Born in Hungary, Aniko Szigetvari has over 20 years of experience investing in emerging markets, mainly focused on technology, media and telecom (TMT), and a stellar résumé that now has her heading up one of Africa’s newest and most active VC firms.
Previously global head of the TMT Group at the International Finance Corporation, leading the firm’s efforts from deal origination through portfolio management across all emerging markets, Szigetvari has also worked for McKinsey & Company, Kraft Foods International, and DHL Worldwide Express.
She has been investing in Africa since 2004, and in 2019 she co-founded Atlantica Ventures counts among its portfolio the likes of Paystack, recently acquired by Stripe, and Sendy, with Ik Kanu, who himself counts Helios and Convergence Partners among his previous employers.
“My first investments into African tech startups came during my time at the IFC. Although my mandate was to invest in large technology and telecom deals, I noticed startups that needed funding, had product market fit demonstrated by traction, but ran into funding roadblocks. I started angel investing in these startups where I believed my capabilities and networks could add towards the startup’s success,” Szigetvari said.
Atlantica Ventures came about with the proof of concept from the angel portfolio. Disrupt Africa reported in April the firm was raising a US$50 million fund that will invest in tech and tech-enabled businesses from seed-stage onwards and has already backed Nigerian startups Curacel and OnePipe,
The firm is capitalised by development financial institutions, a US fund of funds, and high net worth individuals, and counts fintech, logistics, agri-tech, digital security, IoT, and B2B marketplaces among its primary areas of interest. It has a broad mandate in terms of stage, investing from seed, at Series A, and also following on through Series B.
“We are pan-African, with a strong focus on Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Tanzania,” said Szigetvari.
Atlantica Ventures aims to becomes a mentor and partner to a portfolio startup, not just an investor. The partners have deep hands-on experience in investing and supporting companies from early-stage to growth, and also turnarounds to exit. In addition, Szigetvari has experience in strategy formulation, human capital growth and leadership development that can benefit founders.
“The tech space in Africa is exciting, given the ability to drive impact, create value, and open new ecosystems. In my time at the IFC, I observed the lack of infrastructure was a hindrance to sustainable growth. The tech early space has shown how innovation can overcome some infrastructure issues, especially when there are no legacy systems to replace, so the best innovation can be used. Also because the opportunity space in Africa is broad, the various applications for technology will grow year over year, as new ecosystems are unlocked,” she said.
“African entrepreneurs face “access” challenges – access to capital, markets, strategic partners and knowledge; access to capital and knowledge being at the forefront of these challenges.”
Atlantica Ventures’ immediate plans are wide-ranging. Szigetvari said it will continue to provide growth support to startups in its portfolio, and that it hopes to execute four or five new transactions over the course of this year.
“COVID has impacted our ability to have face time with companies in our portfolio and new opportunities,” she said. “It however has not impacted our ability to build a pipeline, build relationships, and build conviction which can lead to a deal. We have invested through COVID, and we will continue to invest. Times of uncertainty are periods where startups need support the most to survive headwinds.”