do math on the spot. And I think I, I pushed Jillian. I'm like, Oh, you know, I think it was like one out of six.

Josh: And you said it was like 12% success rate or something? 

Mariam: Yeah, and it’s definitely not 12% that was the one where I was like, Oh my God, I'm going to go on like the podcast and like, she doesn't know math. Um, and so, yeah. [laughs]

Josh: No. You're good. Last time we talked right outside of the pitch room. You said, that's my last pitch for a while. I'm gonna pause on fundraising. What was going on there? 

Mariam: You know, the market is not great. what I kept bumping up against was kind of similar to what we were hearing on the pitch, um, which is that people just wanted to like kind of have a little bit more understanding of the market sizing. And of course, like, you know, the easiest way to show market sizing for me, what I heard is like, let's just show revenue and like customer growth, that'd be a lot easier than trying to, you know, get people over the hump of like, here's this imaginary market of, you know, data analytics in Africa, because literally it's a data desert. And so I was like, okay, I'm going to go full ahead, product, sales, And it's so funny. It's kind of like dating. when you’re like, oh no, you know, I’m not, I’m done. leave me alone. Just leave me alone.

Josh: The investors are finding you, aren't they? 

Mariam: Right. Yeah, literally. I, like, I kid you not. We said that and I'm like, I'm done like no. We're gonna come back out in like q4 like everybody else and I got next week I think the next week I got like three emails like inbound 

Josh: huh

Mariam: One of the headlines said request for investment I'm like you got to be kidding me like and so so yeah, 

Josh: that’s no interesting

Mariam: I've been getting those stuff. So maybe I'm just gonna keep saying I'm unavailable. Maybe, you know, maybe that's the secret.

Josh: Maybe that's the play. You'd raised 30% of your round, 300, 000 when you came on the show in June. have you raised any more since then? 

Mariam: Yeah, we, it was a small, we actually all the rest are, are African investors. Our strategy was to first go with US slash Western, more well known names, honestly. And then switch over to African investors with that kind of validation.

Josh: So you thought if you could get valued by some of these Silicon Valley VCs who, you know, think like a six mil cap is like really, really low, then you go into Africa and they can't negotiate you down.

Mariam: Right, exactly. Um, but yeah, we added three more investors. They're all African. 

Josh: That's great. How much more have you raised on top of the 300? 

Mariam: Probably like 37 or so K that we've raised since.

Josh: Okay.

Marian: there's some other ones that are like a step before term sheets, and so it's a potential like, uh, 550k, um, that's, that's like waiting there. 

Josh: I want to shift gears a bit, The investors on our show seemed like they didn't know how to evaluate this kind of business, Martin Tobias put it this way in the pitch room. basically, he's like, he doesn't understand how, what Kimoyo might sell for as a multiple of revenue. whereas there's other investments that are like a strict B2B SaaS, like only software sales cycle, right? Where you sell the software and it just scales and there's no human component. And like, those are all priced at like, you know, a good one's like 20 X revenue when they sell. and he's looking at your business and the human component and realizing this doesn't scale. And so he had a hard time understanding how Kimoyo could produce the venture size return that he needs for his fund. 

Mariam: Interesting. That's cool to hear. Um, I mean, it's not cool. 

Josh: is it? is it?

Mariam: No, but it makes me understand what he kept meaning. Cause he was saying value. And I'm like, what do you mean? You don't see the value. How do you not see that this is going to be like, you know, at least at the minimum, a couple hundred million. Dollar business, but, but like, I see where you're, I see where the, the disconnect is now because I think I, uh, this is helpful because I think what people hear is that the human side of it and it's like, oh, you need to keep scaling participants. However,

Josh: Mm-hmm. 

Mariam: the biggest feedback that we get is people want to be able to use their own participants. They're like, we want to use the platform to schedule, manage, whatever, but we also want to be able to talk to our own participants. versus trying to find new people. 

