Fintech-focused VC fund Quona Capital recently announced the final close of the Accion Quona Inclusion Fund at US$203 million in commitments from an array of leading investors.
Quona Capital has supported more than 30 financial technology companies expanding access for underserved consumers and small businesses in Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
One of the company’s partners, and key player in raising and now investing the new fund, is Johan Bosini, who was born in Italy, but moved to South Africa with his parents at a young age. After growing up in Johannesburg and Cape Town, he attended Stellenbosch University and then spent a number of years working in the US and Europe before returning to Cape Town.
His background in financial services makes him well-suited to the fintech-focused Quona Capital.
“After spending time in large financial services businesses around the world, and then in insurance and consumer finance in South Africa, I got involved with a series of financial services startups in emerging markets, spending time across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana, and Rwanda,” Bosini told Disrupt Africa.
One of those businesses was JUMO, where Bosini launched the first mobile loan product in Kenya and Tanzania, which then launched across various markets in Africa through mobile network operator (MNO) partnerships.
“When I left the business in late-2016 I caught up with the Quona team, and was immediately struck by both the strength of the team and their stated intent to support entrepreneurs across the globe to fundamentally change the way people access financial services. I saw a chance to be in a startup that helps startups, which I thought was pretty incredible,” he said.
Quona came about after Monica Brand Engel, then working for global non-profit Accion, made the case to create a dedicated investment focus for emerging market fintech for inclusion. Quona Capital was the result, launched initially within Accion but now an independent entity, though the two maintain a strategic partnership.
“We have raised capital from a variety of sources, including well-known private institutional and high net worth investors, including Wall Street investment banks, international insurance companies, a US pension fund and university endowment, a Fortune 100 payments player, hedge fund managers and others,” Bosini said.
With this cash, Quona has, across two funds, invested in over 30 fintech businesses, including African startups Lulalend and Sokowatch. Bosini said the company had “a bunch of really interesting investments”, and especially liked themes such as logistics and mobility, SME finance, digital banking, and consumer finance that challenges the traditionally high-cost unsecured lending.
“We invest in growth-stage fintech for inclusion, which would be a technology-led business that has a proven product-market fit, and is looking for growth capital to grow the business,” he said.
Quona typically makes Series A investments of between US$2 million and US$7 million, with its core African markets being Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Bosini said it brings additional value alongside the funding.
“Starting and building a fintech business is hard. We believe that our broad perspective, and ability to see themes in fintech across the globe, is quite unique,” he said.
Quona’s value add is around three pillars: knowledge, network and capital.
“I don’t believe any one person has all the answers, with the best solution coming through dialogue with those with different perspectives, and we like to facilitate those conversations,” said Bosini.
He said it has been a very interesting two years since he joined the company, with clear fintech hubs emerging in cities like Lagos, Nairobi and Cape Town and generating some “superb results and activity”.
“We are also seeing great interest from global businesses looking to invest in Africa, which again is a signal that we are at an important stage on the continent,” Bosini said.
That said, the entire ecosystem in Africa is still early in its development, and as a result there are many things that could be improved across the ecosystem, from funding to regulatory support to the experience of role-players in the ecosystem.
“The challenge many entrepreneurs in Africa have is something that is hard to change, which is the total addressable market (TAM). If you compare Mexico, or Brazil, or India with Kenya or South Africa, for example, then it is clear that the size of the market will hugely impact the businesses’ ability to succeed at scale, and thus able to attract certain types of risk capital,” he said.
Regardless, he said investor interest in African fintech is “significant and growing”.
“I see that there is an under-representation of earlier-stage investors, but the numbers over the last two years show a real increase in the total amount of money deployed into startups across the continent,” he said.
On the Quona side, he said 2020 will be more of the same.
“We plan to do more of what we’ve been doing, which really excites our entire team – supporting phenomenal entrepreneurs that are building financially inclusive businesses that can scale,” Bosini said.
Other installments of Disrupt Africa’s “Meet the Investor” series can be found here.