FirstFounders is a venture studio that provides early-stage startups with venture studio programs and is operational in two branches in Lagos and New York. FirstFounders is committed to building scalable African early-stage startups.
In this interview, David-Lanre Messan, a startup builder, investor, and Founder/CEO of FirstFounders Inc and Former Senator of the World Business Angels Investment Forum, tells us how it all started.
Please introduce yourself, tell us your name, and more about yourself.
My name is David-Lanre Messan, the Founder/CEO of FirstFounders Inc. I am from Lagos state, Nigeria. I am a startup builder, investor, advisor, and Founder/CEO of FirstFounders Inc and Former Senator of the World Business Angels Investment Forum. I have been a professional for sixteen years, working with over 250 SMEs, and only went into tech seven years ago.
I studied Mass Communication at Lagos State University of Science and Technology. I hold a certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Harvard Business School. I have done professional courses in Disruptive Strategy, and Marketing Strategy. I was also selected as an academic fellow by the James Currey Society for a creative writing course in collaboration with the Africa Studies Center of Oxford University, which was funded by the James Currey Society.
What is FirstFounders, and what inspired FirstFounders?
FirstFounders was purpose meets revelation. It has always been my purpose to raise entrepreneurs. From TroggeUrban to FirstFounders. TroggeUrban was implementing the venture studio idea but was not successful. In 2020, I started FirstFounders Inc.
We operate on these three important pillars; the venture studio, the community, and the fund. The two most active right now are the venture studio and the community. FirstFounders became an encapsulation of the entire vision and idea I was pushing.
What specific services does FirsFounders offer within the fields of early-stage startups?
We are company creators or company builders. We build companies from scratch until you sell or go to IPO. We have six important stages in which we work. We start from ideation to validation, engineering the product, growth hacking, fundraising, and the exit.
Can you explain how FirstFounders studio venture programs have transformed early-stage startups in Africa?
Our transformation story is in progress with over 1,000 founders. FirsFounders has one of the largest communities. We have startups like PocketLawyers, Paysonet, and Escape in our portfolio. We have built three equity-free startups. We have partnered with organizations like Dubai Trade Center, Microsoft, and many more.
You are often referred to as the Father of African Early-Stage Startups, can you tell us a little bit about the journey so far?
I started first by trying to solve community problems like survival problems. I needed to empower people to become self-sufficient and build their businesses. That inspired me to begin my entrepreneurial journey, but this time, the focus was to help entrepreneurs get into the marketplace.
I started Infinite Impact. I created information products and sold them, and that was how I got my first 3 Million naira, it took me a year to get the business to 30 million naira. I went on to reach about 5,000 people in Nigeria with an empowerment program and impacted 50 people in starting their businesses. I upgraded Infinite Impact to a limited company with a brilliant team and went into consulting. I had TroggeUrban, and from there, it became FirstFounders.
How long has FirstFounders been operating in the industry? Can you provide some key milestones or achievements since its establishment?
FirstFounders has been in operation officially since 2020. In the coming months, we are going to have major impact. We are now raising our USD$10 million fund, which is in process and will be announced officially by March 2024.
The fund will go into startups in our studio. About 30% of the fund will go into startups that are not within our portfolio but are in or outside our community. This means I am using USD$7 million for startups in their ideation or product stage, and we will go on to handle the technology. We will provide them with support staff and partnerships.
What sets FirstFounders apart from their competitors in terms of taking up early-stage startups?
We are committed to the startup and its growth till the end, while others might not. We provide them with staff, operational support, and growth. We continue to innovate new ideas to help them thrive, which cuts across partnership and planning for your business to grow.
Are there any upcoming developments or future plans that we can expect from FirstFounders?
We are rebranding our identity to offer more to the community at the market. It is still FirstFounders, but we would be known as F2 to help us launch our new products like F2 Nation, F2 Bank, F2 Mail for founders, and F2 Lab all across Nigeria.
Do you have any available opportunities for career, investors, and partnerships at FisrtFounders?
We are open to partners that fit our criteria. For careers, we do not have any opportunities now, but come April 2024, we will have a massive recruitment of about 40 staff to work with.
For partnerships or if you have a potential customer, interested parties can reach out directly to FirstFounders to discuss the best next steps.
Find out more about David-Lanre Messan on LinkedIn.