London builds a bridge to Africa at VC4Africa Meetup

On Friday the 22nd of June, 2012, members of VC4Africa came together for a London meetup. Today we had a chance to catch up with Michelle Scott to find out about the networking event and what happened there.

Tell us about yourself, what do you do?

“I currently support VC4Africa on a voluntary basis in London. This means I help coordinate the meetups and serve as the local liaison for the community. I also mentor entrepreneurs in our local region. For example Scopic Africa, a market place for private equity investors looking to tap into local expertise under different arrangements, is one of the projects that I support.”

What is your current interest in the African continent?

“Africa is a thriving continent, there are a number of good stories and opportunities that are springing up from across the continent. We simply need to give voice to those thriving businesses. That is my current focus and interest. At the same time, a lot of investors want to tap into local knowledge networks, and this is what Scopic Africa is trying to achieve. It is a needed channel for connecting the two parties, bridging the gap between foreign and local expertise.”

The London – Africa connection seems buzzing as of late. Can you describe the scene there?

“There is definitely so much going on in London. London is a pivotal city in the world of finance and capital raising. Even more so, we see a lot of entrepreneurs springing up with ideas in London and implementing these ideas on the ground in Africa. Most of these ideas tend to focus on technology applications which is highly needed in Africa.”

What makes London so unique and what role does it play in the Africa story?

“London is a focal centre in the business world. Given it’s location and history, a lot of investors are drawn to London to do business. With Africa not being too far away, and a similar time zone, this means that access to the available opportunities for investors is much nearer than assumed. Likewise, access to capital for entrepreneurs is also within reach. London is therefore a driving force and contributor to the growth of entrepreneurism on the continent.”

Are there many diaspora and how are they active in Africa?

“There is a large population of Africans living in London and a thriving network of entrepreneurs. Most are working on projects that could really work on the ground in Africa, however, the challenge comes in implementation. This is where the VC4Africa mentoring scheme can help to guide the individual entrepreneurs along the way. The community acts as a bridge between continents.”

What stories from the meeting were most interesting for you?

“Finbarrs Oketunji of 234digital has built a fantastic platform that allows users to distribute their music to a global audience within a short space of time. Music producers and artists get their work showcased to a global audience from Africa. I think it’s a great platform!

How many people attended and what were their backgrounds?

“Roughy 40 people showed up and we were kindly hosted by the Society Bar on 33 Blackfriars Lane in London. Most people who attended are based in London. A large majority of which are working on African focused businesses, many of which fall under technology and real estate. We were also fortunate to have Fiona Graham and David Lee join the event on behalf of the BBC. Both are covering the technology sector. Fiona Graham will be covering the technology revival in Africa in the coming weeks. If you are based in Kenya / Uganda and have a great startup story to share in the technology, healthcare or e-learning space, please get in touch. We’d like to share your story with the world.”

Were there key issues identified that would serve to better mobilize the community?

“Well the meetups are meant to increase the face to face conversations for people connected to VC4Africa network and make new friends! It is run by local teams all over the world and is meant to take a free style and open networking approach. Perhaps it is also worth highlighting that the meetups are owned by the local community, which empowers the local network to organically grow according to its needs. There were suggestions of having offline pitching platforms and we are looking to see if this will be a feasible for London.”

Final thoughts or message to the community?

“It was a great turn out once again. Like Hugh Miller, who thought the event was properly organised and focused to the needs of the local community, I feel people were able to connect with others to discuss business in an amiable environment. We encourage you to follow up the conversations on the platform, and if you haven’t registered your venture, we encourage you to do so. Its the best way to get maximum global exposure! We are looking forward to welcoming everyone to the next event in September.”