Josh: oh interesting 

Mariam: And so we did that. we have, what we're building now is going to launch probably middle of September. So we've created one revenue stream that associates that with like that's a product offering for that and we charge a flat fee for that. 

Josh: If that became the pitch and there was like some real traction with that and you could yeah still have a network of participants but where you really provide value is in this platform that heck even your competitors, your agencies running research could use to become a better agency. Like that's a pitch that could potentially, you know, tweak the right buttons for the venture investors, at least, you know, on the pitch show.

Mariam: That's great feedback and you should probably just sell for me actually. because that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say Josh [laughs]

Josh: I’m ready to go. Put me to work. So you said this during your pitch. A lot of times I feel like when I'm talking about our company, I'm really trying to sell people on Africa first. what did you mean by that? 

Mariam: Yeah. Um, so it's kind of like it's, it's, you know, it's interesting. It almost feels like I like to choose the paths of most, most resistance because it's kind of like, I don't want to say it's like, I don't know how much I want to say this, but I'm going to say it and then see if like, I want to keep saying it. It almost feels like when I was trying to break into tech as a black woman. Right. And it's, it's actually like, let me, let me just be real. Here's what I feel. It almost feels like being a black woman is like the equivalent of what I'm doing with. Because it's like, okay, not only do I have to sell you on now being a woman, you know, now like, like, okay, like, and then I had to go over the hump of also now being black, you know you know, right.

Josh: and now you have to do this for Africa, yeah

Mariam: You know, so that's kind of like what it feels like. And it's like, and it's not, it's not as intense as, you know, um, the stuff I deal with as being a black woman, but, but it does feel like it has, it carries a similar undertone, um, where it's like I don't have to tell you about why you should invest in an entire continent. I just need to tell you why you should invest in me. 

Josh: It's ridiculous. I mean, it really is. I don't know if you heard it in the room, but Erica said, she's like, if you're in venture in the slightest, you know that Africa is exploding. 

Mariam: Right.

Josh: So like that should be, you shouldn't have to be defending Africa.

Mariam: Yeah, you know, you would think, um, but then I think even in that situation, and again, I love Jillian, but this is why I was telling Jillian, I'm not trying to, to like come at you, you know, but it's, but it's ironic because you all just said that statement and then in the, and then the exact statement after it, it was like, oh, but I'm scarred from Africa and I'm like, you know, you is one out of six, I think, you know, that was said, and one of them was a unicorn. You know what I mean? And the one was a unicorn. So 

Josh: it was?

Mariam: yeah, it was Flutterwave. One of our customers.

Josh: Holy shit.

Mariam: Yeah. Yeah. 

Josh: That venture math works out. That's a great fund right there. 

Mariam: Right. And I'm doing the math now. 16%. 16% of your investment was a unicorn. And there's only nine unicorns or ten unicorns in Africa. it's one thing to say, yes, we all understand Africa is growing, but then that means we also should hold it to similar standards. You know what I mean? Like, people want the same success as you want in the U. S., but you want a lower failure rate than you see in the U.S. Because honestly, if we probably compared what everyone's venture success was outside of Africa, I can guarantee you it wasn't at 16%. 

Josh: It's another situation where the bar is even higher And it shouldn't be.

Mariam: Look, I get it. I think the way I look at it is like, you know, we're early to the market. We're early to this space, but I think in, in two years, three years time, everyone's going to be shocked at like, how, what do you mean that you didn't understand the market for data in Africa across all 54 countries, but, but it's, it's, it's fine. I, I, I'm happy to be part of the group people that's trying to make the case for data across the continent.

Josh: Thank you so much for coming on the show, making the trip out to San Diego, spending, spending some time with us. 

Mariam: Yeah. Shout out to the pitch for like, it's like, it's like now becoming like the mentor show, therapy show almost. 

Josh: You know the investors tear them down, I build them up.

Mariam: Awesome. No, I will say, honestly, this whole experience has been amazing. The investors were great. you know, and like just in general, like, like it was an awesome experience and so we're really appreciative of it and excited to be a part of the community.

