VC4Africa is pleased to announce the launch of its ‘Booster Program,’ a unique opportunity for a select number of VC4Africa registered ventures. As part of the Booster, entrepreneurs receive feedback on their business plan, coaching and dedicated access to the VC4Africa network of investors. Today we talk to Saskia Reus-Makkink, Head of Investor Relations and Mentorship Program at VC4Africa, to get some more insight into this pilot program and how it works.
Why was the Booster program started?
‘We know that most of the added value of the VC4Africa platform is in screening and preparing entrepreneurs to get them ready for investment. To a great extent this happens online via the website. Some of our investors have asked for additional due diligence support and the Booster program is a new service we offer to our investor network. But we also want to be proactive, so at the same time we reach out to entrepreneurs we feel can really benefit from intensive support. We are still in pilot stage but eventually we hope to expand the service.’
What can entrepreneurs expect by participating in this program?
‘Rigorous coaching program, interview series and personal introductions and match making to our qualified investor network. Within a 3 month period entrepreneurs get about 2 hours per week of coaching and feedback on their plans and financial projections. We share best practices in the market and increase skills in for example finance and marketing. In addition to that, we actively search for investors that match the entrepreneur’s profile, facilitate the introductions and answer initial questions from either party. After introduction of the investors to the entrepreneurs we also support them in explaining how the financing process works. The final output is a fact sheet the entrepreneur can use for closing a deal.’
Can you tell us which ventures have been selected for the pilot?
‘Very Sol will enter the Nigerian market with high quality energy solutions. The entrepreneur has in-depth knowledge of the product and contracts signed with customers in the country. The company showed already modest sales in Europe and the entrepreneur invested about 50k EUR family capital into his company for expansion into Africa. To set up his activities in Nigeria he is looking for 350K EUR, mainly to be invested in fixed assets.’
‘Penda Health is building a chain of high quality women health centres for middle and low income women across Kenya. Entrepreneurs have proven track record in sales and health care services in Kenya/Africa. Contracts with factories to service their employees have been signed and the first clinic just opened its doors on February 14th, 2012. Financing needed for the next 1,5 year’s is about 500k EUR.’
‘m-KAZI is a mass market job search application accessed by mobile phone and online in Kenya. It allows job seekers to register their details and qualifications via SMS and receive SMS job alerts. Employers can in turn target candidates on the m-KAZI database who meet their requirements. There are 25 million mobile phone users in Kenya and m-KAZI can be used by anyone with a basic mobile phone. The founding entrepreneurs have experience in related fields and invested 50k EUR of own capital. Now they look for 50k to speed up market penetration.’
‘African Alternative Energy Solutions in Uganda is an innovative way to provide (back up) energy products to the African market by storing redundant energy of driving your car or motor bike. The company had modest sales and letter of intent to buy its products of large companies to provide their employees with energy at home. The company is run by a senior entrepreneur who is looking for 500k EUR for expansion activities.’
What are the criteria for participation?
‘The objective criteria are: solid business plan, clear market, working pilot, skills and experience of the entrepreneur and its team. The subjective criterium is that we need to believe in your business opportunity in order to explain the opportunity to investors. We need to be convinced to such an extent that we would want to invest our last money in your venture.’
What are some of your observations so far?
‘The market/product knowledge of the entrepreneurs is in general excellent. Some are strong in financial projections others are stronger in marketing. They are all small teams and highly dedicated. Take for example Penda Health, they worked day and night to open their first clinic this week, and still they find time to work on the documents for investors.’
What is your message to other VC4Africa entrepreneurs who want to participate?
‘End of March we will select another group of 5 entrepreneurs to join the program. If you are an entrepreneur that wants to be part of the next phase, take your time now to work on your pitch and share progress on your venture on your venture profile page. That will help get you noticed by investors and it is also for us the first step in screening new candidates. If you have questions on your venture you can also share them via the Q&A section of the website or contact us to join the mentorship program. At the same time, we continue to take requests from the VC4Africa Investor Network.’
Thanks Saskia. We look forward to seeing this program take shape and to following the progress of the ‘boosters.’ In the coming weeks we will be profiling each venture in more detail. Of course, this is only one effort of the many VC4Africa initiatives we undertake in our mission to help promising entrepreneurs realize their potential. If you are an investor or entrepreneur interested in our services feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.