- By Dougal Shaw
- Business reporter, BBC News
A young black entrepreneur with few contacts in the sector, Timothy Armoo, 27, has more than thwarted the odds to obtain investment, develop and sell his start-up.
He grew up in a housing estate in south London and attributes part of his success to a “fluke” as a teenager.
“When I talk to my girlfriend about it, says Mr. Armoo, she says to me, ‘You know you’re not supposed to be able to do this'”.
Mr Armoo founded his social media advertising company, Fanbytes, in 2017 and grew it to employ 65 people.
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The London-based company connects influencers on social media with major brands for promotional work.
He just sold the company to a bigger advertising company called Brainlabs, for an eight-figure sum, he says – both companies private, the exact sum has not been disclosed.
It’s still incredibly difficult for black entrepreneurs to access start-up funding.
According to a recent report by Extend Ventures, less than one per cent of venture capital investment in the UK went to black entrepreneurs between 2009 and 2019 – a figure similar to that in the US.
And recent government statistics suggest that black-owned businesses are four times more likely to have business loan applications rejected than white or South Asian business founders.
Mr Armoo was born in Hackney, London, but moved to live with his grandmother in Ghana when he was three months old, where he remained for ten years.
Returning to London in his early teens, he lived in the housing estate of Mawby House, on the Old Kent Road, in a flat where his father, a first-generation immigrant, also lived.
“I was a poor kid, we never had a lot of money and that gave me steely determination,” Mr Armoo says.
But then he had what he calls “a stroke of luck” when he won a sixth-grade scholarship to a private school, Christ’s Hospital in London, where the boarding fee is more than 12,000 pounds sterling (approximately 9,172,175 CFA francs) per quarter.
“It made me discover a world that I did not know before.
There was a child who, one day, was picked up by helicopter. It opened my eyes and gave me a sense of confidence in what’s possible, even though there weren’t many people who looked like me,” he says.
Timothy Armoo explains that this experience has given him confidence “in the way of speaking in certain circles, in the subjects that we discuss”.
He then used those skills to build Fanbytes to meet investors…
Armoo also capitalized on the growing value of social media influencers, especially in advertising.
Fanbytes recruits social media stars on TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, and has them work with major brands to collaborate on their ad campaigns.
Mr. Armoo started Fanbytes with two other black entrepreneurs and close friends, Ambrose Cooke and Mitchell Fasanya.
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Mr Cooke developed the company’s proprietary algorithm as part of his university thesis at Imperial College London. The algorithm extracts data to find promising influencers on social media, allowing Fanbytes to recruit them before they become popular and expensive.
Today, he works with some of TikTok’s biggest stars, like Rhia from the UK, who is a toy influencer with over 14 million followers, and vlogger Bella Poarch, who has 89 million followers.
Its clients include both Deliveroo and the UK government.
Fanbytes was acquired by Brainlabs, a digital advertising company founded in 2012 by Daniel Gilbert, a former Google employee.
“Influencer marketing has quickly become an integral part of the digital media mix, and influencers have become the new A-listers. So being able to offer it alongside our other capabilities, under one roof, is a huge advantage for our customers”, explains Mr. Gilbert.
TikTok’s ad revenue is expected to triple to $11 billion (about 6,731.3 billion CFA francs), more than the combined ad revenue of Twitter and Snapchat, according to research firm Insider Intelligence.
“Influencer advertising is becoming increasingly important for brands as people spend more and more time looking at content from social media personalities,” says Rebecca McGrath, Mintel’s associate director for media and marketing. technology.
According to a recent Mintel report, nearly one in five (19%) people who viewed influencer content purchased a product or service after seeing an influencer promoting it on social media in the past three months. prior to November 2021.
This means that advertising agencies that still focus on traditional advertising, such as print, could in the future start buying smaller start-ups dedicated specifically to influencers, Ms McGrath says.
Mr. Armoo hopes he can persuade others to follow in his footsteps.
One of the biggest hurdles for black founders, Armoo says, “is that they don’t see other people like them doing it, which would normalize success.” the
“The funding is there, and the opportunities are there,” he adds. Mr. Armoo shared his business tips on his social media accounts.
“I’ve always seen myself as an entrepreneur first and then as a black entrepreneur. Otherwise, you start putting too much emphasis on your race and you start thinking about all the stats about lower finance rates, or the lack of exits, which causes you to play mentally on the defensive,” he advises.
“Be objective, and problem-solve. Focus on being so good they can’t ignore you,” recommends Timothy Armoo.