Today we had a chance to connect with Geoff Goss, the founder of Matamba Anonaka Technology Holdings (MATHs), the first technology focused Venture Capital Company in Zimbabwe. The firm was established in 2010 as a joint venture between Rutland Consultants of Zimbabwe and Bridge‐Connect of Germany. Some of their investments include Celsys, Starfish Mobile and Gikko.net.
How did you end up in Zimbabwe?
“Immigrated here as a child”
What inspired you to set up your own VC firm/Turning point?
“There were clearly identifiable projects that needed addressing in Zimbabwe and the frustration caused by politics in the corporate world lead to the decision to pursue some of these opportunities independently.”
Can you tell us about the opportunities you see in the market?
“Zimbabwe has a proliferation of educated, skillful people who have been through a traumatic 10 years of economic meltdown. What they lack, however, is capital and to some extent professional business management skills. The opportunities revolve around backing individuals in this relatively small market that is ready to adopt existing technologies and solutions and apply them to the Zimbabwean context.”
What is the premise/underlining thinking that goes into your approach?
“We seek to identify gaps in the tech space that can be addressed with an existing technology or solution.”
Can you talk about your strategy applying proven concepts?
“Having identified the preferably best of breed solution, it becomes imperative that we then also find appropriately skilled and motivated local Zimbabwean entrepreneurs to develop the opportunity with us.”
What are the elements that have to come together for you to back a deal?
“Gap in the market, proven solution from elsewhere, local management team, appropriate funding for the business case.”
What can you tell us what investors have to do differently to have any chance of being successful in a market like Zim?
“Throw out the investor’s handbook, be prepared to get less than your “pound of flesh” now for ten times that in the future.”
What has been the most challenging for you to overcome thus far?
“Low investment levels due to perceived country risk. Risk is real, but not anywhere near as bad as conventional wisdom would have you believe.”
Everyone talks about exits, how do you see these playing out in the context of Zim?
“Exits are longer term than international investors might be used to. That said, investors taking the leap of faith now, and develop the businesses as quickly as possible, can expect numerous exit opportunities when Zimbabwe finally reaches the point when a truly democratically elected government is re-integrated into the world markets.”
What would you like to see happen in the market moving forward?
“There is a need for greater awareness of the Zimbabwe opportunity amongst the international investment community and every negative story published needs to be countered by the good news stories that abound.”
What is your message to the international investment community?
“The relative cost of investing in Zimbabwe now is very low if investment is channelled towards experienced, local operators who have the right degree of integrity and transparency. These people and organisations are there, but it can’t be done remotely. The threshold for many funds is too high for the relative risk and return. More attention needs to be paid to raising and deploying funding into the SME sector.”
What do you think of VC4Africa?
“VC4Africa is most definitely hitting a sweet spot as far as the economies of Africa are concerned. It is a great platform that goes from strength to strength, and could even form the basis of a fund itself that could aggregate small scale investors into a more meaningful scale.”
Thanks Geoff. We appreciate the work you are doing in Zimbabwe. You are creating a path for others to follow and we hope more individuals and institutions recognize the potential the way you do.