14 May Interview With Damilola Thompson, Corporate Counsel at Echo VC Partners
This interview was done as part of the partnership between SFAN x TechNova Ghana towards the inaugural Student Entrepreneurship Week Ghana taking place on the 26th to 28th of July, 2018. Our third interview features the international speaker, Damilola Thompson.
Damilola Thompson is Corporate Counsel of EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund. Before this, she worked for a top-tier law firm in Lagos, Nigeria for over 3 years, with core competencies in Corporate, Venture Capital and Private Equity transactions. During this period, she drove seed/early-stage financing transactions for startups and represented African and international investors.
Ms. Thompson is passionate about startups and venture financing and providing early-stage companies with much-needed mentorship required for scaling. She has a graduate degree from the University of Lagos and has completed various post-graduate courses including the Kauffman Fellows Academy’s course on venture capital. She is a member of the Nigeria Bar Association, an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, United Kingdom and a member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria.
Tech Nova(TN): It would appear that a number of students coming out of universities are opting to be more entrepreneurial by starting their own businesses rather than opt for the 9 – 5 desk job. Why do you think that is?
Damilola Thompson: I think there is general interest by young people to be different and stand out, and quite a number of success stories that inspire youths to be the best they can be. In most cases, a major part of their thinking about entrepreneurship is misguided and flawed, in that some believe success should be immediate and easily achievable, and when that does not happen, they get discouraged or lose hope. But those who stay in there, slugging it out and constantly reiterating their businesses, emerge as winners.
Tech Nova (TN): Some would say that young people are just seeing entrepreneurship as a way of just making money instead of actually trying to solve problems in their environment. Do you agree/disagree with that statement and why
Damilola Thompson: As I earlier mentioned, I think it may be a mix of both. For example, some youths want to be entrepreneurs because they see how wealthy Kwadwo Kantanka is and therefore aspire to be as wealthy, while some are really looking to solve societal challenges and are looking for ways to make things better. While I do not see anything wrong with being an entrepreneur and having a mindset to make money, that should not be the only driving force, because when things run aground and the business seems challenging, and it will, such people will fall by the way.
TN: The current education system in Ghana does not appear to be teaching students how to sell or be marketable. The system is still stuck on the “Chew and Pour” concept where students memorize just to pass exams. If you could, what would you add to their current curriculum to make students more competitive when they come out of school?
DT: This is not just a problem in Ghana, it is also the same in Nigeria and most West African countries. WAEC has become a hit or miss target for students so much that it has become a routine to gain admission to a higher institution. A number of the educational institutions do not educate students around solutions that solve our everyday challenges neither is the education sufficiently practicable that it can be implemented into our daily lives. For practical steps in reforming our education system, I would suggest institutions focus and teach the latest Information Technology education from primary school up to the first year of College/university and then make it optional for all other years, inculcate vocational skills training into the curriculum, promote sportsmanship by encouraging communal efforts in tackling societal issues.
TN: Where do you see Ghana in the next 5 years in terms of entrepreneurship? Will we be seeing more successful startups being funded? Will schools and universities be more open to starting entrepreneurship courses? What are your thoughts on the matter?
DT: I believe the wave of entrepreneurship will see more entrepreneurs solving actual and real problems, and with that comes exposure, press, and funding because good businesses attract funders and the right talent. This will, therefore, drive institutions to see entrepreneurship as a course that needs to be taught and practiced, in order to remain unique and differentiate themselves from other institutions. Institutions who are not teaching this course will seem outdated and out of touch with reality, and eventually may lose relevance.
TN: What are you hoping that the Student Entrepreneurship week event hosted by Stars From All Nations (SFAN) will achieve?
DT: I certainly hope that as many more organizations like SFAN engage youths to develop their entrepreneurial skills and create awareness about the possibilities of entrepreneurship, there will be a proliferation of innovation and development of a solution-driven society, which is required for Africa to thrive.
This article is part of SFAN x Tech Nova Collaboration towards Student Entrepreneurship Week Ghana and was first published on TechNova.
Tom-Chris Emewulu is the Founder & President of SFAN (Stars From All Nations). He is an education and policy enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, a former consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana, and the author of the forthcoming book: Breaking the Limits. Tom-Chris is a thought leader on topics such as youth development, African innovation, social entrepreneurship, and the future of work.