Frenchman Arthur Thuet started Saviu Ventures while still at university, and the company has since grown its portfolio to include eight African tech startups.
After three Africa-based internships, Thuet started exploring the investment space on the continent with his partner Benoit Delestre while working for a Moroccan corporate VC.
“We noticed the potential of the continent and the scarcity of seed investors. We also knew we wanted to do a lot of operational work because that’s what we like. So we naturally took the decision to launch an investment vehicle focusing on very young companies,” he told Disrupt Africa.
Saviu Ventures was launched in May 2017 with capital from European and African business angels, with Thuet and Delestre identifying two minority investments and an in-house startup launch – the Ivory Coast-based logistics platform Kamtar – with which to get the show on the road. Since then, it has raised additional capital from a Mauritian private equity fund and other wealthy individuals interested in the African tech space.
Now, Saviu has eight portfolio companies, which it has backed with tickets ranging between US$50,000 and US$850,000. These include recruitment platform Talent2Africa, fashion marketplace Afrikrea, logistics startup Paps, and agri-tech company Seekewa.
“We invest in post-revenue companies looking for seed funding. We have a particular interest in logistics and fintech but are open-minded to any other sector,” said Thuet. “We prefer B2B businesses because we have a strong focus on cash efficiency, which is usually better when working with corporates.”
Saviu’s portfolio companies operate in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa and Mauritius, with Thuet saying it wants to limit geographical spread for practical reasons.
“But we won’t say no to an amazing opportunity in a country where we do not have a footprint,” he said.
These “amazing opportunities” are not spread evenly across Africa, however.
“Some countries are not there yet in terms of number of tech entrepreneurs. But it is also the consequence of some populations’ lack of maturity on digital uses. A tech entrepreneur in Kenya or South Africa will have a much simpler life than one in DRC or Gabon. We tend to believe that every country in Africa has its own M-Pesa or that e-commerce is now everyone’s favourite way of buying and selling, but that’s far from being true and that makes a digital-oriented approach sometimes too far ahead, especially when you target rural populations,” he said.
Saviu brings more to the table than just money.
“We try to provide assistance to the startups at every level. A young entrepreneur needs support, especially if he or she is alone. We see ourselves as their partners. We communicate everyday and get involved in strategic but also operational matters,” Thuet said.
“We have more than 15 investors, and all of them have experiences in various sectors such as finance, sales, communication, UX/UI, marketing, and retail. We try to organise taskforces and match the right people with the right startups to move forward on specific subjects.”
In the near-term, Saviu is planning more investments, and is currently raising more capital in order to become one of the most active seed investors in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thuet said there are a lot of people talking about tech investments on the continent, but less actually take the risk, especially in Francophone African countries.
“A few acquisitions of startups by corporates will grow this interest significantly and attract non-African investors,” he said.
“I see a lot of Series A and later-stage funds coming to the market with deep pockets, and a small geographical focus, but very few seed for-profit investors, which seems paradoxical because I don’t know where all those funds are going to find their deal flow. This is also why we created Saviu – in order to make young companies Series A-ready and provide larger funds with ambitious startups that went through our care.”