Beyond Capital Ventures, a newly-launched women-led impact VC firm focused on seed and Series A stage companies in “need-to-have” sectors across India and East Africa, such as healthcare, financial inclusion, agriculture, has made its first three investments in Rwandan startups Viebeg and Kasha, and Ghana’s Africa Health Holdings.
Heading up Beyond Capital Ventures is general partner Eva Yazhari, who grew up in New York and pursued a career in finance before eventually becoming a VP at Entrust Capital Inc, investing billions of dollars into top hedge funds and working directly with activist hedge fund managers.
“On Wall Street, I gained skills in portfolio management and rigorous due diligence, but also got a good look at the underbelly of capitalism. After working through The Big Short, Madoff, and the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, I knew traditional paradigms of investing needed to change and were shifting. I returned to my family’s ingenuity and creative roots, and committed my investment background to chart a more authentic path,” Yazhari told Disrupt Africa.
Both her own and her husband’s families, in fact, come from a line of emerging markets entrepreneurs.
“My grandfather ran and operated a health clinic in Tanzania. My husband’s family includes public servants and business owners in the markets where I now invest. I was inspired by them, and learned about the dynamism of the African and Indian startup ecosystems,” Yazhari said.
“These markets are rich with innovative business models, critical market opportunities to be tackled, and a strong desire among talented entrepreneurs to address challenges in infrastructure and other essential gaps. If I could invest in founders building strong companies providing critical solutions – and deliver attractive financial returns – I knew additional capital would mobilise and catalyse even more innovation.”
So, beginning in 2011, she invested in 14 companies under Beyond Capital Fund, her first impact fund. Though it was an evergreen fund, it generated top-quartile venture returns, and it has now spawned Beyond Capital Ventures, launched in 2021 to invest in the macro trends of increasing population growth, undervalued consumer segments, youth demanding better products and services, and technology to reach the masses.
“Emerging consumers across Africa demand better “need-to-have” solutions to healthcare, financial services, agriculture and goods. East Africa is the world’s fastest-growing innovation hub for entrepreneurs; an international melting pot of talent; and rich with disruptive tech-enabled models proving that these solutions are scalable and internationally competitive,” she said.
“Investing in African tech startups right now is one of the investment opportunities of our lifetimes. And we can already see valuations and foreign investor interests picking up on that.”
Yazhari’s second fund leverages a decade of investing and learnings from Fund I to invest in the next wave of game-changing companies when she says they need it most – their seed to Series B rounds.
“We invest in conscious leaders and strong operators. These early-stage companies often need a value-add lead investor; post-investment strategic support or a sounding board; and even help on their subsequent raise – and our team at Beyond Capital Ventures can step up in all these areas,” she said.
“Our venture fund invests in East Africa and India, two active entrepreneurial markets that we’ve been investing in for 10 years and that have strong inter-region trade, business ties, and synergies.”
As of now, Beyond Capital has 34 limited partners, including funds of funds, family offices, a corporate foundation, successful CEOs, and corporate executives from firms like Morgan Stanley, Houlihan Lokey, Lazard, Miller Buckfire, and Weil Gotshal. And it has been a busy year since it started investing.
The fund has made three investments so far – Rwanda’s Viebeg, an AI-driven medical supply company, Rwanda’s Kasha, a leading fem-tech retailer, and Ghana’s Africa Health Holdings.
“Our IC has approved four more companies that we can’t wait to share with you once they’ve closed – and we are leading the vast majority of rounds,” Yazhari said.
“Additionally, we have a majority female Investment Committee, which I think is special in an industry where only seven per cent of investment decision-makers are women. Our IC and fund advisory committee is made up of experienced founders, operators and VC investors living in and from our target investment markets.”
Consumers living on up to US$15 per day spend 50 per cent of their income on essential goods and services, and are a growing – yet often undervalued – segment of the population. Service-oriented sectors like fintech and healthcare are projected to be among the fastest growing, with emerging consumers spending an additional US$54 billion per year by 2025. Yazhari said her team is passionate about investing in sectors that generate impact for these consumers – namely, agriculture, financial inclusion, and healthcare.
“We are particularly interested in seed to Series A rounds but can invest as early as pre-Seed and as late as Series B should the right opportunity arise,” she said.
“COVID-19 accelerated the digital revolution, but this revolution is unfolding even faster in Africa. With East Africa representing the single largest concentration of mobile money wallets globally, we focus on tech-enabled business models that will disrupt sleepy industries and create long-lasting change for their communities.”
Beyond Capital Ventures, likes to be more than cheque writers.
“Our value-add is based on deep knowledge of what entrepreneurs really need. It solves for the gaps in service providers available and builds strong relationships with founders,” Yazhari said.
“We identify the unique needs of each portfolio company and can provide pro bono legal or financial advisory support, leadership training, capital raise assistance and strategic planning. We assembled an Expert Advisory Council that has already provided almost US$100,000 in strategic assistance to our portfolio. We support companies with impact management by providing industry-leading best practices and advice to build a truly inclusive business that considers all stakeholders.”
Yazhari said in the more than a decade she has been an investor in Africa, she has seen a dramatic shift in the investor ecosystem.
“The amount of capital pouring into Africa is growing exponentially as well as the profile of the typical investor. A decade ago, you were more likely to see concessionary investors or philanthropic vehicles invest in early-stage companies. Now, African startups are attracting the attention of the largest global investors, which is extremely exciting. At Beyond Capital, we’ve always seen the potential, but it seems mainstream investors are finally catching up,” she said.
This year, Beyond Capital Ventures will close its fund, and plans to make eight additional investments.
“We are excited to continue to use our expertise in gender, conscious leadership, and equity to invest in and develop the African startup ecosystem,” she said. “We’re seeking out the best high-impact innovators in East Africa to join our portfolio.”