1. Adaobi Adibe, 20
School: University of Manchester
Course: Electrical and Electronic Engineering (BEng)
Grade Avg: 2:1
‘The reason why I am interested in technology is because I think it is going to change everything that we do. And the reason why I’m specifically interested in venture capital is because less than one per cent of technological entrepreneurs are black and the only way this is going to change is if we have black venture capitalists, who are able to invest in them.’ Adaobi is passionate about change, and is actively working hard to plot a strategic path to ensure that it comes about in such a critical and complex area. The world is already at full throttle in the digital revolution, but where does the African and African Caribbean community fit in, not just as participants but with a seat at the main table? Adaobi Adibe has made it to the number one spot on this year’s list because she has not only asked the question. She is equipping herself and others to be part of the solution. Her dream to see more black venture capitalists led to her applying and being selected as a student VC at Campus Capital, a firm that partners with some of the UK’s leading universities to build early stage, high growth investment funds for B2B businesses in the technology sector. It is one of the first on-campus student venture capital groups in the UK and Adaobi was chosen to take part after a tough selection process. In fact, she made so much of an impression, she was appointed as team leader of the University of Manchester cohort, overseeing 17 other students who meet with investors, interview founders and do due diligence etc. Under the supervision of the Campus Capital board, the student VCs are responsible for handling a live £2million fund, which focuses on pre-seed to series start-ups, investing sums of £50,000 to £200,000 to burgeoning tech firms in the Manchester city regions. Adaobi is also in charge of the recruitment process for the company and provides a sense of direction for the team in terms of investment decisions and structure. Her passion for technology and tackling the lack of BME participation in this field is something that has fueled a lot of the extracurricular work she does. Following a summer internship, she now has a freelance role at Accelerated Digital Ventures, a reputable sustainable investment engine, designed to source, support and supercharge the best global technology businesses. Here, she is responsible for going over pitch decks, assisting to set up office hours, attending and contributing to work meetings and providing any other input where necessary. Not content to just be a key part of these major organisations, Adaobi has also started her own initiative. In December 2016, she co-founded The Sisterhood Movement, a network for BME women to develop extracurricular skills, by receiving encouragement in career and personal development, particularly concerning the world of tech. The organisation has held a series of powerful events and sessions, including workshops to teach young girls coding, self-confidence and time management, while another event titled: ‘Black Women in Venture Capital’ was a panel discussion featuring notable movers and shakers in the global VC world, such as Gary Stewart (Director of Wayra UK and previous associate professor at IE business school), David Fogel (co-founder and investment lead of venture capital firm Accelerated Digital Ventures) and Paris Petgrave (founder and CEO of Welovework and founder of Rare Seed Capital). Adaobi was selected out of over 1,000 applications for one of 360 places on the Merit 360 program, a high pro le and significant youth programme which brings together 360 young leaders from around the globe to tackle the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. For this project she is a member of one of 16 teams, CAREforseven, a group of 14 young energy professionals from 11 countries who have come together via their common interest in bringing affordable and clean energy to communities that lack it. In September 2017, the team pitched their project to a prestigious audience at the Houses of Parliament, during this year’s WorldMerit360 event. During her first year, Adaobi was chief editor of her school (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) magazine The Orb.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? With my own venture capitalist fund and aiding the first black woman to become the founder and CEO of a unicorn company.