Vishal Agarwal and Raj Kulasingam are two of the most active and networked venture investors on the African startup scene. Vishal was a senior figure at PwC Kenya and GE Africa before starting an investment company called Full Circle. Raj is senior counsel at Dentons (the largest law firm in the world) based in London and has his own investment firm called SM River. Together they are V&R and have jointly invested in just under 60 startups.
Due to a string of successful exits from notable startups including Kuda Bank where they exited at a 32x valuation multiple, the pair have been shadowed by both new and seasoned investors who want to get in early on deals they are part of, with the belief that this winning streak will continue.
In June 2022, V&R announced their investment in a new dating app for Africans called Trueflutter – news which sent a buzz through Africa investment circles. We caught up with Raj and Vishal to learn about their latest investment and why they had chosen to look at online dating.
‘Investing in early stage startups isn’t an exact science’ said Vishal, ‘but there are usually a number of indicators that let you know you could be looking at an uncut diamond. We loved the fact that Trueflutter is a local solution for a huge local problem which the founders had personally experienced. I am familiar with a similar trend play out in India with the likes of Shaadi (a matchmaking app) where they dominate the market with a locally relevant solution. The strong early traction Trueflutter had already experienced told us we were looking at a team that was gritty enough to become the dating app of choice for Africans on the continent and beyond. Understanding the personal experience of the founders allowed us to see the stories of all Africans in their story”.
‘Exactly’ Raj said with a nod and a smile. ‘Something else that really excited us is that this solution is harnessing the changing nature of young, tech savvy, time poor Africans in urbanized cities and in diaspora who don’t have access to a dating app that caters for their values, culture and idiosyncrasies. Vishal and I already have a strong ecosystem of startup founders and when the Trueflutter team pitched us, we immediately recognized synergies we could facilitate to help accelerate their growth. Whilst people are excited about how “embedded finance” is changing fintech we believe that ‘embedded love’ (embedding the Trueflutter app into other apps and services) will accelerate Trueflutter’s growth while bringing value to our other portfolio companies and the communities they serve’.
‘Being able to help our founders is very important to us’ Raj continued. ‘With Trueflutter, we knew we were looking at a startup with massive growth potential and a team we could add a lot of value to. So it was a quick investment decision and we literally called Ayo back 10 minutes after the pitch meeting to make them an offer’.
So what exactly makes Trueflutter special?
Trueflutter is co-founded by brothers Dare and Ayo Olatoye. We met with them for an interview to learn more about Trueflutter and about the recent investment from V&R.
‘Online dating in Africa is very different from what you find in the western world’ Dare said. ‘I personally had a frustrating experience when I tried online dating in Lagos using a western built dating app. We built Trueflutter to fix this, focusing on security and on helping users make more intentional connections with locally relevant filters and voice note introductions. We’re really excited by our user success stories and the investor support we have gotten so far’.
‘I’ll never forget that pitch meeting with Raj and Vishal’ said Ayo laughing. ‘Half way through the pitch they started shooting off ideas on ways Trueflutter could grow even faster. I was scribbling notes as fast as I could and with every passing minute, I was more convinced than ever that we needed to have them on our team. It was also really cool to see how they riffed and bounced ideas back and forth – watching that synergy up close helped me understand why they were so successful co-investing in startups and why they are sought after value investors.’
Raj and Vishal have been courted and pitched by startup founders across the continent because they are known for bringing a lot of value to their portfolio companies. With increasing mobile phone penetration and the fastest growing youth population in the world, the time is now for online dating to go mainstream in Africa. And with V&R’s backing and network, the team at Trueflutter have the ability to be the dating diamond in their portfolio. Built by Africans with love – for Africans looking for love.
Source: Partner | Techcabal.com