Africa is the leading continent in terms of the increasing number of women business owners. Interestingly, a report claims that women in Africa are more likely than men to be entrepreneurs as women make up 58% of Africa’s self-employed population.
Many of Africa’s female entrepreneurs venture into business because they have identified a problem, an inefficiency, or a cause of frustration in the market; as such, they develop innovative solutions that can address it, making lives easier and better in the process.
It is against this backdrop that we had a chat with Tamzin Lovell-Miller, Founder of Artfundi, a Cape Town-based art inventory management solution that enables galleries, collectors, and artists to track and manage artworks across locations.
Here, she describes her journey as a techpreneur, talks about Artfundi as well as significant trends she foresees within the ecosystem among other things.
What is your background like?
I was always equally interested in science and arts and have done both throughout my working life until at last, I have managed to combine them in my art tech startup.
I’ve had jobs in atomic absorption spectroscopy, photo-journalism, data analysis, communication research, consulting, and art galleries. And while they may seem very different at a glance, to me they all come from the same place – inquiry.
Can you tell us about your company?
Artfundi was born from the need to solve a problem I was experiencing when I opened my first art gallery. Having just come from corporate consulting, I was amazed at the lack of business systems available to help me and my team run an efficient business.
We were battling to keep track of everything in a way that could easily be accessed by the team from anywhere, and we were wasting money on designers for exhibition collateral and website updates.
Because I couldn’t find anything suitable and affordable, I designed our own software system, which we then used for numerous years in Cape Town and later in the London gallery.
In 2018, I decided to develop the software into a global SaaS business. The timing was perfect because the art world had lagged quite far behind other industries in terms of digital transformation, and it was just beginning to shift.
It made good business sense because the opportunity is sizeable and global, and I had an advantage having been my own customer for years already.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I never made a decision to be an entrepreneur. I opened an art gallery and discovered a passion for the art world that ended ‘work’ for me, yet at the same time it seemed unnecessarily difficult to succeed; so in the process of just making things better, the need for this software became obvious.
Now, I want everyone to have it. I have a mission to help others succeed faster. This way more people can make a living doing what they love, and we can grow the creative economy.
I will say this, I’ve run 3 previous businesses, a consultancy, and two art galleries, and a startup is completely different. This is the first time I have felt like an entrepreneur. The pace is faster, the learning curve steeper, and it is so much more exciting.
Were there challenges you faced as a female founder at any point during your entrepreneurial journey?
I’ve often been nicknamed ’the fortunate one’ and this is a point in case. I haven’t experienced any specific discrimination, but the general stats tell their own story – females are underrepresented and underfunded.
There is plenty of research evidence that female-founded startups perform better and generate higher ROI. First Round Capital, for example, found that the female-founder companies it had funded performed 63% better than their male founding teams.
A Boston Consulting Group study among 350 startups revealed that, for every dollar of investment raised, female-run startups generated 78 cents in revenue, whereas male-run startups generated only 31 cents. So the bias doesn’t make logical sense, and I suspect it will improve quite soon.
What impact did COVID-19 have on Artfundi?
The global lockdowns have caused turmoil in the art world, which relied so heavily on in-person events and face-to-face relationship-building. Art fairs, as the center-points of the industry’s activity, were particularly devastated.
We responded by creating an art fairs SaaS product, allowing all the participates to collaborate, reducing workload, and allowing a fair to run a fully-online version. This increased our user numbers significantly.
What plans do you have for Artfundi in 2021?
This will be a growth year for us, and we’re very excited about this stage of our startup. We will also be focusing on communicating more of our purpose and what drives us as a brand.
It’s much more than product features and benefits, it is about the reason we’re all in this in the first place – the love of the art.
We’ll also be raising our first funding round this year, which will enable us to accelerate our growth and bring some developments on our roadmap forward.
Having bootstrapped the business up to now, we are at the right stage to provide value quickly to investment partners and they can make a big difference to us during this gear-shift. So I’m really looking forward to that.
What future trends do you foresee happening in Africa’s tech ecosystem?
One thing that Covid19 appears to have done is opened up and connect the global tech ecosystem, which will benefit micro-ecosystems everywhere including Africa. It’s been easier to get meetings with investors and other founders, the number of accelerators and VC funds has increased.
There are more alternative sources of funding. Also, there is an increased consciousness for mentorship and support up and down the system. I have mentors, and I am also mentoring. There are more collaboration and online learning than ever before.
I believe Africa is poised for big growth. It’s a hugely innovative continent that has been under-invested for some time, and that’s changing. So I foresee a lot more investment into tech, especially mobile, fintech, edtech, and SME business solutions.
Do you have words of advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs in Africa?
Seek out opportunities to learn as much as possible. Join an incubator or accelerator if you can. Talk to your potential customers, a lot. Be brave.
What do you do to relax?
Lately, I find the best relaxation is adventure motorbiking, which I do with my husband. It gets me out into nature, it’s a physical challenge, I can’t look at my phone and it forces me to be in the moment for hours at a time.
Featured Image: Tamzin Lovell-Miller, Founder, Artfundi
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