VC4Africa was started as a LinkedIn group in the spring of 2008 and has grown organically into what is now the largest online community dedicated to Venture Capital in Africa. The VC4Africa community and related platforms have always been free for anyone to join, and the entire network and its content remain open and accessible.
Currently the community can be found on social networking platforms like LinkedIn (+/- 3.900 members), LinkedIn Incubators (+/- 2.200), VC4Africa.com (+/- 3.300 members), VC4Africa.biz (+/- 3.400), Facebook Group (+/- 550 members) and Twitter (+/- 5.000). Members of the VC4Africa community use these social platforms to connect with other members and to exchange knowledge, information and contacts.
A core vision behind the project is that VC4Africa is only a platform within a larger social movement. Open communication and collaboration is encouraged and all members are invited to become active participants in both growing and developing the project. This means members are encouraged to invite new members, post content, start discussions, initiate networking events and join the VC4Africa management team in a more concerted effort to grow, develop and evolve the concept. Every member is expected to contribute in some meaningful way.
A few key points that make VC4Africa unique:
SME Pipeline: We make use of PlanCruncher.com to create a standard one-page summary of a business plan for a start-up company looking for external partners or investment. Entrepreneurs crunch their venture by choosing icons that represent some of the standard answers that a business plan must provide. Members can vote for ventures and their input is used to rank the projects per country, stage of investment and sector. The output is a dynamic Digg.com style feed that sees the best projects rise to the top of their respective field so we can connect them with capital. See the VC4Africa Ventures section and registration.
Matchmaking: Organizations and individuals interested in investing in African businesses are able to register their investment profile with VC4Africa. Once registered as an investor we can facilitate targeted e-mail updates with ‘high potentials’ that match their investment criteria. This is currently a manual process that we look to automate in the next phase of development. See the registration process.
Member initiated networking events: Second to networking online, VC4Africa makes use of the Barcamp model for events and organizes its own VC4Africa Meetups. These are informal networking events initiated by any member in the network interested in bringing together members in their own area. These events are organized without a budget, agenda or speakers. It is exactly the community initiated format and informal structure that allows for effective networking. Members build an important sense of ownership and are crucial to making the VC4Africa networks accessible locally. These events also establish future points of contact. Meetups have already been hosted in Johannesburg, Kampala, Nairobi, Kigali, Abuja, Lagos, Tunis, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Washington D.C., Amsterdam, Leuven and London. See a video about a VC4Africa Meetup. Want to bring together members in your area?
Open Source Approach: VC4Africa is an open source project built on open source software (WordPress + BuddyPress). Anyone can contribute or access code to the VC4Africa platform, download or install their own version. We are also working on an open Application Programming Interface (API) that would allow anyone to access VC4Africa data and repurpose it for their own use. See the VC4Africa Developer’s Wiki for the community wish list and concept notes. VC4Africa content and network are also open to anyone who wants to join the community and we do not require any fee to participate. That said, interaction or direct engagement with the network requires registration and an obligation to abide by the community established rules. See the Terms of Reference.
Officers Program: The VC4Africa community also initiated an Officers Program used to engage active members in running and building the network. Officers take on different tasks in managing the community and are responsible for specific functions i.e. someone that manages the blog, someone that invites new members on LinkedIn or is responsible for growing the network on Facebook. These individuals are instrumental to the vitality of the project and help spread the word virally through their own networks. Moreover, they bring in new ideas and make valuable contributions that help define the scope and focus of the project. To this extent VC4Africa only builds what members demand.
Given the current structure members are well empowered to interact, find and share information within a network dedicated to building innovative businesses in Africa. Moving forward we are looking to improve our matchmaking capabilities and took the first step with the November launch of the new VC4Africa.biz matchmaking platform. We are pleased to share some of our first testimonials:
1) “Hey guys, Market Fleas already has a potential investor, so big ups on the platform. We tried many different platforms and none of them even gave us a response, but after only three days we got a response here. Keep up the good work and i’ll be spreading the word.” Rick
2) “Being an entrepreneur, I’ve been around the block when it comes to sites of this nature. And I must say; awesome! If you are able to attract investors successfully, this will become the one-stop shop for African business development. The site is easy to use and best of all, unique. All the best and thank you!” Louis
3) “Your web site has been very helpful to me. I was able to connect to a company that wants to represent Next2.Us geosocial sms network throughout Africa. We have executed a Framework Agreement. We are finalizing a relationship with a SMS provider that will allow Next2.Us Africa to offer our geosocial network service in Kenya in the coming weeks.” Brian
4) “That sounds great, I believe that through this platform (with its business plan crunching) is going to help many entrepreneurs.” Wikins
5) “Please let me know how to support your work with the “Start-up Tool Kit” for entrepreneurs in Africa, perhaps including intellectual property and creativity content, templates, etc. and also by providing feedback to investors about valuation, due diligence, strategic guidance and advising, etc. for innovation and IP-based companies started in Africa, whether they’re planning on being a regional or international business.” JiNan.
6) “VC4A Team: Thank you for your kind welcome and above all for being one of the the founders of this medium. I believe it is going to be a very useful tool for entrepreneurs from everywhere who have the best interest of Africa and Africans. I will look forward for more interactions in the future.” Kebede
7) “Hi Team, thanks for the thumbs up. Great platform you have founded here! Looking forward to meeting up with those interested in getting involved in my business with either funding and/or mentoring.” Nicolette
Want to get involved? Has VC4Africa been useful to you in any way? Do you have a venture you would like to promote/share with the community? Please reach out and share your ideas and experiences with us!
ben / firstname.lastname@example.org