We all love a David Vs Goliath story. An underdog defies the odds and comes out victorious in the face of extreme adversity. For David Maduri, a first-time African founder and the CEO of Ainves, a blockchain-based peer-to-peer platform connecting online sellers seeking financing to customers and investors, this David might not have been up against a physical goliath, but the struggles ahead of him seemed just as tough.
“Being a first-time African founder fresh out of college without any contacts whatsoever has made it quite difficult to convince people to believe in me,” says Maduri.
“I’ve connected with many people to seek their support in some ways, but in most cases it just doesn’t ever end up materializing.”
To get a better understanding of how Maduri overcame this issue, and how other minorities can learn from his successes we reached out to the entrepreneurial CEO.
Can you briefly explain to our readers how your startup Ainves works?
Ainves is an online marketplace that connects online businesses seeking financing to both customers and investors. Through our platform, users will be able to either purchase or invest in products of their choice. When users invest they get back their money plus a return on investment as a share of profit. It is the intersection between Amazon and Kickstarter only that there are returns on investments
How did you first come up with this idea?
I believe small businesses hold a huge and fundamental role in the realization of the SDGs especially the Goal number 9. 90% of business worldwide is driven by small and medium-sized enterprises, in turn driving up to 60% of employment. With 80% of global merchandise annual trade flows relying on financing from financial institutions, it is no doubt financial services are the lifeblood of commerce.
Commerce in turn driven by entrepreneurs and small businesses but there still exists a $5.2 trillion funding gap for small businesses worldwide. Our work at Ainves from the beginning was to eliminate the troubles small businesses go through to access funding to be able to promote their growth and accelerate the achievement of the SDGs through financial inclusion and easy access to financing for small businesses starting with Africa.
You said you struggled to find support for your startup stating “I’ve connected with many people to seek their support in some ways, but in most cases, it just doesn’t ever end up materializing.” Can you explain how you have promoted your idea and the type of response you received that made gaining support seem so difficult?
Most of my communications have been through Linkedin and personal intros. It has been tough to have people believe in me also considering that I was a very early stage. In some cases, I have had questions about my earlier experiences before the startup and team come up. Without a demo or functional product, conversations have been difficult, but I guess it is quite related to the catch 22 challenges in starting a startup that gets harder if you do not have any previous experience of strong networks/mentors behind you. With time, things have improved but could be better. I am patient in the process and continue to get better in the game.
How did you first meet Roshan, founder, and director of Equality VC, and what was that encounter like?
While researching support for underrepresented founders in the startup space, I came across Equality VC, then called New York Venture Labs and I contacted them to ask if I could get in touch to share more about us and ask for support. Roshan reached back and he was all kind and willing to support as we were just figuring out most of the fundamental aspects
Can you give examples of startup success stories that have been achieved thanks to Equality VC?
It is honestly tough to quantify but Roshan from Equality VC has been there along every single step and in every major decision we have had to make. From sharing ideas to connecting us with their network for different purposes in the startup. They are the ones that helped us get into the ELEVATE accelerator from Hubspot for Startups in collaboration with General Catalysts. They are at the moment helping us plan our launch event that is scheduled for September in New York.
What advice do you have for other minority entrepreneurs?
Everyone says never give up and this is just so true but beyond that, see yourself as a one-man team and learn to accept rejection because it is going to be most of the process. Just remember it could take you twice or thrice as long to make it. Prepare yourself well because the universe is going to bring someone along your path at some point and you better then be well prepared.
Disclosure: This article includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company