I think it is fair to say that 2011 was a good year for the VC4Africa community. What originally started as a Linkedin group has now grown into a thriving and productive network. This year we closed the old website and started a new chapter on VC4Africa.biz, the next step in our continued mission to champion the continent’s greatest entrepreneurs.
We now have more than 4.300 members who have opened personal profile pages on the new site and over 200 entrepreneursstepped forward to crunch their venture online. There are promising businesses making progress in over 30 African countries and we have seen members in Cameroon, South Africa, the United States, Kenya, Nigeria, the Netherlands and Somaliland establish partnerships, investments and joint ventures. Increasingly, VC4Africa featured entrepreneurs are being picked up by global media channels like Forbes and BBC World. We have opened a new thread where members are starting to share their successes as their continued progress remains our bottom line – as a community and organization.
In the past months we have launched a number of new programs and resources VC4A entrepreneurs can tap into for support. For example, entrepreneurs are now calling in on Free Feedback Fridays. These are sessions hosted by business experts and are useful for working through challenges faced in the business development process. We also hosted several Business Modeling Workshops and worked with entrepreneurs to practice and film their elevator pitches. More recently, we launched the VC4Africa Mentorship Programthat connects members for peer-to-peer coaching with some early successes already on the books. We also gave a facelift to the venture profiles and entrepreneurs can now post their video pitches online, one of the reasons ventures like Njorku are top ranked all time. They are personal and you immediately get a sense for the entrepreneur and their vision behind their project. In the year ahead we will be doing even more to support our entrepreneurs as they champion their ventures.
Our team is constantly working to introduce new tools and services that further improve the VC4A networking experience. To foster more effective network building we launched our own ‘dating widget’ that matches members on the basis of complimentary skill sets and forwards recommended connections. How do you tap into a global network spread across 159 countries? This past year saw the release of Questions & Answers as a tool for crowdsourcing knowledge from across the member base. There are now 68 open threads and 128 responses. We also launched dedicated groups that allow members to come together around a specific country or theme. Some notable groups we look forward to growing in 2012 include Green Entrepreneurship, the Social Entrepreneur, VC4Africa Mentors and VC4A Woman Entrepreneurs.
Far and away, one of the greatest projects we launched this past year was VC4A Badges. Building great companies and an effective network of contacts is a lot of hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun. With great looking badges we look to recognize your milestones and contributions along the way. For example, when you establish a partnership, support VC4A entrepreneurs as a mentor or attend your first VC4Africa meetup. And they are pretty useful too. Want to know who has organized a VC4Africa meetup in the past? Want to know which VC4A entrepreneurshave been profiled with a featured article on the homepage? Maybe you want to know which entrepeneurs received funding or the ‘on fire’badge for being picked up by mainstream media? And I encourage everyone to check out the members who are part of the VC4Africa Officers Programand help shape the community and grow the effort. See an overview of all of the badges and keep your eye out for new ones :)
We will continue to listen to your feedbackand build the tools that enrich your time spent with VC4A.
These developments aside, VC4Africa had a great year because we have such great members. People who believe in the continent’s potential and want to see its best entrepreneurs succeed. As a community we share and learn from each others experiences and support one another along the way. It is remarkable to see more than 30 VC4Africa meetups organized by members from around the world. We already have great events online for 2012 starting with Accra, Oslo and London. More are on the way. Certainly Africa is a great business opportunity and we all agree the time to make it happen is NOW.
The best part about all of this? We’re just getting started :)