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Corporates Supporting Startups: Does it all have to be about the money?

By: Hari Rajmohan, SC Ventures | 24 Oct 2019

I first spoke to Edward Neequaye on an teleconference line, along with a few other employees of Standard Chartered Bank. By then we had shortlisted Edward/ Built and another start up, from amongst over 100 contenders to be the recipient of a $50k cash award and a 1 year mentoring program, in partnership with One Young World. The theme was to support a start up with an idea or a product that would positively impact the world through the lens of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) #9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Edward and his company Built Accounting fit the bill as they were trying to address the youth unemployment in Ghana though financial services training, particularly targeting the large and underserved SME segment of the business community.

After that first call where we spoke about Edward’s vision for Built, what that means for the Ghanaian SME community, and what we as Standard Chartered Bank could assist with in getting there, the interview panel decided unanimously to move ahead with backing this young and zestful accountant-turned-entrepreneur from Ghana. Given the clear confluence of technology, finance and entrepreneurship on this project, some of us at SC Ventures (the innovation arm of the bank) decided to run point on the engagement.

Over the many engagements that our team has had with Edward in the past 6 months, we have discussed financial forecasting, brand & marketing strategy, technology team hiring strategy, Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) structuring, to name a few. This was possible thanks to the support we received from the in-house team members at SC Ventures as well as the rest of the bank – be it technical advice from our CTO Thorsten Neumann, leadership and problem solving technique training from one of our innovation coaches, sessions with our local marketing team in Accra, and financial forecasting and capital structure tips from yours truly (!)

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In August of this year, Claudia Marcusson, an innovation coach at SC Ventures (Singapore) was in Ghana and during her time there, she ran Edward and his team through the best practices in ethnographic research. She accompanied Edward in visiting some of the existing and potential customers to help give context on how we think about understanding (and more importantly anticipate) customer needs. Over in Ghana, Edward was also introduced to the Chief Executive Officer of our country office, as well as senior members of the credit team, who have agreed to provide consultation to Built’s product management team on best practices of credit profiling, specifically on what data points, and trends do market leading lenders look for when they lend to SMEs.

The $50k would be used to support the growth of the technology team, as well building capabilities on marketing and infrastructure support.

I hope this serves as a reference point to corporates out there, who are trying to connect with early stage companies trying to have a positive impact in their respective communities. It is not easy, but it certainly is not hard.

The other day, I had coffee with Edward in the Basinghall office of SCB London. He said (and I paraphrase!) “I want cheap credit accessible to as many mom and pop stores in Ghana as possible“. I wish that happens (and that Built plays a role in that journey)….and more. We would be delighted to be part of that journey.