Meet the Investor: Eline Blaauboer, Africa Tech Ventures

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Eline Blaauboer is a busy woman, as she strives to raise US$50 million for her new VC firm Africa Tech Ventures.

Launched alongside fellow managing partner Mairead Cahill, Africa Tech Ventures plans to invest in startups from across Africa, and is aiming for a first close in June 2018.

“We are interested to invest in early-stage businesses that use technology to scale across Africa and provide solutions in key industries like financial inclusion, energy, education, employment, agriculture and healthcare,” said Blaauboer.

Originally from the Netherlands, Blaauboer worked for VC firm Gilde Investment Management, focused on software investments in Europe, US and Israel. After five years, she decided to shift her focus to Africa, and moved to Kenya.

Since then, she has been busy. She started the TBL Mirror Fund in 2007 with capital from private investors in the Netherlands, which was leading the move from charity to impact investing. She also managed Safaricom’s Spark fund.

TBL Mirror Fund and Safaricom Spark jointly invested into 15 businesses in East Africa, including Cellulant, Software Technologies, Research Solutions, Sendy, Lynk, Eneza Education and FarmDrive.

“Through TBL Mirror Fund we learned that to really build winning businesses, you need to be able to invest substantial amounts, as there are still funding gaps, with not many investors being able to support start-ups from seed to Series B/C,” Blaauboer said.

That is a lesson she now plans to put into action with Africa Tech Ventures, while she is also focusing on exits for TBL Mirror Fund.

“We exited one company earlier in the year – we sold Research Solutions to Dalberg – and are planning two more this year. For Africa Tech Ventures all focus is on getting to our first close next year, fundraising takes time,” she said.

“We have in the past raised from private investors, corporates and DFIs and plan to do the same for Africa Tech Ventures, adding fund of funds and family offices.”

While Blaauboer has built a track record and networks in East Africa, where its team is based and it can help businesses find good people, customers and partners, she is looking further afield with this new fund.

“For Africa Tech Ventures we’ll also focus on investing into businesses from West and South Africa looking to expand to East Africa,” she said.

“We have seen deal flow growing significantly, with good quality teams drawn to the opportunity to use technology to fill essential needs on a commercial basis, all across Africa. This in return is attracting investors from across the world, all very exciting.”

The greatest challenge for African startups, Blaauboer said, is finding good talent as they grow.

“Good people are scarce and expensive, leave for better paid jobs at large corporates, so you have to continuously hire and train. This also provides an opportunity, with many startups focused on training and employment space, so we hope this challenge will be short to mid term,” she said.

The lack of governmental regulation of the tech space has its positives and negatives, according to Blaauboer.

“On the one hand the absence of policies has enabled services like M-Pesa to grow, on the other hand the unexpected creation of policies can kill businesses. It is therefore essential to know the local context well and have good local advisers,” she said.

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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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