Semir Mela

Vice President

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I grew up in Ethiopia. I have been fortunate enough to have spent almost half my life living on the continent, which has given me an appreciation for the promise and potential that Africa holds. 

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I am an engineer by training. Even though I enjoyed the quantitative and problem-solving aspects of engineering, I wanted to get broader exposure to different industries, understand key decision-making factors for companies and the impact those decisions have on performance. This led me towards management consulting, and ultimately towards venture capital.

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Africa has world-class entrepreneurs that are working to solve the significant economic and structural challenges the continent faces. However, raising critical funding from investors is hard due partially to the perception of heightened risk in frontier markets. But this difficult environment is precisely where I see incredible opportunities. The variety of industries, along with the diversity and entrepreneurial dynamics of each country makes our work incredibly rewarding.

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Active listening and intellectual curiosity are underrated. We often get distracted during conversations by our thoughts and environment, and fail to fully understand and appreciate what is being communicated. Being present and paying purposeful attention is an underappreciated skill.

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Youth education is a cause that I am passionate about. One thing that really surprised me in high school was the varying levels of resources and quality of public education between cities and even neighboring schools. I strongly believe that every child deserves access to quality education and that education is instrumental to sustainable economic growth of any community. In my free time, I volunteer with different organizations to play my small part in narrowing the education gap.

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“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.” — Kobe Bryant

I try to view every situation through multiple lenses, learn from every mistake, and continuously grow.  I grew up watching Kobe Bryant, and I was always impressed with the level of focus, discipline and work ethics he brought to his craft.

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I first became interested in investing when I was a senior in college. At the time, I didn’t know the first thing about venture capital. I started reading investment books and my curiosity grew from there. I was fortunate enough to get some exposure to the industry during my time in consulting, which ultimately led me to business school at Chicago Booth and VestedWorld.

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Tips for entrepreneurs looking to raise capital

  1. Build your network early, and solicit continuous feedback from customers, investors and other entrepreneurs.
  2. Raise the “right” amount of capital your business needs in each founding round. Don’t get too caught up with the fundraising hype.
  3. Research and target investors that will be long-term partners and will add value to your business beyond providing capital.

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Perspectives:

Engaging The Next Billion Users — Why We Invested in Viamo

Hello? Can You Hear Me Now? — Why We Invested in Vanu