Meet the Investor: Hayden Simmons, Rally Cap Ventures

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After a career working in fintech, it seems only natural that Hayden Simmons would wind up founding a global community of fintech angels.

Having graduated from Colorado College in 2007, majoring in Economic Development and Spanish, with a thesis on collectivised remittances in Mexico, Simmons then spent four years at Financial Identity as a Service (FiDaaS) company Juvo, leading strategic partnerships across Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, before helping credit startup Migo expand from Nigeria into Latin America.

He then joined Facebook, on the Novi team, working on a variety of BD and market strategy projects, and is now founder of Rally Cap Ventures, a global community of fintech angels investing in and alongside an exclusive portfolio of early-stage emerging market funds. 

Also a venture partner at Lateral Capital, leading their fintech arm, Simmons told Disrupt Africa the stimulation to become an investor in African startups stemmed from his time at Juvo.

“I spent a lot of time crisscrossing the continent, partnering with telcos and banks; while those channels are, universally, a long and exhausting slog, I loved meeting early-stage fintech founders. That evolved into advising, which in turn led to angel investing. As I contemplated how I could be most impactful on the ecosystem, living in the US, venture became the obvious path forward,” he said.

Rally Cap Ventures is a community of fintech-centric angel investors, largely founders and operators, looking to become more involved with early-stage emerging market startup ecosystems. 

“Everyone told me that raising my first fund would be the hardest, so I figured why not instead leverage established, reputable, high-performing local fund managers? We then bridge that deal flow to the LP community I’ve been developing for a decade,” Simmons said. 

“The energy and excitement we’re already seeing within the community, for advisory and co-investment opportunities, is super encouraging.”

Rally Cap’s LPs are all fintech experts from companies like Plaid, Stripe, Facebook, PayPal and Remitly. 

“They’ve rolled up their sleeves and know what it takes to scale both B2B and B2C fintechs across multiple markets and are now excited to help enable the development of similar ecosystems across Africa, LatAm, and, soon, Southeast Asia,” Simmons said.

The company has raised nearly US$1 million on the fund-of-funds side, to invest across three funds in Africa and three in Latin America. In fact, Rally Cap raised more for Africa than Simmons had anticipated, so it has also set up a reserve allocation for direct investments and co-investments into pre-seed fintechs. Through this, it has so far taken part in rounds raised by Nigerian startups Mono and Pngme.

“We’re extremely excited about the API economies in Africa, looking to identify the infrastructure players that will enable truly scalable, pan-African consumer applications. Both Mono and Pngme will play critical roles in helping other fintechs better access consumers’ financial and identity data, make better decisions, manage risk and scale,” Simmons said.

Primarily interested in pre-seed and seed fintechs on the B2B side, Rally Cap wants to invest in companies that have a clear path towards pan-African, and even global, success. Beyond simply capital, the fund has a lot of expertise to add.

“Our LPs are all in Rally Cap because they want to advise and work directly with both our partner funds’ managers and portfolio companies’ founders. I’m not sure there’s another investment vehicle operating in Africa with this much operational talent, experience and commitment to inclusive fintech,” said Simmons.

Rally Cap will likely raise additional funds to manage both directly and indirectly, via its partner funds, while it is also planning a few more direct investments into pre-seed fintechs. 

COVID-19, rather than posing too many challenges, has actually assisted the fund to some extent in its early days.

“We’re all about fintech, which requires digitalisation of payments, so COVID has provided serious tailwinds for many of the companies we’re working with and talking to. Nobody can predict the future, and we miss being on the ground in Africa, but our current model has really just been a doubling-down on our core thesis,” Simmons said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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