“I didn’t set out with an intention to work with an international company. The sole reason for following the track I am on has been a deep-seated desire to support entrepreneurs all over the world, starting with Africa,” says Thompson.
As a Vice President, Associate General Counsel and Co-Director of Corporate Development at EchoVC, she understands the venture capital industry.
“The funding gap in our ecosystem, particularly in Africa, is glaring and widening on a daily basis by billions of dollars. For Africa, as the last frontier, it is crucial that, as investors, we are able and equipped to support entrepreneurs with funding, partnerships and other opportunities that help them build global and sustainable businesses.”
“In my current role, my day-to-day work shuttles from getting on calls with entrepreneurs (to discuss their businesses and potential investments), to reviewing and negotiating investment and commercial agreements for the firm (on behalf of our portfolio companies), to engaging with third party organisations (that could potentially partner with our portfolio companies for faster and easier market entry), to speaking on panels and at conferences.”
The impact of the pandemic on her firm’s investments in tech and tech-enabled companies, she says, has been ‘bitter-sweet’.
“Our fund is sector-agnostic; therefore, our portfolio base is diversified across sectors. As a result, even though some of our portfolio companies were impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, there were also others who thrived because of the crisis. As investors, key for us is working with our portfolio companies to devise strategies to navigate the crisis and ensuring they come out stronger and better prepared post-Covid and keeping our investors up to date on the impact to our portfolio companies.”
“The recurring challenges in my role are generally around negotiating investment terms mostly with local entrepreneurs - especially those who have not raised any round of financing and are not working with lawyers who have had prior experience with venture capital transactions.”
This has always been and is still a huge pain point for Thompson. To solve this challenge she co-founded a non-profit organisation called Ventures Dialogue to educate and train local entrepreneurs on venture financing in Africa and also connect them with opportunities required to scale their businesses. Todate, the NPO has trained more than 730 entrepreneurs and lawyers on venture financing, and, she says, is yet to scratch the surface.
“I believe there is still so much learning to be imparted as the venture industry grows and I hope and intend to do more.”
She wishes more entrepreneurs would take the time to educate themselves before seeking venture capital, as it makes the experience of investing smoother and faster for all involved.
“We were planning to hold a similar educational training programme with some professors from the University of California, Berkeley (her alma mater) earlier in the year but the Covid-19 crisis came and we had to shelve those plans. We are hopeful we can still make it happen.”
Damilola obtained her undergraduate law degree from the University of Lagos, and a Master’s in Business Law and Technology from the UC, Berkeley.
In her downtime, she enjoys going on nature walks and volunteering for non-profits focused on the less-privileged and homeless.
Her advice to young African lawyers is to have a plan for where they want to be and to prepare for the place they want to see themselves in. “And, the opportunity will undoubtedly come. There will be those who will tell you it cannot be done; let them know you will be the first person to make it happen.
“Have a mentor and sounding board to guide and support you as you grow. I am an excellent lawyer and investor because of the training by my Managing Partner and boss, Eghosa Omoigui.”
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