Igniting innovation in Africa

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Igniting innovation in Africa

Igniting innovation in Africa

About the speakers
  • Ian Lessem
    Ian Lessem
    Managing Partner at HAVAÍC
    Ian is the Managing Partner at HAVAÍC, a leading Sub-Saharan African high return high impact technology investor. Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs and with close to two decades in fund management and investment banking, Ian is an expert at raising international capital for HAVAÍC‘s portfolio companies and at strategically aligning them for global growth and impact.
  • Barbara Iyayi
    Barbara Iyayi
    CEO & Founding Partner at Unicorn Growth Capital
    Barbara Iyayi is the Founder & Managing Partner of Unicorn Growth Capital, an early-stage FinTech & Blockchain VC fund that invests in the future of finance. The fund backs global founders leading category-defining companies at the pre-seed & seed stage and building next-generation financial infrastructure fit for fast-growing markets in Africa and emerging markets. Barbara is an experienced investor and entrepreneur with over 17 years’ experience, spanning venture capital, private equity, investment banking/M&A and technology. Barbara has invested in, founded, and taken board roles in FinTech, blockchain and financial services companies globally. She is an Investment Committee member of Verda Ventures, a growth stage Web3 VC fund focused on Regenerative Finance. Previously, she served as the Chief Growth Officer of Element, Inc, an AI-powered digital identity company, operating in the US, Africa and Southeast Asia, and co-founded by Yann LeCun, Chief AI Scientist at Facebook and Turing Award Laureate. In addition, she was a Venture Partner at Lateral Capital, an Africa-based venture capital firm. Prior to that, she was in the inaugural team that launched Atlas Mara, a London Stock Exchange-listed financial services investment platform from start to over $3bn of assets, co-founded by Bob Diamond, ex-CEO of Barclays. Barbara serves as Non-Executive Director of Churpy, a B2B accounts receivable and finance operations platform and recently served on the board of the Web Foundation, an international non-profit focused on digital equality, co-founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. In 2021, she was recognized by Innovate Finance as Women in FinTech Powerlist. In 2022, she was honored by the Council of Urban Professionals as a CUP Finance Catalyst. Barbara worked at various financial institutions, including as Vice President, Investment Banking at JPMorgan, and UBS Investment Bank in New York. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Columbia University, and an MBA at Harvard Business School.
  • Mohammad Rasouli
    Mohammad Rasouli
    AI Expert for Investment at Stanford University
    Dr. Mohammad Rasouli is a thought leader in AI and technology for investment. He is an ex-McKinsey consultant from the Bay Area and the New York offices managing AI activation projects for private equities clients. He has worked with top-20 private equities as well as a number of middle and small-size PEs to use AI technology for automating their fund processes as well as to use AI for their portfolio companies. Before joining McKinsey, Dr. Rasouli has been an AI researcher at Stanford publishing papers in top AI conferences with 450+ citations. He has particularly studied recommendation systems working closely with companies. He has also co-taught a course at Stanford Graduate School of Business for “Empirics of Online Marketplaces”. He finished his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Masters in Economics from the University of Michigan working with a thesis committee of Stanford, Harvard, and MIT professors, including Nobel prize winners. Dr. Rasouli has also been a Microsoft engineer and has experience in startups including CTO role.
  • Devon Smith
    Devon Smith
    Co-Founder/COO at SourceID
    Devon Smith is the Co-Founder/COO of SourceID, an AML/KYC startup focused on customer onboarding and fraud eradication in the African financial services sector. Prior to SourceID, Devon was an investor at TPG Global in San Francisco investing across the Software and Internet verticals. Before joining TPG, Devon was an investor at Silversmith Capital Partners where he focused on investments across the firm’s two core verticals, Healthcare IT & Services and SaaS & Information Services. Prior to Silversmith, Devon began his career with Blackstone in New York City. Devon graduated magna cum laude with a BBA in Finance from Morehouse College.

Key takeaways