Investors at Nigeria-based stock investment app, Risevest, have recommended that the company’s founder and CEO, Eke Eleanya Urum, step down from his role due to ongoing investigations into allegations of sexual and non-sexual impropriety, according to a statement seen by TechCabal.
“Following allegations of sexual and non-sexual impropriety from someone who can be reasonably expected to have knowledge of such, investors of Risevest have asked Eke Urum to step aside from his role as founder and CEO and an independent investigation is ongoing,” a part of the statement reads.
TechCabal has since established that Eke was first notified of the allegations against him by the investors on August 1st.
“I was told on the evening of August 1 by investors that someone reached out that there were allegations of bullying, sexual harassment, and intimidation,” Eke told TechCabal over a call. “They didn’t say by whom, but I was told to step aside so an independent panel could carry out an investigation.”
He stepped down two days later.
Eke claims he doesn’t know who’s behind the allegation and is patiently waiting for the outcome of the investigation.
“We [investors, investigative panel and the Risevest team] all agreed that it’s best for the panel to complete their investigation without any external noise, else it’ll add bias to the investigation or preempt the outcome,” Eke said.
Founded in 2019 by Bosun Olanrewaju, Eke Urum, and Tony Odiba, Risevest allows Africans to invest in foreign investment opportunities. The company’s last funding was an undisclosed seed round in March 2021. And its disclosed funding to date is a $120,000 seed round from July 2020. In August 2021, Risevest, which then had over 12,000 people present in its Telegram learning community, was one of four fintech companies whose accounts the Nigerian central bank froze for 180 days for engaging in speculative trading that allegedly weakened the naira against the dollar. Two months later, in October, the company overturned the order.
In his place, the company’s current head of operations, Tony Odiba, will be acting CEO. Otasowie Evbuomwan, will lead its US operations. Investors have committed to supporting them settle into their new roles in light of the ongoing investigation. They have also assured the company’s stakeholders that depositors’ funds are safe, as the ongoing investigation does not concern financial impropriety.
Back in February 2021, TechCabal published a story where a former employee of Risevest, Efe, accused Eke in a Medium post of creating a stifling work environment where criticism was unwelcome. Efe, who before leaving the startup, was its head of marketing, accused Eke of a breach of contract because he had fired her for not wanting to work at the startup’s physical office due to COVID concerns. Eke had initially called the allegations “blatant half truths”. But in another interview with TechCabal, he took responsibility for the allegations and apologised.
This incident is the latest in the trend of Nigerian tech CEOs being ousted for misconduct.
In August 2021, Favour Ori, CEO of WeJapa, a tech talent-matching startup, was asked to step aside by Microtraction, the startup’s investor, for allegedly underpaying and refusing to pay freelance software developers; and berating and undermining them over disagreements.
Earlier this year, TechCabal’s investigation into the activities of Ebunoluwa Okunbanjo, founder and CEO of Bento Africa, a payroll management startup, culminated in a decision by the company’s board of directors to make Okunbanjo take a backseat in the management of the company.
During the same period that Okunbanjo’s story came out, Eke was accused by an unknown person of sexual harrassment, an accusation he publicly disputed.
“There’s a part of me that’s wondering if it’s the same situation coming up again. I don’t know whether its the same person or a new person,” Eke said. “But my response to that situation was very public. It was a lie and it wasn’t someone who worked with me at Rise, it was someone I hired to do some personal research.”
Throughout the conversation with TechCabal, Eke maintained his intention not to preempt the outcome of the investigation.
The investigation panel set up to look into allegations includes TVC Labs’ Tomi Davies (TD) as chair; TLP Advisory’s Odunoluwa Longe as legal adviser, and The People Practice’s Toun Tunde-Anjous as people and culture adviser.
“Risevest’s investors strongly oppose any form of harassment and impropriety and will carry out extensive measures to investigate all allegations,” the remainder of the company’s statement reads. “To this end, the panel is allowing for a period of time for former employees of Risevest to share information that may assist with the investigation, whilst simultaneously speaking with current employees of Risevest.”