Africa's rising stars: Danladi Verheijen, co-founder and CEO of Verod Capital Management
As CEO of private equity firm Verod Capital, Danladi Verheijen typifies the good old-fashioned nature of PE as a growth- rather than debt-inducing asset class through efforts to maximize the underlying fundamentals of a project and develop sustainable strategies to optimize income from its operations.
One of Verheijen’s most successful investments was in aluminium-can manufacturing company GZ Industries (GZI), which Verod invested in in 2009. Since then, annual capacity at the factory has doubled from 600 million cans to 1.2 billion. In January 2013, Verod successfully exited the company by selling its stake to Standard Chartered and Ashmore.
“Verod were a fantastic firm to work with,” says Peter Baird, head of private equity at Standard Chartered. “They did an amazing job at developing GZI into a world-class business by the time we entered. I would probably invest in any Standard Chartered client that Verheijen works with.”
Spinlet, hailed by some as the African Spotify, is another venture that Verheijen is hoping to take to the next level. “Spinlet was actually a Finnish company that we acquired – a unique acquisition in itself," he says. "But the point is that you don’t need to invent new ideas to be successful in Africa. You can easily take business concepts from other countries and adapt them for the African context. Execution is what truly matters.”
For the moment, Verheijen’s focus is Nigeria and will remain this way for some time as his narrow focus allows him to personally monitor all on his portfolio – the key to capacity building and skills transfer, which many smaller Nigerian companies need.
“Nigeria accounts for over 60% of west African GDP and this is a big enough market for us right now,” says Verheijen. "If we sought to have investments across the continent, we wouldn't be able to offer the same personalized attention.”
Verheijen started his career as a business analyst and consultant at McKinsey in Chicago after completing a Master's degree in business and engineering at Stanford University.
“I wanted to be in Chicago because the McKinsey branch there had the most African consultants,” says Verheijen. “Of around 4,000 consultants globally, only 80 of them were black, 20 of them were in Chicago and six or seven of these were African. I thought it would be a great place to start my career.”
After a relatively short stint at McKinsey, Verheijen made the decision to return to his home country of Nigeria. At the time, Nigeria was making the transition from a military dictatorship to a democracy with the advent of the first civilian-elected government. Political reform in Nigeria was setting the stage for social and economic change which Verheijen was keen to experience.
While back in Nigeria, Verheijen worked for Ocean & Oil Holdings and Citi before taking the leap to set up Verod Capital with a friend in early 2008.