5 Questions with Oyin Solebo, Managing Director of ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator

Dec 18, 2022

Oyin Solebo is the Managing Director of the ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator. 

Oyin is a former investment manager turned entrepreneur. She was the co-founder & COO of Movemeback - a Google-funded and London Stock Exchange-recognised elite community platform, connecting top talent, leaders and influencers globally to African opportunities. Oyin started her career in Goldman Sachs’ Private Wealth Management division, managing investment portfolios for ultra-high net worth family offices and individuals across EMEA. She then joined Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, as part of the inaugural team launching into Sub-Saharan Africa. She later returned to London to become Managing Director of multiple family offices.

Oyin graduated from London Business School with an Executive MBA (with distinction) and holds a BSc in Economics from London School of Economics.

01. What are you looking for in startups for the ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator?

The most important factor is always team. A strong team means founders who are all passionate about the problem they are solving, are open and demonstrate a willingness to take feedback, understand and complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and collectively demonstrate an ability to execute.

Second is the founders’ understanding of the market. Beyond them operating in a sizable market primed for further growth, I want to see that they have unique insights. I want the founders to blow me away by the depth of knowledge they have of the market they’re playing in.

Third is traction - the ability to demonstrate that the market wants and is willing to pay for what you are building. I see products where founders have spent money creating technology and tools based on an idea that they think customers will love. Focusing on customer validation from the start can save a lot of time, money, and help direct a founder’s course.

Lastly is the product itself - seeing that the founders have creatively solved the problem they are tackling, in a way that is unique, and targeted. Ambitious vision and expansive product roadmaps can be great, but I first need to see that they are able to solve one big problem, really well. If the solution then has multiple applications - even better! 

02. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring to being a Techstars Managing Director?

Build trust. As a founder, key to your role is building relationships and earning the support and commitment of your team, customers, investors and stakeholders. This means, keeping your word, staying transparent and being open.

Be clear on your personal values. As a founder, what you create will become an extension of what you value - whether you realize it or not. Being clear on what these are will help you understand the results you are seeing, the decisions you make, and help you course correct when things go awry. 

Ruthlessly prioritise. As founders, we think we can do everything, and it’s sometimes hard to not get distracted by the next shiny thing.We can’t do it all. Some balls have to drop - which is ok as long as you’re holding onto the ball that matters. 

Make sure you’re in love with the problem, and not the solution. Customer feedback (be it positive or negative should be embraced as a gift) or developing market trends may be shouting for you to pivot. If you’re wedded to the solution instead of the problem, it will be hard to make a change.

Finally - take a break! This road can be hard, and there is no mandatory holiday. So remember to take it easy, take your partner out on a date, spend time with the people you love, and generally take care of yourself.

03. What is your favorite thing about the Nigerian startup scene?

I love that Nigeria is an environment of natural problem solvers, with incredibly passionate entrepreneurs dedicated to solving problems that can impact the lives of millions. Nigeria can be a challenging environment, which cultivates problem-solving as a life skill - a key competence for successful entrepreneurs. It’s also home to some of the most passionate founders in the world, driven to solve fundamental challenges. I feel extremely privileged to be in a position to bring Techstars to them to support their success.

04. What does our partner ARM bring to the accelerator?

ARM is committed to propelling the African continent to become the future global capital of startup innovation and supporting the development of technology solutions that will help transform how Africans access essential services and products, such as financial services and real estate. Key to this is supporting African entrepreneurs with access to capital and the required expertise to accelerate their businesses. By partnering with ARM for this fintech and proptech-focused Accelerator, the founders selected stand to benefit in several ways. Firstly, ARM brings an extended team of industry experts who will serve as mentors to support our founders in achieving their goals. Secondly, as Nigeria’s largest non-bank financial institution, ARM opens opportunities for our founders to access new customers, markets and partners. Lastly, via ARM’s work with the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission, they hope to help bridge the gap between startups and regulators.

05. Why is bringing Techstars to Africa important to you?

We all know that whilst talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the African continent.

By 2050, a quarter of the world’s people will be African. This will impact almost every aspect of life, from global labour markets and trade to geopolitics. Yet it receives 2% of venture funding. Solutions out of Africa have the potential to not only move the continent forward economically and socially, but also to benefit the world at large.

The ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator furthers Techstars’ mission to support entrepreneurs everywhere and give startups the capital and opportunities they need to succeed, regardless of their location or background - and I’m honoured to be a part of it.