Why We Invested: Float
From time to time, we will publicly discuss our investments and investment rationale.
HorizonVC recently invested in the seed round of Float, which is building the “financial operating system” for SMBs in Africa.
In late 2019, I was introduced to Float’s CEO/co-founder Jesse Ghansah (many thanks to Greg Rockson of mPharma for the intro!) We met for coffee in San Francisco when Jesse was in town for the start of the Winter 2020 YC batch.
Initially, I was skeptical of Jesse’s plan because I’m wary of lending startups - there have been many that have grown by ignoring adverse selection. Many of these startups position themselves as tech companies, yet build little-to-no proprietary software.
When I told Jesse about my concern, he immediately agreed with me and stressed that he was building a company that was first a software company, and then a financial services provider. As I learned of Jesse’s strong technical skills and natural instincts toward product-led growth, he won me over. As an angel, I was the first investor in the company.
Jesse’s plan was to be in and out of SF over the next few months, then settle down in Nigeria after YC ended. But Covid hit SF in March, lockdowns went into effect, and Jesse was forced to stay in SF until June.
With Jesse stuck in SF, we socialized regularly. It was a joy to build a friendship over regular walks and casual soccer. Despite the adversity of being isolated in SF, Jesse made rapid progress operating an extremely complex startup.
Jesse’s plan was to offer free cash management tools to African SMBs to create a platform for providing short-term credit. With a small team of high caliber developers, Float was building free invoicing and expense management tools that would yield rich data to power a proprietary underwriting model. In addition to building technology, Jesse also had to build relationships with key financial regulators & financial institutions in Nigeria. He also needed to secure a lending facility to fund Float’s credit offerings for customers. He also needed to raise equity capital from investors. This was an unusually challenging startup to operate.
Meeting Jesse regularly during that first half of 2020, I was able to observe a remarkable founder in action. He was quickly learning the intricacies of financial markets while rapidly iterating on the core product. He was deftly balancing executing in the short-term execution with laying the long-term foundation for Float to become an iconic technology company. He was also intensely focused on attracting top talent to his team - he seemed to have an eye for star candidates for every position he needed to fill.
By the time Jesse left SF in June 2020, I resolved to invest in Float whenever I had the chance. Since then, every time I catch up with Jesse, I notice that his vision for Float has expanded. I find this a trait of the most rare, exceptional founders - every product milestone seems to unlock another, even more ambitious target. The initial product vision Jesse presented to me in Dec 2019 is a just fraction of the multi-product offering today, only 2.5 years later.
After HorizonVC’s first close earlier this year, I immediately asked Jesse if we could invest. I’m grateful that he made room for us and I’m hopeful we will be able to invest again in future rounds.