As Netflix’s third season of the reality-dating show “Love Is Blind” airs this month, one cast member is looking for love — and for up-and-coming early-stage tech startups to invest in. 
Sikiru “SK” Alagbada, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, is currently a student at the University of California at Berkeley Haas School of Business in the class of 2023, and plans to work in early-stage venture-capital investing after graduation. His decision to go to school in California became a major plot point on the reality show, but his investing experience dates back before stardom. He’s done some angel investing, both solo and with a syndicate, into tech startups in Africa, and it’s helped him build a founder-focused philosophy for investments, Alagbada told Insider. 
“I’m always curious about a variety of topics, and it just kind of feeds into my nature,” he said. “Working in the startup world and investing in venture really helps me satisfy that craving of wanting to learn about new fields, new sectors, and new technologies.”
Alagbada worked for over seven years as a data engineer for large companies like General Motors and JPMorgan, but wanted to learn more about the businesses behind the technology, he told Insider. In the months before he started at UC Berkeley, Alagbada found out he had been cast in the third season of “Love Is Blind” and couldn’t pass up the opportunity, he said.
While he was careful not to give away any spoilers for the third season’s final episode on November 9, including his current relationship status with his on-screen fiancée Raven Ross, Alagbada shared that the experience of connecting with people in the pods helped him with networking in his professional life.
 “You were forced to open your mind and connect with someone mind-first, before you’ve seen them,” he said. “Going on ‘Love Is Blind’ really helped develop that communication muscle in me.”
Since starting at UC Berkeley last year, Alagbada has dived headfirst into the venture world. He interned with the longtime investor Neil Devani’s Necessary Ventures in the spring of 2022, and serves as the president of UC’s Africa Business Club, which recruits and supports students from Africa that want to build tech companies, he said. He is also the co-chair of Strategy and Partnerships for the UC LAUNCH Accelerator program, a three-month startup accelerator for early-stage startups started by affiliates of the University of California school system.
“It’s almost like a mini-YC,” he said, referring to the famous Silicon Valley startup accelerator, Y Combinator.
In his role, Alagbada works to design the overall vision of the program and reviews applications that come in for the accelerator. He also works to secure partnerships and funding from outside LPs, or limited partners, who will put up capital for the accelerator, and other sponsors. Through LAUNCH, current UC students, alumni, or faculty that haven’t raised more than $1 million in dilutive funding can apply for funding.  
At the cohort’s final Demo Day, the top three winners will get some non-dilutive funding from the program’s $55,000 pool, divided up in accordance with their rankings. There’s also an audience-choice award for the fan favorite of the group that wins some funding as well. 
Because of his varied investing experience, Alagbada has developed a certain set of criteria to look for when evaluating startups. 
He looks for startups that have a clear “founder-market fit,” whether it’s in terms of technical expertise or a strong network, Alagbada told Insider. That means that it should be clear why that founder would be building a startup in a certain sector, and that they could easily convince an investor that they are the right person to lead their company. His background in data engineering can be an advantage for him in evaluating this.
“Doing due diligence for those kinds of companies is more than just the business side, right? You want someone who understands how they do engineering work, where the future of data engineering is going,” he told Insider.
When it comes to his personal investing, Alagbada prioritizes startups based in Africa. “Now that I’m in a position where I’m able to do more for the ecosystem, I’ve made it a point for me to help connect African startups to Silicon Valley capital,” he said.
Two examples of startups he has backed in the region are Spleet, a proptech company based in Nigeria that builds infrastructure for rent collection, and SmartWage, a human resources-tech startup that distributes payslips via WhatsApp. 
But the one quality that Alagbada will not negotiate on is having some kind of diversity on the founding team, he said. Whether it’s with regard to race, gender, or diversity of thought and experience, it means a founding team is open to new ideas, which will make the company stronger in the long run, Alagbada said. 
He looks for founders that are “resilient” and that can “think outside the box,” he told Insider. When the company inevitably runs into a problem, it will give him confidence that “if things go dark, this person is not going to give up.” 
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