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VC firm, Ventures Platform, explains steps taken to save Thrive Agric

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Thrive Agric

Over the last few weeks, much has been reported about the challenges Thrive Agric has had throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and how these challenges have, unfortunately, adversely affected some of their crowdfund subscribers.

However, what might not be so apparent is the work being done behind the scenes, to rectify and repair the situation, by ensuring subscribers are repaid in a timely manner, says Ventures Platform.

TechEconomy.ng understands that Thrive Agric is one of Ventures Platforms’ portfolio companies. “We invested in the agritech start-up in 2017. As early-stage investors, we take our role in how our portfolio companies operate and their overall corporate governance, very seriously”.

Backstory:

Launched in beta at the end of 2016 and to the public early in 2017, Thrive Agric is a crowdfunding platform that provides farmers with the finance they need to grow their businesses and offers ordinary people the chance to invest in agriculture.

TechEconomy.ng investigations show that the company has been owing investors from as far back as April.

Since then, unpaid subscribers have become frustrated by the lack of information emanating from the startup, with many signing an ultimatum demanding Thrive Agric pay up to NGN50 million (US$110,000) owed to subscribers of its farm investment programme.

In a recent email signed by its Chief Executive Officer, Uka Eje, (Efe has stepped down) Thrive Agric informed investors that repayment will be on a first-come-first-served basis.

Eje and Ayo Arikawe, co-founders of the company, said the business was not fully prepared for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Thrive Agric primary revenue source is based on a successful harvest (inclusive of crops and poultry),” the email read.

Ventures Platform steps in:

Narrating how they are working to salvage the situation, Ventures Platform, in release said:

“Once alerted to the fact the company was facing some operational challenges, Ventures Platforms’ experienced senior management team and hired consultants intervened, working with the Thrive Agric founders to put in place deliberate and swift actions, to not only ensure repayment of investments to subscribers but also to realign the business for the long term.

“Together, with Thrive Agric, we identified that one of the core issues was around sub-optimal communication between the company, its subscribers and additional stakeholders.

“Working with the Thrive Agric Team, Ventures Platform has overseen the improvement of communication through the following:

Communication to subscribers via email, with a more complete explanation of how COVID-19 impacted farming operations with an expectation of repayment horizon

The commencement of active communications with concerned subscribers, via Zoom calls

The release of a robust FAQ online via Twitter which addresses many of their subscribers’ and stakeholders’ key concerns

“We are sufficiently happy with this important first step, and expect a more open and transparent line of communication between Thrive Agric and interested parties, in the coming weeks and months.

“Additionally, Ventures Platform has also taken some important strategic steps with the Thrive Agric management team, including:

Engaging actively with the founders to develop and implement a step-by-step plan to get the company back on track;

The ordering of a thorough review of the company’s financial and non-financial operations to fully understand the scale of the problem;

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Supporting the company in strengthening their senior leadership such that they can frontally deal with these issues. The Thrive Agric team will communicate more on this very soon; and

Providing bridge debt to help liquidate some of the outstanding to subscribers.

“The actions we have taken alongside the Thrive Agric team, in this short period, are already yielding some small successes; but we know there is a lot more to do.

“Whilst a lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to deliver these results, we are fully aware that the hard work starts here – and we will continue to push the entire Thrive Agric team, to return investments to subscribers, and rebuild the trust that has been lost in what has been an extremely challenging year”.

Leadership shuffle

The agri-tech startup has shuffled its management team, a move that involves replacing its co-founder as chief executive officer (CEO), as it looks to turn the business around after failing to payout subscribers in time in the wake of a slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The startup said in a statement it has shuffled its management team and made some new recruitments, in what it refers to as “organisational changes to steer the business out of her current challenges”.

Uka Eje, who co-founded Thrive Agric in 2017 with Ayodeji Arikawe, has stepped down as chief executive officer (CEO) to become chief operations officer (COO), while Adia Sowho, who until May was vice president for growth at well-funded fintech startup Migo, has been appointed as interim CEO to implement the startup’s turnaround strategy.

Adia Sowho

Interim CEO of Thrive Agric, Adia Sowho

“Adia has a lot of experience with building businesses from the ground up and shaping them to operate at scale. I asked her to support us, recognising that she has the required expertise to move us past this period successfully,” Eje said.

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“She is here to guide Thrive Agric through a turnaround exercise so that we survive the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the business.”

The startup has also appointed a new chief financial officer (CFO), and somebody else to handle risk management and compliance. It says it will be able to repay all payments in 12-24 months.

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