7 most active investors in African tech in 2015

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African tech startups received a total amount of funding in excess of US$185,785,500 in 2015, according to data compiled by Disrupt Africa. But where did that funding come from?

The data is all contained in the Disrupt Africa African Tech Startups Funding Report 2015, available for purchase here for US$50. It reveals South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya were the top three destinations for tech investors in 2015, both in terms of numbers of deals and total amount of funding.

Funding came from both Africa and abroad, with various investors putting amounts large and small into startups across the continent. Here are seven of the most active.

EchoVC

Headquartered in Lagos, VC firm EchoVC Partners arrived in Africa with a bang this year by backing two Nigerian tech startups – online hotel booking platform Hotels.ng, and digital printing startup Printivo.

The company has strong Silicon Valley pedigree, with partner and chief of staff Amber Fowler previously vice president of finance at Founders Fund, a venture capital firm with over US$1 billion under management. General partner Eghosa Omoigui was with Intel for 10 years, latterly as director of strategic investments at Intel Capital.

Though EchoVC has only invested in Nigeria so far, it does plan to make investments in Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia eventually. It may also yet launch a sidecar fund for bigger deals in the future, and is likely to end up investing in between 35 and 50 companies in total, ranging in size.

Steve and Jean Case

The AOL founder and his wife – who have started their own foundation – seemed to have their interest in Africa piqued when they visited Nairobi for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in July of last year. Since then they have gone large, joining the likes of Generation Investment Management and Sir Richard Branson in backing Kenyan pay-as-you-go solar energy startup M-KOPA Solar to the tune of US$19 million, and also participating in the recent US$3 million round raised by hardware and connectivity startup BRCK.

They are likely to remain active on the continent in 2016, with their interest appearing to lie in the provision of power and internet to unconnected Africans, and startups that can facilitate this.

Pule Taukobong

Africa Angels Network (AAN) has become CRE Venture Capital, but Pule Taukobong is still backing African startups. 2015 was another busy year, with investments including – take a breath now – African Courier Express (ACE), Andela, PrepClass, Yoco, Big 5 Boutique, Rasello, SureGifts, SweepSouth, TasteMakers Africa and Asoko Insight.

Quiet 2016 for Taukobong? Not likely.

Newtown Partners

Founded by Llew Claasen and Vinny Lingham on the set of the first series of Dragons’ Den South Africa, which is also where the firm made its first investments, Newtown Partners is a VC firm based in Cape Town.

It backs South African startups, and had a lively 2015. eShip, Receiptful, SweepSouth and Ekaya are among the startups that make up its portfolio, and there is no suggestion activity is likely to slow in 2016, as the company has already participated in a follow-on round for SweepSouth.

Novastar Ventures

Operates mostly under the radar, but Nairobi-based Novastar Ventures gets stuff done. The firm claims to be assisting the next generation of exceptional entrepreneurs who are designing and executing innovative business models to profitably serve East Africa’s aspiring mass market.

Its portfolio – few of these investments were publicly announced – includes Soko, Hivisasa, Sanergy and M-Farm, and the company put millions of dollars into the East African tech startups space last year. Worth keeping an eye on.

Silvertree Capital

E-commerce, e-commerce, e-commerce. That’s the motto of South African VC firm Silvertree Capital. Founded by Paul Cook, Manuel Koser and Peter Allerstorfer, the firm has the likes of CyberCellar, WineCo, Sprout, Click n Compare, PinPoll, HealthCart and Aythan in its portfolio, and in 2015 invested in the likes of We Are Monsters and Faithful to Nature.

The e-commerce approach seems to be working. The company ended 2015 by playing a part in the acquisition of price comparison site PriceCheck, and Silvertree recently announced plans to invest US$10 million in South African tech startups during 2016 on the back of its strongest year so far.

Frontier Digital Ventures

Malaysia-headquartered global VC firm Frontier Digital Ventures is as sector-specific as Silvertree Capital. It likes classifieds startups, all over the world. But 2015 marked its first real dive into the African scene, investing in the likes of Mozambique’s Propertymaputo.com and Tanzania’s Kupatana.

The company ended the year by putting US$500,000 into Ghanaian startup meQasa, a web and mobile based real estate platform, to boost its bid to become Africa’s Zillow. Again, relatively quiet about its activities, but don’t be surprised to hear of more investments in this space in 2016.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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