European Investors take a serious look at African startups

Presentation at Barcamp Cameroon

Today we had a chance to connect with Dariu Trueb, a representative of Ringier AG, one of Europe’s largest media corporations. Founded in 1833, Ringier is the leading media house in Switzerland with headquarters in Zurich. It has strongholds in print, broadcast, radio, online and mobile media with annual income of approximately 1.5 billion Swiss francs.

In 2012, Ringier expects to expand its portfolio and continue to invest in leading multimedia platforms. The organization seeks to support these investments with additional technology, know-how and the growth finance needed to successfully build traction in local African markets. At the same time, Dariu represents Kitendo Capital and is looking at the potential for making impact related investments in Cameroon.

Can you tell us about your investment interest in Africa?

“I represent two separate companies Ringier and Kitendo Capital. Ringier has the objective to become a leader in the internet industry in Africa. To achieve this goal we concentrate primarily on investing in mobile and internet concepts that have previously proven successful in Europe and/or Asia. Kitendo Capital on the other hand is an impact investment fund with a focus on Africa. We look for financially sustainable investments that can generate significant positive social or environmental impact.”

Is there a relationship between the two organizations?

“Ringier and Kitendo Capital are two separate companies with no official link. However, we work closely together when it comes to deal sourcing and project analysis. This is also facilitated by the fact that myself and other Kitendo Capital founders are involved in both structures.”

Has Ringier or Kitendo already made investments in Africa and if so can you talk about them?

“Yes Ringier currently has operations in three countries in Africa. We are present in Kenya (covering east Africa) Ghana (covering West Africa) and last in Nigeria as a standalone project. Our projects range from e-commerce, with what is most probably the number one ecommerce platform in East Africa,, to news and classifieds with for instance or We expect to enter various other markets in the coming year.

Kitendo Capital is yet to make its’ first investment in Africa. We are however hoping to make our first two investments before the end of the year.”

Why would an organization like yours be interested in Cameroon?

“Cameroon is a very exciting country with a steady track record of economic growth. It is true that Cameroon is very early stage when it comes to the internet. However, where many see market weakness we see a great opportunity. We envision building a leadership position in partnership with local entrepreneurs.”

What sectors are of possible interest/why?

“Ringier is interested in mobile and internet concepts that offer important reach and long term profitability. Kitendo Capital looks mainly at the following sectors: Health, IT, Housing, Water and Agriculture. These are the sectors that we believe will achieve the highest profitability and impact over time.”

What do you find the most challenging about finding qualified startups?

“The biggest challenge is to find promising projects with the right team able to properly execute its’ vision. We try to use various channels. We stay informed on the latest developments through blogs, news site and networks including VC4Africa. We connect with funds, local incubators, look for competitions and also have people contacting us directly.”

Any advice for the entrepreneurs out there hunting for partners?

“Contact us or any organization likely to help you in your project financially or structurally. For entrepreneurs in Cameroon we recommend entrepreneurs get in touch with ActivSpaces as they are our local contact for the country.””

Why did you agree to participate in ActivInsights being organized by ActivSpaces and the local tech community?

“Activ Spaces is the missing link between us and the entrepreneurs. We currently have no base in Cameroon and needed a trustful partner with local experience able to help us find the right entrepreneurs.”

What do you hope comes out of the conversation this evening?

“We are hoping to get an insight view of the market from the entrepreneurs themselves and have a feel of what are the coming opportunities. We are also hoping to provide constructive answers to the questions entrepreneurs are asking themselves.”

Do you have a final message for the VC4A community and the entrepreneurs out there?

“There are many things one could say to an entrepreneur. My personal advise to them is to focus one thing: allowing them to achieve their full potential. Entrepreneurs need capital for their ventures, this is a fact. However, the present lack of capital available to start ups in Africa is not caused by a lack of capital itself. There is money out there and there is plenty of it. What is lacking worldwide is good projects and good teams to run them. This is exactly what VC4Africa is offering. I truly believe that VC4Africa and its’ partners are offering Africa’s future entrepreneurs a great chance to realize their dreams.”

On Tuesday the 25th of October (from 6:00pm – 7:00pm) Dariu will be participating in ActivInsights, a monthly networking platform with entrepreneurs via the Cameroonian tech hub ActivSpaces.