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    “The Right Partner, Not Paperwork, Makes the Deal” Interview with Waffle Founder, Victor Nara, on Acquisition

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    Victor Nara ’s career path took a fascinating turn recently. He was at the helm of Waffle, a Ghanaian software solutions company, driving innovation for businesses. Then, Rivia, a rising star in Ghanaian healthcare, came calling. Their vision for a digitally connected healthcare network deeply resonated with Nara, leading him to join RiviaCo as their Chief Technology Officer.

    This wasn’t just an acquisition; it was a strategic alliance. By joining forces, Rivia and Waffle (now likely part of Rivia under a new name, RiviaCo) aim to empower healthcare providers across Africa. In this interview with Launch Base Africa, Nara explores the exciting possibilities unlocked by this partnership. He equally shares plans on how RiviaCo plans to revolutionize healthcare delivery on the continent.

    LaunchBase Africa: Fantastic news about the Waffle acquisition, Victor! An acquisition deal successfully closed at this time is a major achievement — well done!

    Victor Nara: Thank you very much. It was indeed quite a process, but we found a synergy that made the deal possible.

    LaunchBase Africa: Could you clarify if Rivia, the acquiring company, operates in a similar space, or do they have a different focus?

    Victor Nara: Actually, Waffle was more of a general enterprise and SME software platform, with some healthcare projects along the way. Rivia, on the other hand, initially aimed to provide liquidity and support to SMEs for exponential growth. Now, it functions as a service complementing our current operations.

    LaunchBase Africa: Fascinating. Did you have prior knowledge of Isidore Kpotufe, CEO of Rivia and former CMO at Treepz Ghana, or did the interest in your company come about through market discovery? How did the connection with his company begin?

    Victor Nara: I met Isidore last year November at an event in Ghana. I was there to showcase our project designed for SMEs, specifically a point-of-sale system and inventory management software. Isidore spoke about Rivia’s mission to empower SMEs with capital and resources to unlock their full potential. Isidore’s vision for supercharging SMEs resonated with me, especially since our app, already in version 2.0 at the time, was generating revenue and serving customers nationwide. We connected over shared interests, and that’s how our collaboration began. Since then, we’ve been working closely together.

    LaunchBase Africa: Did the idea of selling Waffle to Isidore’s company arise during your initial discussions, or was that a later development?

    Victor Nara: No, selling wasn’t on my mind when I met Isidore. Our decision to partner came from shared values. Isidore’s focus on leveraging technology and resources to support SMEs aligned with what I’ve been passionate about for years. Plus, the idea of sharing the responsibilities of running a company and having a solid team behind you was appealing. It was also about the person himself. Sometimes you just know when there’s potential for a great partnership, and that’s how I felt about Isidore.

    LaunchBase Africa: Given the focus on synergies, why was Waffle’s integration with Rivia termed an acquisition and not a merger?

    Victor Nara: Technically, it’s not a merger. Waffle now operates under Rivia, and its title has become part of Rivia.

    LaunchBase Africa: Okay. Was this acquisition primarily through shares or did it involve a cash component as well?

    Victor Nara: It’s a combination of both. About 98% of it is in stocks, with the remainder being in cash.

    LaunchBase Africa: What made Isidore believe Waffle would be a good fit for Rivia when the acquisition offer was proposed?

    Victor Nara: It was a combination of factors. Firstly, I shared my product with him and provided details about our operations. We also underwent a due diligence process, touching on essential areas. Additionally, he reached out to others within the ecosystem who confirmed their knowledge of me and my work. Beyond that, we engaged in extensive communication and relationship building over several months. We even had the opportunity to meet in person and spend time together. So, it was a comprehensive process involving both personal connection and business viability.

    In all, both Isidore’s personality and our combined skills played significant roles. The synergy between us and our shared values were crucial. While I wasn’t actively seeking acquisition when we first met, the potential for growth and impact through collaboration became apparent as we got to know each other. So, it was a combination of personal rapport and business potential that drove the decision.

    It’s not just about the paperwork; it’s about the kind of person you’re collaborating with.

    LaunchBase Africa: Given your successful exit, Victor, did you have any specific strategies in mind early on to make Waffle attractive for an acquisition?

    Victor Nara: In terms of preparation, I believe staying focused on the long-term vision is key. Founders sometimes get caught up in short-term gains rather than the big picture. When I met Isidore, he appreciated my agility and focus on long-term value over immediate profits. Additionally, providing genuine value to customers is crucial. During due diligence, I showcased the system we built, and its seamless functionality impressed him. So, maintaining focus and delivering value were integral strategies from the beginning.

    LaunchBase Africa: That’s insightful, Victor. Before the acquisition, did Waffle rely solely on bootstrapping, or did you secure external funding?

    Victor Nara: We were bootstrapping entirely. The company was 100% owned by me, and we sustained ourselves through revenue generated by our systems.

    LaunchBase Africa: Looking ahead, considering your current stock acquisition, do you envision staying with the company for the long term, or do you see yourself eventually moving on to new ventures?

