Shiga Digital is a startup that addresses the interoperability challenge in DeFi (Decentralized Finance) & CeFi (Centralized Finance) by offering a user-friendly dApp (Decentralized Applications) that grants access to alternative finance solutions, thus introducing DeFi to previously underserved clients. Primarily focusing on the African market, the company recognizes the necessity for convenient access to trustworthy alternative finance, with DeFi being a solution to real-world problems. Shiga Digital's mission involves becoming a dependable partner for both users and DeFi protocols, fostering financial inclusion and empowerment in the region while aiming to expand their services to other emerging markets. This positions them as pioneers in blockchain-driven alternative finance solutions.
In this interview, Abiola Shogbeni, the founder of Shiga Digital gives us a deeper insight into how the company is using Raise for equity management.
Please tell us about yourself and your startup journey.
My name is Abiola Shogbeni. I was born and raised in East London. I am of Nigerian heritage, my parents were born and bred in Lagos Nigeria. I schooled here (East London), and then I studied economics at the university. I did investment banking, capital markets, from 2012 to around 2020 -2021.
I worked for the largest global investment banks, such as Barclays, World Bank Canada, as a project manager and a business analyst, just working on different projects, cross functional. It really gave me a good background on how money moves & financial services in a more matured ecosystem.
In 2016, my fascination with Africa grew when my dad moved back to Nigeria and I started doing business there. So one of the first businesses I started there was purchasing cattle from the northern region of Nigeria, and then selling it to suppliers in the southern region of Nigeria. From that, I really learned how money was moved and value was exchanged in the continent and I saw a lot of the pain points. So that really spurred me on to set up a business called Facilitate FX which was basically to leverage financial solutions that I'd seen work in Europe and bring them to the African market. But there was a massive disconnect. The solution fell in a wayside because of how difficult it was to connect fractured traditional financial solutions with existing legacy systems in Africa.
So during the lockdown, I got into blockchain and I really started understanding the mechanics and the power of the open source ecosystem and how powerful that could be on the continent. That’s when I started building. I obviously had a real good understanding of the pain points. My business partner, Dami, as well, who's based out in Lagos also had a really good understanding of the pain points and that's what led us to build Shiga.
How did you hear about Raise?
Was it LinkedIn? No, I had signed up for Caleb Maru’s newsletter, through the newsletter, I joined a workshop session where Raise Equity Clinic was mentioned. From that session, I was really intrigued as a builder, because I’m really focused on making sure that I have a robust business that can scale and grow. There's the business and a product on one hand, and then there’s managing a business and the cost of governance around it. Through the session, I found out that there’s actually a partner that can actually help me make the process a lot more streamlined and a lot less painful to really figure out. I don't want to be making mistakes along the way because these mistakes are closely. So that's why I said, okay, you know what, let me sign up for the Equity Clinic and then from there, that's where I really understood the power of Raise. Now Raise is helping me with financial model, my valuation and also you’'ve done an equity review for me. So I really have a good understanding of the corporate structure of the business, and how we need to improve on that to really make sure that we can sell and achieve the best.
What were some other core challenges that you were facing before you joined Raise?
Yeah, I think the core challenges being a founder is that you are not really familiar with how to build and scale a business and make that attractive to investors, to the staff that you're hiring and to protect you down the future. So where do you get educated on that? Who teaches you that about business? And then you add the mix of Nigerian business landscape. For me, this was vital as I just didn't know where to go and I would prefer to have professional service along the way to kind of validate my thoughts, which is why Raise been really useful to me. Time is so important and you really don't want to waste time when you've got a runway, or when you are out of bootstraps. I have a runway and every penny I spend, it needs to bring some value.
Which of Raise’ product or service have you subscribed for?
I haven’t really used the cap table management software, I’ve been focused more on the services; the Equity clinic, Financial modelling and Valuation.
Have these service offerings been able to boost your understanding of equity & data management?
To be honest, when it comes to my equity data, I still haven't got to that stage… I know what equity landscape is because my business is very simple at the moment, but going forward, what should the plan be? And that's what I'm aiming to get from Raise…the financial forecast, valuation, understanding the infrastructure. For example, we plan to hire CTO, how much equity should we give them? How should the equity be managed? Where do we store all of that data? And that’s what Raise will help us with.
Yes, most definitely. Which Raise service has stood out for you so far?
So what's really appealed to me is not a specific service per se, but the holistic value proposition of Raise. Because I don't think all of these things are commingled You get your financials, you get your valuation, but you also need to be able to manage your equity accordingly. I also needed to get one of my companies up in Delaware and Raise was able to connect to me with a company that's helping me do that. So for me, it's the holistic nature of the solutions being linked together, that's super useful.
We're at a stage now where we're trying to grow and trying to get pre-seed round, take advantage of the timing in the market. Without having the financial and valuation model and understanding all the corporate structure, we would have made vital mistakes.
How has Raise helped you solve compliance & regulatory issues?
We haven't had any complex and regulatory issues at this moment but I'm sure that if we do, Raise would be able to help us.
Yeah, definitely. Has being part of the Raise community helped you with networking, collaboration with other founders & industry operators?
Yeah, luckily for me I attended a Raise workshop session on pitching and I was lucky to be selected as one of four businesses to present a pitch deck live to a panel of investors and other participants, and get live feedback. And from that feedback, first of all, I was really be able to validate my business. Secondly, I was able to streamline the story that we are telling, that was super cute especially because as I said, I don't have that training. I don't know how to sell my business. I believe in my business and I believe I'm providing a solution for customers but I haven't got that mindset to say oh, this is how I sold this vision to everybody else. Off the back of that workshop, I made some contacts with some VC. I know a lot of people that contacted me on LinkedIn about the products and about our business and what we're doing. It was really great and to be honest, every event that Raise is doing, I attend because there is always some value that comes from it.
Thank you so much. When you think about the future of equity management for African startups, what other roled do you see Raise playing in that space based on your experience so far?
I think that Raise has a key part to play, being visible to founders, letting them know that you are are here to help. Making it more accessible, for example if founder was to hire a lawyer and is charged about five grand, it might not be affordable so Raise needs to be more out there, accessible for people
For example, my goal is to to raise a pre-seed and I believe our business is positioned to do so but what we need is assistance, So I believe a success measure for me is, did we raise? And when we do raise, I believe Raise would have played a pivotal part in accelerating that process. I believe I'm a forward thinking founder and I don't wait for things to happen, I try and figure all it out. That's how I came across Raise. Connecting on LinkedIn, having conversations, I know all of you, your names, everything, right. So it's really personal and when you've got the anxiety of a founder, you need all that support.
People need to be able to be realistic with you. It shouldn't be a sales thing. If you are providing services to people but they're not going nowhere, then there's no value add. So there needs to be an end goal and I think Raise could help people define what the end goal for our service for you? So for me, my end goal is not just knowing what the valuation is, it is using this information to get my pre seed. We're extending the work, we are actually gonna then be put forward to a firm that you guys work with that help with fundraising.
Thank you very much for that insight. That's also one of our tenets. It's not just to sell a service, but also help African founders. So in summary, how will you rate the overall impact of our services so far?
I'll give it a strong nine out of 10.
Yeah, the reason why I'll do that is because there are a lot of days where things may not be going right and whatever. But Raise kind of gives you a little bit of a backbone to kind of validate your thoughts and support you in the direction you want to go in. I'll definitely be a promoter of the business. What you are doing is super useful.
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