The Workchop Conversations is an ongoing series of conversations with different players in both the law, tech & justice tech space, sharing about their work and innovative role within the space, promoting access to justice in Africa.
This week, we have Ifeoluwa Awodein, an astute lawyer exploring diverse options with the view to craft apt legal solutions suitable for clients’ needs. Her interest spans through Finance Law, corporate commercial law, Intellectual Property Law, Media and Technology.
Tell us about your journey into the tech ecosystem and how you got to where you are today.
My journey into the tech ecosystem started unofficially in 2016 when I worked as a legal research intern and one of my numerous research assignments during the internship program was centered around the principles of cashless policy in Nigeria. This really piqued my interest at the time, and I was curious on how e-payment system works behind the scenes and the regulations behind these transactions. In 2019, I got a job offer in one of the largest and leading financial technology solutions providers in Nigeria as a legal and compliance associate and I started this amazing journey.
What does your role as Legal & Compliance Associate at Future Africa entail? What is it about the role that excites you the most?
In plain terms, I ensure regulatory compliance, draft, and review legal documents just like every other lawyer, I advise on fund formation and other company secretarial functions. Generally, I research and evaluate different risk factors regarding the Company’s business decisions and operations and apply effective risk management techniques and offer proactive advice on possible legal issues that may arise. Update the company on applicable regulations and how it affects the business. Part of my function is also assisting founders in their formation and documentation process. The goal is for them to get it right from the start, so we put in place standard pre and post formation documents and checklists that will serve as a guide to founders. I think this encapsulates what my role entails.
The most exciting part of my role is assisting founders from the early stages of their formation. I see it as being involved in the growth of a child and seeing the child become successful. Nothing makes a parent prouder.
Any advice for lawyers looking to get into Venture Capital? Are there any resources or communities you can recommend?
I’ll start off by saying sometimes you never really know you like a thing until you start doing it. The secret of staying relevant in the business is to continue to update yourself. Once you understand the dynamics it becomes easier. It is okay to make mistakes and be ready to learn and unlearn whenever the need arises.
There are materials to read, and you may need to get a mentor. For starters and active lawyers in the field, I will recommend:
a. Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
b. Startup Company Lawyer – a great resource put together by an experienced corporate partner at Wilson Sonsini.
c. Cooley Go – A document generator and information and resources from a Silicon Valley law firm, Cooley.
Another thing I do is check out active people in the space on LinkedIn and Twitter or other platforms and connect with them. Ask them questions and read their articles or publications (if any).
What was your biggest challenge in the role and how did you solve it?
Lots of challenges arise every day, but in order to navigate them, you need to understand that we are constantly learning everyday and be easy on yourself. However, figuring how to provide excellent legal services and being cognizant with changes in the law (Not just Nigerian law) has been a major challenge for me so far. Notwithstanding the fact that I studied in Nigeria, I need to be conversant with laws in other jurisdictions (it is non-negotiable).
I have only been able to overcome these challenges by asking questions and doing more of personal research.
In your opinion, what do you think startup founders overlook when raising funds?
Fundraising is one of the most challenging parts of being a Founder and its far more complex than it appears. Founders are more particular about the funds but fail to understand the mechanics of equity for startup founders. Founders overlook quite a number of things when raising funds, but I will try to summarize all.
First, founders tend to overlook the importance of a lawyer and due diligence in their transactions. A number of them get overly excited and sometimes desperate and tend to just sign off on agreements without giving their lawyers to review. The role of a lawyer cannot be overemphasized.
Founders fail to provide answers to the question of “what do I do after I raise funds?” No proper planning in place which eventually leads to gross mismanagement, or poor work ethics which can kill a startup before it’s even out the gate. I see founders often times trying to over value their company in their fund-raising efforts without understanding the implications of over raising or under raising. The best approach would be to raise just enough and raise at fair valuations.
What do you spend time doing asides work?
Disturbing somebody’s son *wink* (that was on a lighter note) I watch movies, play games and live the baby girl life.
What gadgets do you rely on to get work done?
My laptop and phone with fast internet.
Funny question, if you could, would you travel to the past or future and why?
Hmmm, I would like to go to the future and see what is about to happen and what to plan for or against. I want an “expo” to the future.