- The Pitch Insider
- From Netflix to Nigeria
From Netflix to Nigeria
Mariam Braimah's Story
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Listen to the full episode: Kimoyo: Is This African Startup Venture Backable? Or watch Mariam’s pitch on YouTube.
From the time she was a little girl, Mariam knew she wanted to do something in Africa. As a Nigerian American she fully embraced Nigerian culture - the clothing, the music (Sunny Adé is a fave), the holidays. Proud to be “Nigerian first” she defended her heritage against kids who made fun of the traditional Nigerian clothing she wore to her fifth grade graduation.
Home video of Mariam’s 5th grade graduation
Mariam grew up in NY, went to Harvard for college, then moved to San Francisco. By the time she was 24, she was a Lead Product Designer at Netflix. This was 2016, and Netflix had just gone global.
Mariam was on the team responsible for user acquisition and growth. Her new title at Netflix meant Mariam’s Twitter DMs were suddenly getting responses. The first person she got a response from was Namnso Ukpanah… the person who would someday become her co-founder (ah, the power of twitter… and a title!)
While working at Netflix, Mariam remembered her childhood dream of building an organization in Africa. So she and Namnso launched a program called Kimoyo Fellowship with the aim of training product designers in Africa.
TL;DR: 100% of the fellows got full time design jobs and 10x their salaries. However, the fellowship failed to get funding.
Through that experience Mariam discovered a problem that needed solving: the need for product testers.
See, research was core to the curriculum created for Kimoyo Fellowship. But when she looked for research participants in Africa, none of the local research companies had an online database.
So Mariam and her co-founders Namnso and Andrew set out to build one. When they had a participant database of 500 in Nigeria, Mariam looked at the margins and thought, “There might be something here.”
And that’s when lightning struck (the good kind). It just so happened that Netflix was launching a product in Nigeria at that time and Mariam, who still worked there, had the users to test it.
In February 2023, Mariam and her co-founders had raised enough money to go full-time at Kimoyo Insights. They now have global companies as customers and a growing participant database.
Episode 116 of The Pitch features Kimoyo. And in that episode, investors say that Kimoyo isn’t a venture scale business because of the business model (that conversation is here).
But, Mariam shared two things in her followup call that make me wonder if Kimoyo is on a path to becoming the B2B SaaS company investors want.
First, Mariam’s customers are asking for a platform to use with their own participants. Kimoyo doesn’t have to be the people supplier - just the software that handles logistics and insights.
Second, Mariam mentioned adding AI and pulling out insights from the feedback users leave. As Kimoyo builds a model from multiple countries in Africa, Kimoyo’s moat - their defensibility - becomes stronger.
Josh Muccio, Mariam Braimah, Lisa Muccio
Whatever the case, I’ll be cheering for Mariam Braimah. I’ve been a fan since our first meeting. And I’m a fan of Africa. It stole a small piece of my heart when I visited. It’s easy to see why Mariam carries such passion for the continent and its people.
If you have any connections or intros that could help Kimoyo reply to this email and I’ll connect you with Mariam.
See more at Kimoyo.co
What People are Saying on YouTube
“As a longtime listener, seeing the pitches just brings the total experience to a whole new level. Great editing, and Mariam's pitch was great and super compelling.” @ArmanNobari
“The whole EBiTDA convo at the end was so essential and I really feel like they did the founder a disservice by not breaking that down for her while she is in the room. She left thinking they didn't want to invest in her because they are scared of investing in Africa (she says so in the podcast later) but in reality her business just doesn't have enough upside for these firms.” @KingCronan
Would you invest in an African startup?
From Hustle Fund: 3 Reasons Investors Might be Nervous about a New Market.
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