Meet the Investor: Anton Van Vlaanderen, 4Di Capital

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Now a partner in one of South Africa’s most active VC firms, Anton Van Vlaanderen’s journey into the world of entrepreneurship began in partnership with his father.

Having completed a commerce degree and a postgraduate management diploma, Van Vlaanderen had a year in corporate at the biggest South African insurance company, which he decided wasn’t for him.

“I loved the idea of being an entrepreneur,” he told Disrupt Africa. “Fortuitously my dad Erik had come to the same realisation, at the age 50, after experiencing the majority of his career in corporate life.” 

In 2002, father and son co-founded a fruit export company, which Anton successfully managed for seven years. Around the same time, Erik angel-invested in a tech startup.

“The technology company outgrew the export company quite quickly and, in so doing, allowed us to make a number of angel investments in the mid 2000s. It became increasing more obvious that technology was the future and the fruit exporting business was comparatively less exciting,” Van Vlaanderen said. 

4Di Capital was born, and in 2009, after enjoying a year backpacking around the world with his wife, Van Vlaanderen returned to Cape Town to get formally involved. 

“We made a few angel investments off our own balance sheet before managing to convince other family offices to invest in our fund,” he said.

4Di managed to raise a very small first close of US$2 million on its first fund in 2011 from a South African family office. The following year it raised another US$2 million from another family office, and likewise the year after, this time from a private equity company. That closed out its first fund at around US$8 million.

The second fund, launched in 2016, has one of the biggest South African insurance companies as its LP, while the recently-launched Fund 3 has one LP for now in the form of a local institutional investor. Van Vlaanderen said the firm is in the process of raising from further LPs for this fund.

4Di has invested in the likes of Snapt, LifeQ, Sensor Networks, Aerobotics, Lumkani, Zoona, InvestSure and Tagmarshal in South Africa, and also moved into East Africa with investments in Kenyan companies Sokowatch and Flare.

“We generally like B2B SaaS businesses, and over the last few years have focused on the fintech, insurtech and health-tech verticals,” said Van Vlaanderen.

4Di’s four partners are all themselves entrepreneurs, having started and managed their own businesses. 4Di Capital is in many ways also still a startup, Van Vlaanderen says, meaning the team has a wealth of experience to offer to its portfolio companies. 

“We like to think we bring an understanding of what startups typically go through. Having been in the space for over 10 years, we have also built up good networks both locally and abroad,” he said.

The firm sees an exciting future ahead.

“Africa has the opportunity to create its own destiny, as the problems that need to be solved can only be solved by entrepreneurs who live and breathe the issues,” Van Vlaanderen said. 

“Without having grown up here or at least living on the continent and getting a real feel for the issues, it is very difficult to understand the challenges. Therefore, in our view as Africans, we can create our own path while learning from the mistakes and successes of the more developed markets.”

Asa result, investor interest is on the rise, but this is not equally the case across the continent.

“In some markets, like Kenya and Nigeria, it is considerable and growing fast. Countries like South Africa, Egypt and others need to catch up,” said  Van Vlaanderen.

4Di is doing its bit in this regard, and its goals for 2020 and beyond are simple and clear, according to Van Vlaanderen.

“Raise funds, invest in more great tech companies and entrepreneurs and add value to our portfolio companies,” he said.

Amen to that.

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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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