Impact story: Graham Benton’s investment journey with GrowthAfrica

Driven by a mission to improve the profitability and sustainability of smallholder dairy farming in Kenya, LishaBora provides high impact products and services to dairy farmers. They do this through the digitalisation and formalisation of the informal dairy sector. For this reason, LishaBora has attracted investment from a pool of different investors. Just recently GrowthAfrica supported Graham Benton, Founder and MD of LishaBora, in securing yet another investment.  We spoke to him and the investor about the entire process and what entrepreneurs and investors should pay attention to in this process.

GrowthAfrica: Graham Benton, Founder and MD of LishaBora


Describe your relationship with GrowthAfrica
I first met GrowthAfrica in 2012 when they incubated my first company, Takamoto Biogas. In 2015 when I launched LishaBora, a social enterprise, I approached them to see how we could potentially work together. This conversation bore much fruit because since then they have helped us locate and secure investors.

Describe your investment journey
My initial capital came from my personal savings, support from parents & friends. Nuraj Varia of Novastar Ventures was the first to invest privately into my business and this pushed me forward. I also received a grant from Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) and angel investors also came on board. This current investment marks the fourth I have received so far.

What was your expectation on how long the investment process take?
I didn’t have any expectations of how long the process would take since every investor is different based on their personal mandate. The whole process of negotiation took us 6 months.

What has been the biggest challenge in this process and how did you overcome it?
It took time figuring out the value add that the investor would bring into the business and how that would fit into the business strategy. Another challenge was determining and resolving what the business strategy would be going forward and how the money would be effectively used.

You were at some point looking for a larger amount and I believe our colleague advised you to go with a smaller round. What did you do with this feedback?
I took it! I was initially looking for an amount that would give us a two-year aggressive growth rate. What I have now is a 12 to 18 months run-rate which is still okay. We are still in discussions with other investors. I learnt that sometimes the amount one needs doesn’t necessarily come from one investor, but it might come from multiple small investors.

What lessons have you learnt from this latest investment?
Being an entrepreneur, I have learned that investment can come from anywhere. It takes a long time to learn the market therefore one ought to talk to potential investors and never burn a bridge.

What surprised you the most in the process?
It was enjoyable. The process can be tasking but working with someone who gets as excited about your business as you are makes the process bearable.

What does the investment mean for LishaBora?
It is a huge vote of confidence on my part. It enables me to now focus on building the business and working with my teammates to push this company forward.

Entrepreneur “heart-to-heart”
My advice to entrepreneurs is, stick with it. You will hit lows before the highs. I have tried to close this business twice before and this has failed because people ask me not to – they believe in me. Be tenacious in your mission and don’t lose sight of it. Learn, listen to your customers and respond to them.

Was it “love at first site” for you as an investor?
I received pitch decks from GrowthAfrica and I was impressed with LishaBora. I could envision its ability to scale, while causing impact.

What surprised you the most in the process as the investor?
I liked the happy surprises experienced as compared to most due diligence processes that have bad surprises. The happy surprises were the capabilities of the team, the ability of the market to scale, Graham was a great person, seeing the potential for value right away.

What kind of due diligence did you conduct on the business as the investor?
We undertook all levels of due diligence prior to investment including financial, operational, technical, character, market, economic impact. We also asked other existing investors and the community about their thoughts regarding the business.

I would advise that if investors are investing in early-stage companies, they should ensure that there is a strong alignment that is held through due diligence. The due diligence philosophy that investors should take is, is it possible, is it real, are these the right people that can get it done, is my investment aligned with the direction and philosophy of the company.

Considerations for investors investing in Kenyan entrepreneurs
Work with strong partners like GrowthAfrica who have a track-record of developing businesses into something more tangible since it will save you a lot of time. Investors can see their investment thesis more clearly with a partner like GrowthAfrica.

It is the difference of turning something into 1 and 0 and enabling something with a digital process… we are not digitising the records, but digitalising the informal market.

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