And we’re excited that The Pitch Cinematic Universe has expanded to Africa.

If you want to hear another pitch for a User Research startup, go check out User Interviews on episode 66. Since the show, they’re doing really great. They raised a $27.5M Series B in 2022!!! yeah you’re definitely gonna wanna go listen to that episode.

Next week on The Pitch… we’re putting the hard in hardware. Not that it ever left.

Neal: How many devices do you have deployed right now?

Dhaval: Deployed - none. I mean, we have total ten of these in the world. 

Elizabeth: I see. 

Neal: Okay. So zero deployed, zero pilots. 

That’s next week in The Pitch Room. And if you want to watch the show, check out our Youtube channel @ the pitch show. See you next Wednesday!

Applications are open for the next season of the Pitch! We’re gonna be in Miami. More details coming. There will be 18 startups. A ton of really great investors. We’re doing Pre seed, seed. You need to apply at And if you’ve applied before, apply again. See you in Miami in January.


This episode was made by me, Josh Muccio, Lisa Muccio, Kerrianne Thomas, Anna Ladd, and Enoch Kim.

Music in today’s show is from Our Many Stars, Joey Cantor, New Body Electric, Onders, The Muse Maker, and Breakmaster Cylinder.

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The Pitch, Inc. and their respective employees and affiliates do not provide investment advice or make investment recommendations. The information provided on this show should not be used as the basis for making investment decisions. Listeners should conduct their own research and consult with their own investment advisors before making any investment decisions.

Jillian Manus // Structure CapitalProfile Photo

Jillian Manus // Structure Capital

Investor on The Pitch Seasons 1–10

Jillian Manus is Managing Partner of an early-stage Silicon Valley venture fund, Structure Capital. Branded “Architects of the Zero Waste Economy," they invest in underutilized assets and excess capacity. She was named one of the top 25 early-stage Female Investors by Business Insider in 2021. Jillian serves on numerous corporate and non-profit boards, these include: Stanford University School of Medicine Board of Fellows, NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center Board of Directors, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

Charles Hudson // Precursor VenturesProfile Photo

Charles Hudson // Precursor Ventures

Investor on The Pitch Seasons 2–10

Charles Hudson is the Managing Partner and Founder of Precursor Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on investing in the first institutional round of investment for the most promising software and hardware companies. Prior to founding Precursor Ventures, Charles was a Partner at SoftTech VC. In this role, he focused on identifying investment opportunities in mobile infrastructure.

Mariam BraimahProfile Photo

Mariam Braimah

Co-founder of Kimoyo

Mariam is a Nigerian American designer on a mission to build better products for Africans and with Africans using research & design. As a former Netflix design lead, she spearheaded features like the Mobile Only plan, Strong Black Lead, and Top 10, helping the company grow from 80M users to 200M+. She co-founded Kimoyo Insights to help other teams achieve the same growth across the continent – starting with an African consumer research analytics platform.

Martin Tobias // Incisive VenturesProfile Photo

Martin Tobias // Incisive Ventures

Investor on The Pitch Season 10

Martin Tobias is the Managing Partner and Founder of Incisive Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on investing in the first institutional round of technology companies that reduce friction at scale. Previously Martin was a Venture Partner at Ignition Partners and an early investor in Google, Docusign, OpenSea, and over a dozen Unicorns. He's also a father to three daughters, a cyclist, surfer, poker player, life hacker and motorcycle tinkerer.

Erica Wenger // Park Rangers CapitalProfile Photo

Erica Wenger // Park Rangers Capital

Investor on The Pitch Season 10

Erica Wenger is an early stage investor, content creator, and serial entrepreneur (3x founder) with an exit under her belt and a passion to help founders doing it for the first time. Erica is currently the Founding General Partner at Park Rangers Capital, a venture firm investing in the best pre-seed/seed stage software startups that turn their customers into members and their companies into communities or as they like to call them: elephant companies.