By Henry Ojelu
Try as hard as you can to dismiss it, Nigeria is at the centre of world history. Perceptions may differ. While the story of the 77 Nigerians recently indicted for internet-related crimes by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations, FBI, trends, there are still many Nigerians rocking the international space with genuine skills and talents. From time to time, these great Ambassadors visit the country as a stamp of approval that not all grapes from Africa are sour.
In 2016, it was Facebook’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Ime Archibong; the right-hand man of Mark Zuckerberg, who can easily pass as a Hollywood honcho with his physique and built. Archibong, a full-blooded Nigerian leads the team focused on accelerating Facebook’s product strategy by establishing partnerships, driving product integrations and unlocking new business opportunities with leading companies across multiple industries and sectors.
Call him Zuckerberg’s deputy and you would not be far from the truth, because they seem to be Siamese twins in fashioning new ideas that have transformed Facebook into something much more than a social media initiative. He received a warm welcome as a worthy Nigerian Ambassador who plies his trade in Silicon Valley.
Today, the country is preparing to welcome another great Nigerian in Diaspora; National Basketball Association, NBA star, Andre Tyler Iguodala. Iguodala was born in Springfield, Illinois. His mother is African American, while his father is Nigerian. Aside winning several laurels as an NBA star, Iguodala is also a tech-investor and a leading advocate for athletes in the NBA to invest in the technology industry. His partnership with entrepreneurs in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley has led to an annual event tagged Players Technology Summit. The inaugural edition of the event began in 2017 where Iguodala and teammate Stephen Curry played hosts.
The second edition saw other athletes from the NBA like Kevin Durant and Jaylen Brown make debuts. The Players Technology Summit, sponsored by Bloomberg, was established as a platform to set a discourse and help shape conversations for athletes’ financial future through opportunities in the technology industry.[
During his visit scheduled for next week, Iguodala will be interacting with tech entrepreneurs in the country at an event themed: ‘Moving from zero to growth’. The objective of the event is to help startups understand what they need to do to attract investment.
Speaking about the visit, he said: “Because of my Nigerian heritage, Jumia’s use of technology to deliver innovative online services to consumers and improve the quality of everyday life in Africa is very important to me. I’m thrilled to be a part of this unique enterprise that is shaping the future of digital Africa.” His affirmation was also rechoed by Jumia co-founder Sacha Poignonne who said: “Having Andre join our board sends the world the message that Africa has successful companies and great entrepreneurs, and that athletes can play a key role in contributing to their success.” Iguodala joined Jumia as an ambassador and a board member. He is expected to promote the company’s business development and technology in the U.S. Iguodala is not only excited that he is visiting Nigeria for the first time as an adult, he is happy to invest home.
On the Court
Iguodala is a huge figure who wields influence in both on and off the court of Basketball. Previously with the 3-time NBA Champions Golden State Warriors, Iguodala was drafted into the NBA in 2004. Almost instantly, he became a hit, making his mark as one of the league’s premier players. In addition to his numerous basketball achievements, he has found success in the business world with entrepreneurial ventures in technology and e-commerce. He played a leading role in each of Golden State’s championship seasons.
During the 2017 championship run, he further established his legacy as one of the NBA’s premier players. In 2015 he received the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award. He was named NBA All-Star in 2012. He has also been named to the NBA All-Defensive Team twice. He was a member of the United States national team at the 2010 FIBA World Championship and 2012 Summer Olympics, winning the gold medal both times. Iguodala was named the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) First Vice President earlier this year.
Off the Court
Off the court, Oguodala is known for his savvy business instincts and has been at the forefront of navigating the worlds of venture capital and technology in the Bay Area. Since joining the Warriors in 2013, he has invested in over 40 companies through F9 Strategies, including GOAT, Zoom, HIMS, Lime, Thrive Global, AllBirds, Casper, STANCE, and Carta.
In 2017, he partnered with Bloomberg on the creation of The Players Technology Summit which convenes top executives and leaders in the technology, venture capital, and sports communities to exchange ideas and share expertise in an educational and empowering forum. Iguodala became a member of the Board of Directors for Jumia Technologies, NYSE: JMIA, after the e-commerce platform successfully listed its billion-dollar IPO in April 2019.
Passion for tech investment
Speaking about his passion for investment in tech companies, Iguodala said: “ I started with an E-Trade account. Learn how your money works in different investment gigs. I made some investment in startups with my E-Trade account. You do some research on those companies because you are watching where your money is going and how it’s growing or how it’s being lost. A lot of companies were in this area.
“One of them was a mobile gaming company that had a lot of success in Zynga. That was just an E-Trade investment. They didn’t know I invested. Then we invested in Apple. There were like four or five companies total where we made some great success with the investments. From there, you start doing your homework.
Iguodala also expressed his observation that there are not enough black athletes involved in tech investments. He said:“ We’re not enough. We’re a lot further than we were three, four years ago. We tend to hop on what is trending at the moment. But I think once guys get in, what they are realizing is this is not a quick space. This is something for the long run. And once guys realize that, they really get into something that is really healthy for you.”
Continuing, he said “You see that it is not something that is trendy. It is something that you are invested in. Your money starts growing. Whether it works out or not, it’s a learning experience. There have been a few things that I’ve invested in that are no longer operating, but I’ve learned so much through them. And then with other companies, I am doing very well. You learn to balance your portfolio.
Iguodala is a strong Christian, credited to a famous quote, that: “Faith is something I heavily lean on to give me that balance. I make sure I stay in the chapel and have a good relationship with our chaplain. It keeps me focused. When people see us on the court, we want them to see God’s work. We want to be a good representation of what we believe in. When you go out there, you’re not just representing your country or the NBA, you’re representing your beliefs. You want to play hard for someone who died for you.”