    Victor Nara: While I can’t predict the future with certainty, I see this stock acquisition as a significant long-term strategy. With a strong synergy among our team and a shared vision for empowering SMEs, there’s immense potential for growth and impact. So, for the foreseeable future, I envision continuing to contribute to the success of the combined entity. Yes, it’s a long-term play for me. I hope to be actively involved for at least seven years, ideally 11 years.

    LaunchBase Africa: The acquisition deal likely involved extensive documentation. Was your long-term role at the company explicitly addressed in the agreement?

    Victor Nara: We had standard stock options requiring a couple of years of investment. That’s what we had in the contract. However, I’m looking beyond that.

    LaunchBase Africa: With the combined company’s focus on healthcare and potential for growth, are there plans for expansion beyond Ghana or fundraising in the near future?

    Victor Nara: Yes, we’re currently in the market trying to close a couple of rounds. In the long-term projection for Rivia, we plan to scale across Africa and possibly beyond.

    You know, the market and product we have are global, not limited to the African market. That’s what I’ve always said — we’re not building for Africa, but we’re starting with Africa. So, once we succeed here, we can expand to other countries, not just in Africa, but also elsewhere. Our product has global potential. We recently discussed similar needs in Brazil and realized our system could work there too. We plan to expand from Ghana next year or in Q4, then across Africa, and if feasible globally. I’m committed to this project for at least seven years, but hopefully 11 years or more.

    LaunchBase Africa: Reflecting on your experience leading Waffle, what are some standout lessons you learned as a founder, particularly regarding the challenges and opportunities you navigated?

    Victor Nara: For me, it’s essential to always be a student of the game. I wouldn’t have considered this deal under normal circumstances, but sometimes you need to change your thinking to grow. As Jay-Z said, you can own 100% of a $1 million company or 1% of a $100 billion company. I see potential in Rivia, and I think we can achieve something greater together. We can go further than just being lone wolves. Always being a student of the game is crucial.

    Another lesson I’ve learned is to always build where it’s valuable. Instead of just following your passion, follow your passion where it’s valuable. Yes. If your passion isn’t providing value to anyone, you’re probably going to be very hungry for a very long time. Your passion should bring value to people. Founders, especially technical founders, get carried away building products that people don’t need.

     So, for a week now, I haven’t touched code. I just relaxed and thought about what we’re building, letting my mind wander and getting ideas. Tomorrow, I’m going to the field. I’ve pulled the team to the field for a couple of days, and I think that’s what we should do. Get into the field, know what your customers are feeling, know their pain points. Actually, feel their process.

    Build your product, get into the field, and see how they’re using your product. It’s not about building; it’s about providing value. And you achieve that through software. So software shouldn’t be the end goal. The end goal is providing value. And I think founders should learn how to provide value to their market. That’s very important. 

    Finally, personal development. Just build yourself up because your business wouldn’t run without you. You need to be on top of the game for your business to follow suit. So, you need to always, constantly be a student. Like I said, be a student always, as long as you can.

    LaunchBase Africa: Now, you mentioned the new company born out of the acquisition — RiviaCo. How does it work? Can you elaborate on how healthcare services are delivered through RiviaCo? Is there a mobile app or another way for users to interact with the platform?

    Victor Nara: Yes, we have a website. Isidore’s personal experience last year highlighted a common issue. While the treatment he received at a clinic was excellent, the facility itself lacked basic standards. This is a frequent problem in primary care, especially with private clinics. Doctors prioritize good patient care, but facilities often fall short, deterring potential patients. RiviaCo addresses this gap by offering comprehensive support to primary care providers, encompassing financial, managerial, and technological aspects. Our goal is to empower these clinics to deliver exceptional care in a comfortable and efficient environment.

    We focus on ensuring partner clinics meet high facility standards. This creates a welcoming and comfortable environment for patients. We then invest in human resources, providing training for staff on patient care and customer service. This ensures a high-quality experience that goes beyond just the medical treatment. Once these improvements are in place, we actively promote the clinics, encouraging patients to seek the care they deserve.

    And the other aspect we do with technology is where RiviaCo OS comes into play. Our OS allows you to manage your facility end-to-end, from admin to operations, income, expenses, facility management, branches, staff payroll, consultations, prescriptions, telemedicine, and everything. Our system has a video consultation interface. Our website allows patients to book consultations with our partner clinics, either in-person or virtual.

    And going forward, by Q3, we will be extending our marketplace to other platforms like MTN Ayoba, Jumia, and the like.

    LaunchBase Africa: Thanks again for your time today, Victor. It’s been insightful learning about RiviaCo. Best of luck with your continued success!

    Victor Nara: Thanks a lot. Appreciate you having me!

    Charles Rapulu Udoh is a Lagos-based lawyer, who has several years of experience working in Africa’s burgeoning tech startup industry. He has closed multi-million dollar deals bordering on venture capital, private equity, intellectual property (trademark, patent or design, etc.), mergers and acquisitions, in countries such as in the Delaware, New York, UK, Singapore, British Virgin Islands, South Africa, Nigeria etc. He’s also a corporate governance and cross-border data privacy and tax expert. As an award-winning writer and researcher, he is passionate about telling the African startup story, and is one of the continent’s pioneers in this regard.

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