Meet the Investor: Jocelyn Cheng, Luno Expeditions

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Founded by a South African, headquartered in London, and operating globally, Luno is a global cryptocurrency platform that earlier this year launched investment arm Luno Expeditions, which will back early-stage fintech and crypto entrepreneurs and plans to make between 200 and 300 investments per year.

Luno makes it safe and easy to buy, store and learn about cryptocurrencies, operates across 43 countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, the United States (US) and Europe, and has over nine million customers.

Luno Expeditions, a global, early-stage investment arm, supports the best fintech and crypto/web3 founders on their journeys to build the next generation of financial services. Focused on seed and pre-seed stages, the firm has already invested in almost 30 leading crypto and fintech companies globally, and is targeting 200-300 per year.

The new fund is headed up by CEO Jocelyn Cheng, who was previously managing director at impact investment VC Global Innovation Fund, and previously worked at CPP Investments, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs in London, Boston, New York and Buenos Aires. She explained its philosophy to Disrupt Africa.

“Luno’s long-term hypothesis is that crypto is going to revolutionise our financial system and we want to work with quality startups who share this goal. We started Luno Expeditions as we see unprecedented early-stage investment opportunities and a real need for tailored support. Luno itself was once an early-stage startup and understands the challenges on the journey to building a global company,” she said.

“Luno Expeditions is on-balance sheet at the Digital Currency Group (DCG), a well-capitalised company which has been investing in early-stage crypto companies since 2015.  We are fortunate to have permanent long-term capital.”

The firm’s first two investments were in South African companies – Root, a digital insurance platform and Stitch, a financial infrastructure company enabling access to user financial accounts. 

“We’ve since backed 5 other companies across the region. This includes a Kenyan company connecting people to blockchain protocols without needing access to the internet as well as a ground-breaking remittance solution in Tanzania, amongst others. We are looking forward to scaling up our investment activities across the region,” Cheng said.

In general, Luno Expeditions invests in early-stage startups across developed markets and emerging markets, with a specific focus on businesses that are building the next generation of financial services.

“For example, we are interested in startups building a safe and secure financial ecosystem, like solutions for better data protection, security, and KYC,” Cheng said.

“We are also interested in companies furthering an open, accessible and inclusive financial ecosystem, such as financial inclusion for underserved populations, and local on- and off-ramps to crypto. We are also in search of blockchain technology for real world impact which would contribute to a fairer system for all, like blockchain based lending as a more efficient capital source for the missing middle.”

The big appeal of Luno Expeditions to prospective portfolio companies may actually be more than simply the capital it offers, given the expertise it can bring to the table. 

“We are designing a platform offering around areas where we can differentially be helpful, like practical advice for building an early-stage company, and crypto-specific topics.  We are also excited to have the ventures in our portfolio learn from each other, given the geographic breadth of our portfolio and our scale investing strategy,” said Cheng. 

“For example, we recently brought together 15 founders in our portfolio from five continents for an in-house offsite in London, and we were really excited to see them learn from each other, for example different strategies for financial inclusion platforms in the UK, India and Pakistan.”

Expeditions, she said, is also very founder-friendly.

“We are built by founders for founders and think sometimes the best value-add is to not overstep. We are committed to working with founders on a timeline that works for them, and try to be as helpful as possible when asked,” said Cheng.

The firm is very focused on ensuring its portfolio startups have strong female representation.

“The representation of female founders in the African tech startup scene is generally low. We’d like to help bridge this gap not just in funding, but helping teams attract and retain a more diverse workforce in the longer term. We’re proud of the fact that one-third of our portfolio companies have female founders, which is significantly higher than the overall African average, and are excited to continue supporting female founders going forward,” she said.

Asked what Expeditions’ plans are for the next year or so, Cheng said it was still honing its offering.

“In many ways, we’re a startup ourselves and are testing ways we can bring unique value to our founder community without interfering with their day-to-day operations,” she said.

“We are taking a startup approach to our platform offering – doing MVPs, taking user feedback from our portfolio and refining our platform support offering in line with this feedback. We don’t ever assume that we know what founders want. We are also planning on scaling our portfolio significantly and are excited to invest in many more great African founders. We’ll build out our team on the ground, and look to work more closely with the tech ecosystem.”

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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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