Meet the Investor: Kurt Scherer, C5 Capital

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The London-headquartered VC firm C5 Capital has a portfolio of 80 companies operating on every continent, including Antarctica, but it has big ties to Africa in particular.

The firm’s founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Andre Pienaar is originally from South Africa, where he was a lawyer before becoming an entrepreneur and ultimately an investor.

“He had a vision for what Africa is now becoming, with vast potential for technological innovation with increasingly new hubs where people are coming together to build sustainable but quickly growing economic centres that are revitalising communities and unleashing the potential of entrepreneurship across the continent,” said Kurt Scherer, who is the managing partner of C5 Capital

“With this vision, we embarked upon an effort to find the companies at the cutting edge who we believed would not only transform Africa, but also the world.”

The C5A fund, which is backed by a number of partners including SAP NS2, the national security arm of SAP, as well as large investment funds, has been busy, having backed 80 startups globally.

“More than 90 per cent of those companies survive and thrive right now. We have more than doubled the value of our portfolio in those years all while engaging partners from the world over to grow businesses through sales and venture connection,” said Scherer.

C5 is active in Africa, with Scherer saying it was “thrilled” about the companies that it had invested in, “for their ingenuity and ability to reshape the way things are done to unlock both a more efficient but also equitable world”.  Each of these companies occupies unique corners of the market. 

“Coven Works helps develop AI training for the next generation of engineers on the continent. Jetstream is facilitating logistics to get packages, especially medical shipments, to their destination as quickly as possible. Superfluid Labs is re-imagining the way companies evaluate their data to make better decisions for their customers,” he said. 

“Muster is reinventing how temporary workers find affordable housing in their city. Junub Games, a video game company, puts players in the shoes of a refugee to educate and inform, all while supporting NGOs working to protect refugees.  BACE Group is providing affordable and effective facial recognition for banks, governments, and universities to streamline identity authentication. There is vast and unlimited potential in Africa – each of our investments shows new promise in a new field.”

Scherer, who previously led Booz Allen Hamilton’s national innovation centre, doubles up as managing partner for C5 Accelerate, a programme focused on finding and evaluating early-stage leaders and technologies for either inclusion in C5’s global accelerator programme or for potential investment from impact partners. Each of the companies that C5 selects to work with receives the opportunity to participate in the accelerator, giving them access to more than 85 different mentor sessions, over 100 hours of instruction, and multiple one-on-one sessions on various topics.

We are keen to find the businesses that are operating at the leading edge of cyber, space, AI, and cloud technologies with a viable product and road to market. Generally, we expect startups to be building towards their seed or Series A round when they apply to our accelerator and investment arm,” Scherer said.

C5 is geographically agnostic when it comes to portfolio companies, but sees increasing opportunities in Africa.

We want to see startups that can count on an established startup ecosystem for support, but we also want to find the best innovators wherever they are to tap their talent and potential. The items that matter to us are ensuring that the company has a viable product, a road forward, and a passionate team that believes in their product.”

The tech space in Africa is one of the fastest growing and most exciting centers of global innovation. With emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems in Cape Town, Accra, Kigali, Nairobi, and more, the support system is continuously growing. Moreover, the African continent is home to one of the fastest growing populations, with more than 50 per cent of the population under the age of 18. This marks an incredible opportunity to get young people into the heart of innovation to harness the best ideas with the energy of a youthful population dedicated to strengthening their communities while unlocking the full potential of the continent.”

About Author

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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