Africa Angels Network has recently joined the VC4Africa investor network. VC4Africa followed up with Pule Taukobong, the founder of the initiative (present at DEMO Africa this week), to find out more about his vision and approach to investing.
Africa Angels Network (AAN) is an Angel investment firm that encourages, invests in and supports entrepreneurs in Africa, and then primarily in the fields of Technology, Media, Telecoms and Design. They have already made seven investments in early stage companies and offer yet another example of the growing seriousness given to the continent’s entrepreneurs.
Africa has highly educated and talented youth who also have a strong passion for entrepreneurship. But their potential will go unrealized without the active engagement of Angel investors. Angel investors not only bring necessary capital, but more importantly lend entrepreneurs their expertise and network so often missing. Setting up a thriving business is wrought with challenges, yet entrepreneurs with the right support have improved chances of success.
Tell us why you quit your job to start the Africa Angels Network?
“I realized that there was an overwhelming need to encourage, invest in, and support early stage/startups and entrepreneurs in Africa. I felt I had some skills and capital to help, so decided to make the plunge and get involved.”
Why are you doing this? Why did you decide to start down this road?
“I’m truly passionate about the young entrepreneurial talent we have here in Africa. We are up there with the very best globally. We just need to find a way to support them better.”
How does it work? How have you structured Africa Angels Network?
“I have created an Investment Holding Firm (like Warren Buffets Berkshire Hathaway) that provides the capital to invest in the companies. We have a long-term view approach and are very involved in helping the companies develop and grow. I used my own savings to make the initial set of investments. Now get other investors/Angels on board by getting them to subscribe to shares for their capital. Furthermore, we then match the entrepreneurs we invest in, with the resources, mentors, expertise and goodwill from our network.”
What makes you different? Or describe the approach you are taking to investment?
“I feel the structure I’ve mentioned above is a unique approach in this space. We also don’t have an exit focus. We look for phenomenal entrepreneurs that are going to build solid business that will create both jobs & profit. Yes, I think we can learn a lot from other, more developed international ecosystems, but we can’t just plug and play their models here. We have to look at things from Africa’s perspective and build our own model based on what we feel is need here.”
You mention 5 pillars you apply as part of your model. Can you please explain these?
“1) Mentorship – someone that understands their industry well and provides invaluable insights.
2) Networks – Someone that has access to a network that can help their business grow.
3) Patience – An Angel that realizes that our Ecosytem is still developing, so things take time and don’t happen as quickly as more developed Ecosystems like the US.
4) Faith – An Angel that genuinely believes in them and trusts that they are the right people for the task at hand.
Can you highlight two existing investments and why they exemplify the type of ventures you look to support?
“The sectors we currently invest in are TMT (Technology, Media, Telecoms) and Design.
Enzifootwear – This is the 1st company in our Design Portfolio. They make premium quality sneakers in Ethiopia. The company is expanding quickly on an international scale.
Wabona – This investment was the 1st in our Media Portfolio. They are an online media platform that allows you to view African, African-American and Afro-Caribbean content online and via a mobile platform.
These companies exemplify the ventures we look to support, not only from a sector perspective, but also from a talent perspective. The founders of the two companies are solid individuals that I 100% believe are the right people to take these businesses forward.”
What do you see as the biggest challenge for you and your companies moving forward?
“For me the biggest challenge is convincing other investors to come onboard as Angels and view this on a long-term basis, and not focus on exits. (i.e. Investors that have a shared vision and commitment as me). For our companies, the next round of funding can be difficult, but we are focusing on helping the companies generate strong revenues themselves. However, this is not always possible, so we are also working hard to build relationships with other Angel Groups and VCs that can provide this next round of capital, once the company reaches a certain level.”
Why is it important we come together as a community and what role can VC4Africa play?
“The world needs to know what is happening here. We need to make more people aware of what is happening in the various ecosystems across Africa. The challenges and the success stories. VC4Africa has the platform to do this.”
What is your expectation for DEMO Africa this year?
“I’m hoping to see and learn more about what startups are doing across the continent and to potentially find a company to invest in.”
Why are you looking forward to the Investor Cocktail at DEMO Africa this Wednesday and what are the conversations you look forward to having there?
“I’m keen to meet other investors that have made investments in different African markets so we can share our experiences and how we can get more investors onboard.”
Do you have a final message for entrepreneurs working to build the next great company?
“I live by a very simple philosophy “Keep Calm and Do Epic sh*t”. I encourage entrepreneurs to think on an international scale. Build business that can compete on a global scale and see the entire globe as a market, not just your country or continent.”
Do you have a message to the investors still on the sidelines?
“Only way to know more about this space is to actually do deals and get involved. Get involved.”
The VC4Africa community is pleased to welcome Paul and his colleagues at the Angel Africa Network. As more individuals step forward to invest in the continent’s brightest minds, the closer we get to closing the finance gap for the continent’s aspiring entrepreneurs. Read more about VC4Africa’s investor offering. And Read more about Wednesday’s investor cocktail at DEMO Africa.