Its a challenge for any emerging market or sector. Reality is people are always interested in investing in something that already works and has a ‘proven’ chance of generating a healthy return —> but this is regretful hindsight. The point at which investors engage varies and we need to focus on the ‘early adopters’ i.e. the investors with the foresight to see what is already possible in the African space. These early movers are the ones who pick up the best deals and have access to the best networks. And I strongly believe that as we generate success stories more mainstream investors will notice and want to get involved.
It is also short sighted to think investors are not already interested and that conversations aren’t taking place on a daily basis. Just look at the member base behind the African Venture Capital Association (AVCA) to see what has already been realized. And for the Kenyan tech sector, currently the hotbed of activity, we have witnessed a rapid rise of players who see the potential and are taking the steps needed to get involved – Africa Media Ventures Fund, InReturn Capital, Business Partners Kenya, Aureos Capital, FirstLight Ventures, Humanity Fund, Fanisi Venture Capital Fund, Jacana Venture Partnership, Open Capital Fund, TBL Mirror Fund, eVA Fund, Flow Equity, Grassroots Business Fund, Acumen and Root Capital to name but a few. Also notice that an increasing number of investors are mobilizing locally or via diasporan communities living abroad. Entrepreneurs don’t have to necessarily camp out at the airport anymore.
And these investors are seriously willing to take on the risk. Most offer not only capital but also the mentorship, network and support services needed to realize the entrepreneur’s potential. They are eager to find the right people with great ideas, the courage, creativity and reasonableness needless to execute them. The capital is increasingly available and now its up to the entrepreneurs to step forward with the ideas, teams and plans needed to put it to good use.
I think part of the process moving forward is also to mobilize ourselves as a network and to see how we can help each other through this process (hence why I spend so much time working to support the VC4Africa community, promoting ventures. As we come together we can learn from each others experience and improve our chances of success. We need to make our opportunities and needs visible to the investment community. At the same time we are better positioned to identify gaps and mobilize ourselves around solutions. If anything, its learning from each other, documenting these lessons and making this knowledge available in ways that we help others get involved.