Enabling investment, building markets, and fostering the talented leaders of tomorrow.
Open Capital team meeting
Open Capital is a management consulting and financial advisory firm in Africa. It works with enterprises, investors, development partners and the public sector to drive growth, enable investment and build markets, while fostering talented professionals to grow into leaders. Small Foundation has invested in Open Capital to expand its work across the continent, supporting its investment advisory and talent practices.
Open Capital began its work in 2010 with a two-part mission: to advance African economies and to build future generations of business leaders. It recruits from local African universities with an aim that its talent would become the executives and business leaders of the future.
“If you look at Fortune 500 companies, the CEO is not always a management consultant, but the CFO, COO, in fact the rest of the executive team, often are,” says Annie Roberts, Co-CEO & Director of Open Capital. “We started working with really high potential businesses in Africa with excellent founders, but lacking that management team with the expertise to move things forward, so from there we knew we had to develop that talent pool.”
Having established its practice and a strong consulting track record on strategy and finance within the African business ecosystem, Open Capital began its relationship with Small Foundation in 2016. Our initial support came in the form of a loan, then in 2017 an equity investment, along with a deepening relationship and alignment on mission. Support from Small Foundation allowed Open Capital to increase its talent acquisition, from an intake of six analysts in 2016 to hiring 40+ each year from 2018. It also allowed them to pursue a new business line, Arcadia, to place talented young professionals through secondments in African SMEs.
“In order to grow a business you need the right strategy, the right capital and the right talent. Our focus is to get our clients the best advice we can, and our experience shows that African talent can deliver this better. These professionals know the context, the market, and how to deliver the right answer,” says Annie. “We make investments in recruitment and training that really show in terms of how our new hires climb the learning curve; putting folks through a crucible of talent and investment in development pays off across the board.”
Open Capital utilises a cohort model to work with its talent, where new hires collaborate and learn together, sharing cultural and business contexts from across the continent. This establishes a strong network of professionals, who work directly with clients through Open Capital and then onwards as executives within growing companies.
Bringing the skills to shape future success
ReelFruit is one of Open Capital’s clients in Nigeria. A fruit processing agri-business, the company has a vision of getting its line of dried fruit products to every shop and supermarket in Nigeria, and from there to global distribution. CEO Affiong Williams has a deep understanding of ReelFruit’s potential for the entire agricultural value chain, providing direct employment and enhancing incomes of the population that supply the value chain while providing customers with healthier snacks.
Open Capital analyst James Gicheru had a previous background in manufacturing in Kenya, and brought this experience to play in his six-month secondment to ReelFruit through Arcadia. During the placement, James built a number of tools including a financial dashboard to provide an overview of the firm’s P&L metrics; an operations model to guide the team in forecasting its future production needs; a dashboard that enables management visibility on key sales metrics; and an integrated inventory management system.
“I was excited to be working with a business with a tangible impact on the communities it serves. It is my belief that the tools we built will enhance the company’s decision-making capability and set a sound foundation for future growth. Our work has already begun to show results as ReelFruit integrates data analysis into its business practice.”
What we’ve learned
As long-term partners, Small Foundation and Open Capital have grown together. Observing each other’s models and ways of working has helped shape and grow both organisations.
Open Capital has noted the importance of having the space to experiment, test ways of working and launch new ideas with support from Small Foundation. It also recognises the importance of Small Foundation’s ‘respectful dissent’ approach, asking questions that prompt towards important realisations.
In turn, Open Capital’s expertise and knowledge has pushed many of Small Foundation’s assumptions, especially looking at concepts around commercial viability and how to strengthen commercial viability when considered in the broader context of an enterprise’s operating environment. Small Foundation has also learned the importance of empowering local talent in building African MSME ecosystems, and have prioritized this in our new strategy.
Since inception, Open Capital has completed more than 1,000 engagements on the African continent in 25 countries, including over 500 SMEs, and has helped its clients to raise over USD $1.1 billion in investment. More than 20% of Open Capital staff placements into small businesses have been in rural businesses. Since 2010, it has recruited and trained more than 300 highly skilled consultants whose leadership continues to shape African businesses and Open Capital themselves. More than half are still full-time with the business today and alumni have gone on to executive roles in African companies, investors, and development partners, as well as to found their own companies.