UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | Jonathan Ntege Lubwama is a young Ugandan entrepreneur on a mission to nurture and develop startups in Uganda.
With a passion for tech startups, Lubwama embarked on his entrepreneurial journey during a nine-month gap before university.
He delved into reading about tech startups and launched a food delivery company for students. Although the venture experienced initial success, it eventually faltered.
Undeterred, Lubwama set his sights on online real estate, securing a grant for the project. However, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns disrupted the venture.
Lubwama’s path led him to join Kampala’s Digest Africa as a writer and editor, honing his journalism skills and gaining valuable insights into due diligence.
Today, his focus lies on building Benue Capital, Uganda’s first native venture capital (VC) firm.
As Lubwama launches Benue Capital, he sees an exciting landscape in Uganda. While many associate tech hubs with countries like Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt, Lubwama believes Uganda holds immense potential.
He observes that a significant number of people are actively building businesses, driving the entrepreneurial ecosystem. However, the quality of these ventures sometimes falls short, deterring traditional VC investments.
What sets Benue Capital apart is its approach to investing. Lubwama explains that rather than following the typical VC model, they operate as a venture studio.
They invest in startups and engage in venture building, a process that spans two to three years. Rather than providing substantial funding, Benue Capital offers smaller investments to pre-revenue companies.
They provide guidance, streamline operations, monitor metrics, and assist with key hires, legal matters, and finances.
Lubwama emphasises its role as a co-founder, equipping startups to seek follow-on funding from larger regional VCs.
When it comes to startups’ needs, Lubwama acknowledges that mentorship plays a crucial role. Startups often require assistance in various areas, including marketing, financing, and coding.
Lubwama highlights the diverse challenges faced by different companies, noting that some require support in all aspects, while others excel in certain areas but struggle elsewhere.
Benue Capital aims to accompany startups on their entire journey, even starting from scratch in cases where the problem they solve is significant but requires substantial rebuilding.
Lubwama points out successful Ugandan companies like Tugende and Asaak, which focus on financial opportunities and connectivity for entrepreneurs.
These companies have achieved significant fundraising success. He also mentions Numida, a YC-backed fintech company offering loans to SMEs.
Lubwama identifies credit and the motorcycle taxi industry as key areas where startups are making a difference. He believes there is untapped potential in prop-tech, particularly in addressing Uganda’s substantial housing deficit.
Jonathan Ntege Lubwama says, “Uganda has a very big housing deficit. People often are forced to remain living with their parents [for longer than desirable]. If proptech can help move this along, then it’s a huge opportunity.”
“I started one before (Twekobe) which linked property seekers to developers/agents/brokers. With no official qualification for real estate agents in Uganda, we built one internally, and a system to speed up house-hunting with an app,” Jonathan Ntege Lubwama adds.
He adds, “Since after we tried to solve these problems, we have not seen people take them on; people are building fintech and e-commerce companies, not proptech.”
As Benue Capital moves forward, Lubwama expects one of the biggest challenges to be educating people about venture capital.
In Uganda, there is a prevailing “grant-funding mentality,” which contrasts with the fast-paced, results-driven nature of VC.
Lubwama aims to shift this mindset and make founders understand the competitive landscape they face when raising funds.
He also emphasises the importance of finding founders who truly grasp the problem they aim to solve and possess the scalability to expand beyond Uganda’s borders.
Lubwama highlights the unique African context that often eludes investors. He notes that replicating Western models does not always work in Africa.
He cites the absence of standard address systems in Uganda, making logistics and payments challenging. Lubwama encourages entrepreneurs to build solutions that mirror offline processes, focusing on adoption rather than introducing complex and unfamiliar concepts.
He emphasises the need to fund solutions that address genuine problems and align with the local context.
Lubwama recognises that catching up with countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and Rwanda will be a challenging task for Uganda.
While Rwanda’s government actively supports its ecosystem, Uganda relies on the energy and determination of its young entrepreneurs.
Lubwama acknowledges the limitations faced by local founders who must register their businesses abroad due to inadequate local support for VC funding.
Despite the challenges, Lubwama is committed to staying and contributing to Uganda’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Lubwama emphasises the importance of funding startups that offer real solutions to pressing problems. He believes this is the key to sustainable growth and development.
By understanding the African context, identifying the right product-market fit, and addressing the unique challenges of the local market, entrepreneurs can pave the way for meaningful change and progress.
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