Khaled Ismail is one of the best-known angel investors in Egypt, but before that he was an entrepreneur himself. And an extremely successful one too.
Ismail, who has a PhD. in electronics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and worked it technology research at IBM, is a serial entrepreneur, most recently with SySDSoft, which he exited when it was acquired by Intel in 2011.
It was at that point that he decided on a change of career.
“After exiting my last startup, I decided to switch to investing in order to pass on my experience to startups and help them grow and write their own success stories,” he told Disrupt Africa.
“I allocated a certain percentage of the money I made to invest in startups in Egypt, which was quite timely with the sudden increase in number of startups after the Arab Spring.”
Ismail launched angel fund KIangel in 2012, which went on to invest in 12 Egyptian tech startups, including the likes of FilKhedma and Shezlong. Though that fund was non-profit, Ismail’s second vehicle – the US$5 million HIMangel fund, launched in 2017 – is for profit and backed by three additional high net worth individuals.
In all, Ismail’s funds have invested in 22 companies, most recently gaming community GBarena. Two have failed, three were exited, and the rest are still in the growth phase.
“We invest in diverse sectors, but we like specifically the waste management, recycling and healthtech sectors,” he said.
“Pure tech is still in the infancy in Africa, but tech-enabled companies that solve local and regional problems are the most exciting.”
Ismail says he loves all his investments, even the ones that failed, but his favourite will be the one that achieves the largest exit. As a serial entrepreneur himself, he is able to offer his portfolio companies more than just capital in a bid to help them do so.
“I mentor all the founders and meet with them frequently, at least once a month. I take them to sales meetings capitalising on my network, I introduce them to partners, and help them plan and manage their growth,” he said.
An active member of the African Business Angel Network (ABAN), Ismail spends a lot of his time trying to encourage others to follow his lead and start backing African tech startups. He says early-stage financing is still not sufficient in most African countries. Though investor appetite is growing, it is not yet sufficient.
“It is still not that big for the size of the continent, but it is growing very fast. More angel investments are needed in order to have a good pipeline for the growth stage funds,” Ismail said.