GSD Venture Studio hosted its first West African event on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, at the iLX Training Centre, Lekki, Lagos.
They specialise in helping companies go global. Since its launch in 2019, it has helped accelerate startups in Eastern Europe and Latin America.
As a venture studio, GSD's offering is quite different from the traditional venture builder or accelerator company. The GSD team prefers to take hands-on roles in the companies it partners with.
"We partner with engineers [technical startup founders] as operators inside the company. We take on operational roles and give financial backing", said Derek Distenfield, Co-founder and COO of GSD Ventures Studio.
GSD aims to bring a strong sales and marketing strategy to the companies it partners with. The nitty-gritty of the strategy work involves crafting the brand story and making product recommendations. It also uses its network to identify early adopters of products [/companies] looking to scale into the US market.
The secret to our sauce is taking those C-suite roles inside the company. We want to be operationally involved in the company, not as consultants, scouts or advisers—Derek Distenfield
GSD also helps companies to develop systems that are legally and operationally comfortable for VC investment, especially from Silicon Valley.
The Silicon Valley-based venture studio has invested in a couple of companies active in Africa, including SpottR—a Nigerian-owned e-commerce marketplace that helps people find everyday items.
During the event, Derek noted that GSD was hoping to bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and Nigeria by helping Nigerian companies get ready for the global market.
The event kicked off a few minutes past 6 PM, and Benjamindada.com was there to cover it.
The organisers had planned for approximately 50 guests, but over 200 people registered. And even though it had rained earlier in the day, it did not deter people from showing up.
The event started with a networking session led by SpottR CEO, Gerald Konwea, who encouraged attendees to seize the opportunity to exchange ideas and contacts.
After the session, attendees moved into a hall for a meeting with GSD Venture Studio's Co-founder, Derek Distenfield. Since the event received more attendees than expected, an overflow section was created.
Derek Distenfield is an army veteran who served in the US Army as recently as 2013. Since his retirement from the army, Derek has been active with several startups in New York and California. He ran and sold a storytelling marketing firm and has also helped run a US-based accelerator, Bunker Labs.
During his session, Derek itemised some of the important hacks he had learned on his startup journey. The talk included tips on creating a team, hiring best practices, managing company roles, vision, grit, fundraising, and lots more.
Derek's session was followed by a panel featuring himself, Gerald Konwea of SpottR, and Jackie Churchwell (Director, Transformation at WeWork). Jackie joined in from New York using a streaming platform called Streamyard.
The three panelists answered questions around what it takes for companies to go global based on their experience.
In the closing speech, Derek acknowledged that while this was his first visit to Nigeria, he was looking to come more often and be part of more training for founders and budding entrepreneurs.
For Derek, it's about helping startups find the help they need. "We can't help every company at all stages. But if we can't help you, we will point you in the right direction."
In addition, GSD Venture Studios also operates GSD Labs, a 10-week accelerator that accepts pitches from startups anywhere between the idea-stage to around $1million in revenue. The accelerator starts on April 26, 2021. Founders can apply here. Also, Derek is open to receiving emails from entrepreneurs and he can be reached at [email protected][dot]com.
The event came to a close shortly after 8 PM. The organisers gave a vote of thanks and once again, attendees were encouraged to network and make friends before leaving.