To Google for Startups, Love Douglas

Writing this letter was very hard for me because the subject is a grant. I know no one is entitled to a grant and grants should be given however the donor sees fit.

I genuinely believe a good number of startups on the announced list of Google’s Black Founders Fund are more than deserving of their selection. All their ideas are great and I’m personally rooting for their success. However, I was a little disappointed when my startup Selar.co didn’t get picked despite seemingly meeting all eligibility criteria; Our product directly supports the African creator and internet economy today, and these creators in turn create countless jobs for more Africans. We have over 70,000 users and our growth rate’s remarkable, considering we’ve 6x-ed last year’s revenue and paid out over ~$1.5M to African creators in 2021 and more.

Yes, correlation is not causation, however, I still found it interesting that a lot of the selected applicants were popularly known startups in the zeitgeist and out of curiosity, I Googled to see how many of them were already funded. I counted about 19 out of the 25 Nigerian startups selected seemed to have already been funded (source: crunchbase). With just about two of those being exclusively grant-funding.

The application website of the Google BFF had the line “​​We want to bridge the existing fundraising gap for Black startup founders in Africa’s fast-growing technology landscape” along with their eligibility criteria.

There’s a lot going on with the local investment landscape in Africa today, it’s definitely getting better, but almost any local founder has countless stories of the horror of the process that is raising capital.

That being said, looking at the selected startups, I can’t help but wonder if the access to grants is raising capital, quite a reach I know, but I don’t think this is specific to just this instance. Even in equity investments, it’s generally a herd mentality of following what others have already funded, and I wonder if that applies to this too.

I think If we’re bridging the fundraising gap for African founders, it would be nice to see a lot of bootstrapped startups that meet their eligibility criteria in the mix too, there has to have been a good number of those that applied. Off the top of my head, I think of the impactful work and great numbers Inflow Finance, Medispark, Mumspring, Numero and many more are doing.

Anyway, I’m sure the selection criteria was more than a choice of bootstrapped vs funded, I mean, even if it was, running a business in Nigeria is hard and even funded startups need as much cash and access to resources as they can get and again, no one is entitled to this grant.

While this letter might have spun from not being selected, this is not just about me, but about the thousands of other startups that this fund would have boosted but missed out on the chance this year. I know with 50 slots, there’s just so many people they could’ve picked, it would just be nice to see more startups that might be unconventional in being bootstrapped or not in the zeitgeist yet, get an opportunity to scale.

Thanks for taking your time to read this, I’m very excited for Google’s $1B investment in Africa.

Congrats again to all the selected recipients of the Google BFF. ❤️

Douglas

I complain about things (I care about) // Software engineer // Currently building Selar.co // douglas@selar.co