Business student

How ‘Love Is Blind’ star SK Alagbada broke into seed investing

  • “Love Is Blind” candidate Sikiru “SK” Alagbada joined UC Berkeley’s MBA program in 2021.
  • Alagbada worked as a data engineer and is now co-president of LAUNCH, the UC startup accelerator.
  • Here’s what he looks for in an early-stage startup, both for LAUNCH and as an angel investor.

As Netflix’s third season of reality TV show ‘Love Is Blind’ airs this month, a cast member is looking for love – and emerging tech start-ups to invest in .

Sikiru “SK” Alagbada, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, is currently a student at the University of California at Berkeley Haas School of Business in the class of 2023, and plans to work in startup venture capital after graduation. graduation. Her decision to go to school in California became a major plot element of the reality show, but her investing experience dates back to before fame. He’s made angel investments, both solo and with a syndicate, in tech startups in Africa, and it’s helped him build a founder-focused investment philosophy, Alagbada told Insider.

“I’m always curious to learn more about a variety of topics, and that kind of fuels my nature,” he said. “Working in the world of startups and investing in venture capital really helps me satisfy this need to want to learn more about new areas, new sectors and new technologies.”

Alagbada worked for more than seven years as a data engineer for big companies like General Motors and JPMorgan, but wanted to learn more about the companies behind the technology, he told Insider. In the months leading up to his arrival at UC Berkeley, Alagbada found out he had been cast in season three of “Love Is Blind” and couldn’t pass up the opportunity, he said.

Although he was careful not to disclose any spoilers for the third season finale on November 9, including his current relationship status with his on-screen fiancée Raven Ross, Alagbada shared that the experience of connecting with people in the pods has helped him with networking in his professional life.

“You were forced to open your mind and connect with someone first, before you saw them,” he said. “Going on ‘Love Is Blind’ really helped me develop that communication muscle.”

Since debuting at UC Berkeley last year, Alagbada has dove headlong into the world of venture capital. He interned with longtime investor Neil Devani’s Necessary Ventures in the spring of 2022 and is president of UC’s Africa Business Club, which recruits and supports African students who want to start tech businesses, it said. -he declares. He is also Co-Chair of Strategy and Partnerships for the UC LAUNCH Accelerator Program, a three-month startup accelerator for early-stage startups launched by affiliates of the University of California school system.

“It’s almost like a mini-YC,” he said, referring to Silicon Valley’s famed startup accelerator, Y Combinator.

In her role, Alagbada works to design the overall vision of the program and reviews incoming applications for the accelerator. It also strives to secure partnerships and funding from outside LPs, or sponsors, who will provide capital to the accelerator, and other sponsors. Through LAUNCH, current UC students, alumni, or faculty who have not raised more than $1 million in dilutive funding can apply for funding.

On the cohort’s final Demo Day, the top three winners will receive non-dilutive funding from the program’s $55,000 pool, split according to their ranking. There is also an audience award for the group’s fan favorite which also wins funding.

Alagbada prioritizes founder-market fit, Africa-based startups and diversity when choosing where to invest

Due to its varied investment background, Alagbada has developed a certain set of criteria to look for when evaluating startups.

He looks for startups that have a “founder-market fit,” whether in terms of technical expertise or a strong network, Alagbada told Insider. This means that it should be clear why this founder would create a startup in a certain industry, and they could easily convince an investor that they are the right person to lead their business. His experience in data engineering can be an advantage for him in evaluating this.

“Doing due diligence for these types of companies is more than the business side, right? You want someone who understands how they do the engineering work, where the future goes data engineering,” he told Insider.

When it comes to his personal investment, Alagbada prioritizes startups based in Africa. “Now that I’m in a position where I can do more for the ecosystem, I’ve made it my business to help connect African startups to Silicon Valley capital,” he said.

Two examples of startups he has backed in the region are Spleet, a Nigeria-based proptech company that builds infrastructure for rent collection, and SmartWage, a human resources tech startup that distributes payslips via WhatsApp.

But the one quality Alagbada won’t negotiate on is having some sort of diversity in the founding squad, he said. Whether it’s race, gender or diversity of thought and experience, it means a founding team is open to new ideas, which will make the company stronger in the long run, Alagbada said.

He’s looking for founders who are “resilient” and able to “think outside the box,” he told Insider. When the company inevitably encounters a problem, it will give them the assurance that “if things go wrong, this person will not give up”.