Ethos launches $42.9m fund for AI startups in SA

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South African private equity investment firm Ethos has launched a ZAR600 million (US$42.9 million) fund targeting startups that will benefit materially from Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithmic decision making.

Founded in 1984, Ethos is a private equity investment firm that in 2016 transitioned into a broader investment company, managing investments in private equity and credit strategies in South Africa and selectively in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It has announced the first close and first two investments by its maiden AI fund, Ethos AI Fund I, which has raised ZAR600 million (US$42.9 million) from first close investors such as Ethos Capital and Standard Bank, and is targeting ZAR1 billion (US$71.5 billion). It has also concluded its first two investments, in Channel VAS and Vertice MedTech Group.

“As part of Ethos’ ongoing evolution into alternative assets, we are delighted to launch the AI fund. This fund will co-invest alongside other Ethos-managed funds, originate proprietary investments, and is expected to generate differentiated value for our investors by helping our portfolio companies to navigate and benefit from artificial intelligence,” said Stuart MacKenzie, Ethos’ chief executive officer (CEO).

Roger Grobler, Ethos AI Fund partner, said the fund’s aim was to identify and invest in businesses which it believed would benefit disproportionately from artificial intelligence – specifically algorithmic decision making.  

“These algorithms typically help companies make high-frequency decisions in multiple places along the value chain,” he said. “As these decisions are not ideally suited to human capabilities – typically due to computational complexity and volume of data utilised – the use of algorithms releases intellectual capacity, allowing people to focus on other rewarding areas of work, such as creativity, relationships, strategy or communication.”

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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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