Vazi Legal is an innovation-driven law firm that exists to simplify legal services delivery for African startups and early-stage investors.
The importance of access to legal services that is contextual to our growing technology ecosystem in Africa today cannot be overemphasized. However, many traditional law firms on the continent still do not understand how to provide legal services to startups.
Startups are unique and aren’t like regular businesses, so they require legal services that are tailored, and at the same time flexible enough to be adaptable to a startup’s business needs and reality.
This is the gap Vazi Legal was set up to fulfill.
Who is behind Vazi Legal?
We are currently set up as a close network of startup focused lawyers qualified to practice in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom. Most of our lawyers are qualified in at least two different jurisdictions.
Another thing we are set up to do is bridge the gap between local law and international law. Many startups in Africa raise money from outside the continent. What this means is that these startups usually need lawyers in their home country as well as lawyers in the foreign jurisdiction – so we act as a one-stop-shop for that since our lawyers are qualified in some of the most vibrant investor markets in the world.
On the flip side, we also provide legal services to foreign investors who are looking to invest in Nigeria, Kenya or South Africa. Our investor clients also find the multiple qualifications extremely valuable.
My name is Moe Odele and I am Managing Partner at Vazi Legal. Prior to this, I worked for a boutique, Impact Investing consulting firm operating in the UAE, Europe, Southeast Asia and North America. Before that, I worked for a New York City based Non-profit that provided pro-bono legal services to social entrepreneurs, impact investors, communities impacted by large scale development projects and to governments.
I started my career in Nigeria until I moved to the United States for school. I attended Columbia University and right after that worked with the University as a Post-Doctoral Research Scholar.
While here, I co-published several papers on access to legal services amongst others and these were presented at the United Nations, the World Bank and even to the U.K. Parliament.
After some years of doing international work, I realized that what I really wanted to do was contribute to the technology landscape in Africa and that’s how Vazi Legal was born. Before Vazi Legal was formally set up, I had always provided legal services to Nigerian-based startups so I have about 7/8 years of experience doing this and a lot of my early clients are now recognisable names in the technology ecosystem.
Additionally, because of the way we are structured, we can afford to bring on regulatory, international tax, intellectual property and other specialists in a way that flexible and affordable enough for startups, medium-sized investment funds and family offices.
Our clients are typically early stage investors and growing companies, especially the ones looking to raise capital. We’ve had clients in some of the top technology accelerator programs such as Google Launchpad Africa, 500 Startups and Tech Stars.
We are sector agnostic and work with folks in agriculture, education, healthcare and fintech. We also have several clients working on frontier technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence.
In terms of legal expertise, we are focused on early stage investing, intellectual property protection, impact investing and fund formation.
I am excited about Gender Practice Area and in my professional life, I have done a lot of work on gender-lens investing and courtesy of this experience, I’ve seen how unconscious bias affects even business decisions. So, one of the things we help our clients do is develop corporate legal strategies and policies that are responsive to gender and inclusivity.
Our role in the ecosystem
As much as the technology ecosystem is growing in Africa, we need to understand that to ensure sustainable growth, we need to bring the service providers along as well. No ecosystem can grow only with technology companies.
We need lawyers, accountants, business development and public relations experts that understand what it means to service startups and innovation driven companies.
One of the things we do is organise trainings for lawyers who want to become part of the ecosystem. These trainings take place every quarter and so far, we are excited about the impact of this project.
We have now trained over 50 budding startup lawyers across the continent and are hoping to double that number by the end of the year.
I am also a mentor on several programs focused on growing the ecosystem such as Google Launchpad Africa, and Replash – a training initiative set up by Microtraction – one of the most active early stage investors in Nigeria.
For us, participating in the ecosystem like this is a long term play and we are certain that when the story of the ecosystem is told, Vazi Legal will have a line in there somewhere!
Modupe Odele is an International Attorney and Business Consultant who is focused on Startup advisory and Impact Investing. She is the Impact Investing and Social Enterprise Lead of a boutique Consulting firm with offices in London, the UAE and the United States. She also runs a social enterprise called “Scale My Hustle” which is focused on providing resources to enable entrepreneur’s better structure their business. Moe has a Master’s degree from Columbia University where she graduated as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, a David Leebron Human Rights Fellow, a Salzburg Lloyd N. Cutler International Law Fellow and a recipient of a fellowship from the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment.