Leveraging public relations to facilitate venture capital funding
Participants and speakers at the 20th NECCI PR roundtable, which held recently, have identified public relations as critical for venture capital funds needed to encourage start-ups.
With the theme: ‘Raising the Venture Capital Funding Clarion – The Role of Public Relations in Growing the Enterprise Base through Venture Capital Funding’, participants at the forum argued that if venture capital is given the necessary support, it will encourage entrepreneurship, address poverty and tackle youth restiveness.
The convener, NECCI PR roundtable, Nkechi Ali-Balogun, said the role of public relations in driving an enterprise base for Nigeria is obvious adding that “venture capital is a people’s business and public relations is about building sustainable relationships through strategic communication and relationship building initiatives.
“Communication is key both to investor and beneficiary particularly in the decision making process to bring about mutual understanding and respect as personal relationships and chemistry are the most important decision making factors. It is the primary goal of this roundtable to build the acceleration of this fund for sustainable economic growth and job creation.”
She said: “We are aware of government’s plan to empower the youth with different intervention such as, Trader Moni. Unfortunately, all the schemes, when placed against entrepreneurial expansion, have not made noticeable impact. This may be due to the fact that these schemes are not addressing the financial realities of young entrepreneurs and start ups in the country. The rising percentage of unemployment in the country is a clear indication that there is need for change in approach. To drastically address the challenge of unemployment, any intervention from government should aim at funding start ups in innovation and technology.”
In his keynote, former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, said venture capital is a critical component in Nigeria today. “The economy is Nigeria’s problem and we have to deal with it, then you focus on the ingredients to drive the process. The problems we are being confronted with such as #End SARS protest, is a cumulative failure of leadership over the years.
We have youths in their productive age doing nothing, like 30 million youths who don’t know where the next meal will come from. They can’t go to the traditional bank for loan. For nations to succeed, it is critical that they have government-backed ways of raising venture capital to help small business that can create jobs.
Venture capital can create jobs and pull people out of poverty. In England where I started my business, I went to a bank without knowing anybody as a black man and Nigerian and I was given 5,000 pounds and by the time I left England for Nigeria, I was getting half a million pounds loan.
In Nigeria, I would not have been able to borrow that. Nigerian banks don’t do lending. So, we must come out with policies insisting that some particular amount of money must be given to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It is no rocket science.
In China, SMEs produce over 65 per cent of their exports supported by government backed venture capitalist. In 2015, I met a group of people abroad talking about investment in Zoom. They were looking for five million dollars, which they got through venture capital.”
The Chief Executive of Biodun Adedipe and Associates Consulting, Dr. Biodun Adedipe, said public relations is critical to fund raising and customer acquisition to build trust across relationships and stakeholders.
Public relations, he explained, is centred on story telling and telling it to target venture capital firms, which can be in form of selling ideas to prospective venture capital investor and making it attractive to prospective customers.
Public relations, he insisted, must promote value proposition to stakeholders and kill misconceptions before they develop. “There are many venture capitalists in Nigeria and abroard looking for good deals and PR firms must be able to convince them so that they can invest their money.”
Citing the American PR practitioner, George Barry, he said PR practitioners must identify their niche and become the leading voice in area of expertise. They must mirror their audience, make a good first impression with visual identity and know themselves.
“Every content should be followed by thoughtful analysis. PR firms must create content, analyse the content and adjust the content. They must understand the language of the industry. There are many venture capitalists in Nigeria and abroad looking for good deals and if a PR firm can convince them, they will invest their money.”
President, African Public Relations Association (APRA) Yemi Badejo-Okusanya likened public relations to “an injection and only effective when you apply it.”
In his presentation, Prof Joseph Nnanna of Development Bank of Nigeria observed that venture capital in Africa has evolved over the last two decades.
He added that venture capital has favoured the technological space than other sectors.
Speaking on challenges, he identified data uncertainty about trust, lack of financial knowledge. He added that Federal Government should establish a regulatory framework and provide data to encourage venture capital investors to get data.
Another economist, Paul Alaje, said government should provide infrastructure like roads and communication to attractive venture capitalists.
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