Investor Talk: Reflections on 2015

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2015 has been a great – and busy – year for the startup ecosystem across Africa. Over the past few weeks of December, here at Disrupt Africa we have reminisced about all our favourite aspects of the year (we hope you enjoyed our reflections!). But we thought we should give the investors a turn too. So, here are some investor reflections on 2015.

Andrew Carruthers, managing director, Novastar Ventures:

“For Novastar, getting to our maximum fund size of US$80 million is a milestone, but perhaps more importantly, when put alongside people like Energy Access Ventures raising their fund (EUR55 million/US$60.18 million) and others (Zoescales in Ethiopia US$50 million), suggests that the talk amongst DFI’s and commercial investors about impact investing and private sector led growth strategies is being followed up by the walk of writing cheques!  Good for the ecosystem generally.

Bigger fundings of things like Off-Grid Electric and M-KOPA also point to the growing scale and seriousness of activity in the region.  These are not traditional infrastructure or commodity deals, they are new, innovative approaches to serving the mass low-income market.

On the downside, currency devaluations in the East African region and ongoing corruption / bad governance shows no sign of changing quickly, this places strain on the outcome of these bigger deals which are investing in businesses that don’t have hard currency exports and will start bumping into legislators/ politicians as they get to scale.

Still no big exits of note yet to validate the venture asset class.”

Bunmi Akinyemiju, chief executive officer of Venture Garden Group:

“2015 has witnessed a surge of activities in the financial technology (fintech) space in West Africa. We have seen several startups spring up and raise capital – PaySimple, ESL, etc.  We have seen several get seed funded by local incubators and accelerators, as well as global competitions – DEMO Africa, TechCrunch UK and top accelerators such as YCombinator. This is pretty exciting as it shows that this space will become even more interesting in the years to come.

For us at Venture Garden Group, one of our major milestones include the launch/investment in 10 companies in four years.  And closing our US$20 million equity investment from the Convergence Partners Communication and Infrastructure Fund – the largest Africa ICT-focused fund. Broadly speaking, we have seen new VC firms and accelerators take interest in the region and sector.”

Paul Cook, founder and managing director of Silvertree Capital:

“Silvertree had a great year, with total revenue across all our investments growing more than 300 per cent year-on-year. Highlights included some great investments, as well as acquiring PriceCheck from Naspers, which we’re very excited about.

For the South African ecosystem: we’re seeing more and more compelling startups starting to appear, driven by real business plans and with strong execution – an ecosystem starting to mature. In e-commerce, the big event was obviously Takealot incorporating Kalahari, which has led to a lot of shuffling around in the industry.”

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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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