Kendall Ananyi on Investing in an Internet Provider – My Oxio Story
Oxio’s $100 Million acquisition by Cogeco, a Canadian telecommunications and media company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange closed in Q1 2023. This successful sale marks the culmination of my first investment in an Internet Service Provider and a Canadian startup, and it fills me with immense pride as someone who has always been fascinated by broadband internet in Canada.
My journey with Oxio brings me full circle, harking back to nearly 20 years ago when I was a graduate student in Canada. Back then, my university was among the first to introduce Campus Wide Wi-Fi, sparking my interest in the potential of widespread internet connectivity. In fact, I even wrote a blog post in 2006 http://www.kendall-online.com/blog/2006/01/24-hours-with-24-ghzno-pun-intended-wi.html, making predictions about the services that would emerge with the proliferation of the internet. I made it a personal goal to build my own internet provider after completing my studies.
This ambition materialized with Tizeti, one of the largest internet providers in Africa, and it also influenced my decision to become an angel investor in Oxio when I discovered the startup in early 2021. I share this story to express my gratitude to the founders and team members of the companies I have invested in, which differs from the norm where investors typically explain their initial investment decisions. While making investments may be relatively easy, achieving a successful exit is far more challenging. I consider myself blessed and fortunate to have experienced exits, such as with Paystack, Flutterwave, Reliance Health Sharing the entire journey allows me to share the success of exceptional founders who have triumphed against all odds and provided their investors with returns.
Oxio was one of the 12 Canadian startups that demoed their startup at the YC Winter 2021 demo day, with a vision to build the world’s first global digital internet service provider. Intrigued by their mission, I reached out to Marc, Oxio’s co-founder and CEO, on LinkedIn to introduce myself. We scheduled a call, and I decided to make a small investment to support Oxio’s ambition of creating a global ISP based in Canada.
Following my investment, I publicly announced my decision at Tizeti’s inaugural NextGen event and also shared our investments in other internet service providers. https://businessday.ng/companies/article/tizeti-announces-partnership-with-5m-fund-for-african-startup-isps/
Oxio Series A
I was extremely bullish about Oxio, and my confidence continued to grow with each investor update. Oxio’s $20M Series A was one of the fastest (3 months after their seed) and it was led by the firm one of the most respected investors in the Telecom space, Xavier Niel – The founder of Free.Fr. When I learnt about their Series A, I followed on my investment with an additional investment.
During this period, I also helped provide a diligence check on an African investor who wrote a larger check into the round. One of the joys of being an angel investor is the opportunity to help startups in various ways and I had previously interacted with the investor when they had sent a termsheet to acquire a majority stake Tizeti in late 2020 but the timing wasn’t right to sell. We did leave on great terms and was happy to help both the investor and Marc close the investment into Oxio.
Earlier this year as the tech sector experienced a downturn, I reached out to Marc to catch up on Oxio’s progress and shortly before we could get to meet I received an invite for a stockholder meeting to share they had received an acquisition offer from Cogeco, which I found incredibly exciting. Subsequently I read about their decision to sell https://oxio.ca/en/blog/articles/why-sell-to-cogeco, I couldn’t help but feel a touch of FOMO, reflecting on my own choice not to sell a majority stake the previous year.
I was so excited the acquisition successfully closed, especially given the constant stream of negative news in the tech media, highlighting layoffs and startups going out of business. Through my investment in Oxio, I am grateful to have made a positive impact on the telecommunications landscape in Canada, where I initially experienced the wonders of 24-hour broadband internet. My dedication to supporting internet access remains unwavering, and I am constantly on the lookout for more opportunities to invest in ISPs and startups worldwide.
As Oxio embarks on its new journey as Gaiia, I extend my best wishes to Marc and the entire team. I am confident they will continue to make significant strides in the industry, and I am excited to witness and cheer on their future achievements.
Learnings for Angel Investors:
- Support the founders and teams: Sharing the end-to-end story of your investments allows you to appreciate and acknowledge the efforts of the founders and teams who have worked tirelessly to achieve success. It also highlights the challenges they faced and the lessons learned along the way.
- Angel investing goes beyond capital: As an angel investor, you have the opportunity to contribute more than just financial resources. You can offer your expertise, network, and support to help startups in various ways, such as facilitating connections, providing due diligence checks, or offering guidance based on your own experiences.
- Trust your instincts: Investing in startups involves assessing their potential and trusting your instincts. In my case, my fascination with broadband internet and my personal goal of building an internet provider drove my decision to invest in Oxio. Trusting your passion and intuition can lead to promising investment opportunities.
- Building a diverse portfolio: Investing in a range of startups within a particular industry or across different sectors can help mitigate risks and increase the chances of success. My investment in another internet service provider apart from Tizeti, demonstrates the value of diversification in my portfolio.
- Stay informed and connected: Keeping up with industry trends, attending events, and actively engaging with founders and investors can help you identify potential investment opportunities. By staying informed and connected, you increase your chances of discovering startups that align with your investment thesis and goals.
- Embrace the journey: Angel investing is a long-term commitment, and success doesn’t always come overnight. Embrace the ups and downs of the journey, learn from both successes and failures, and remain patient and resilient. Investing is a continuous learning process, and each investment provides valuable insights and experiences.
- Seek exits strategically: Timing and opportunities for exits can be crucial in maximizing returns on your investments. Pay attention to market conditions, the startup’s growth trajectory, and potential acquisition offers. Making informed decisions about exits can significantly impact the overall success of your angel investing journey.
- Share your story: By sharing your investment experiences and successes, you contribute to the wider angel investing community. Your insights and learnings can inspire and educate others, fostering a supportive ecosystem for both investors and startups.
- Remember, angel investing is a personal journey, and each investor will have their unique approach and learnings. It’s essential to adapt your strategies and continuously learn from experiences to make the most of your investments.