Investors and entrepreneurs in Africa increasingly find each other online. Zambia based startup company Zamgoat recently secured a 20K investment deal from the US based accelerator Fledge, who found them via the online VC4Africa platform. We had a chance to catch up with both the entrepreneur and the investor. Below is the story of investor Michael “Luni” Libes of Fledge. Also read the entrepreneur’s story.
Fledge is a business accelerator which invests in and trains impactful startups from around the world. Michael “Luni” Libes, founder and Managing Director of Fledge, explains: “Fledge invests in great teams working on mission-driven for-profit companies. Our core thesis is that many of the world’s big problems can be solved by for-profit companies – using profits to scale those solutions – rather than by philanthropy. One third of our portfolio is from, or working in Africa – as unfortunately that is where many big issues are very visible. Poverty, hunger, health issues, inequality, energy, deforestation, etcetera.“
Luni joined the VC4Africa Investor Network in 2014. “For our two accelerator sessions in 2015 we used the VC4Africa platform to review all the active profiles. We looked for companies that fit our impact profile, seemed to be in the process of growing and whose profiles impressed us. For each of these we visited their websites and contacted the companies.”
He adds: “The Fledge6 cohort included quite a number of companies found on VC4Africa. Zamgoat, aggregating, butchering and distributing goat meat in Zambia; GreenChar, manufacturing and distributing green charcoal in Kenya; Ensibuuko, modernizing saccos/chamas in Uganda; and Green Energy Biofuels, producing and distributing ethanol cooking fuel in Nigeria.”
Luni says Fledge’s process of picking invitees is harsh. “For Fledge6, 170 companies applied, and only 7 invitations were sent out. That is an acceptance rate of just 4.1%. That is smaller in percentage than the elite American colleges. None the less, Paul’s entrepreneurial spirit coupled with his progress to-date were enough to earn an invitation, $20,000 in cash, and 10 weeks of intense education and mentorship in Seattle.”
Why did he pick Paul Nyambe and his company Zamgoat? “We found the Zamgoat profile on VC4Africa. It reminded us of the business model used by East Africa Fruits from Tanzania, a graduate of Fledge4 in 2014. After reading the details of the Zamgoat application, we reached out over Skype for an interview, and were impressed by the progress Paul had made with his company, especially given the tiny amount of resources he had gathered before we met him.”
“There is little we enjoy more than finding an entrepreneur like Paul and giving him a once-in-a-lifetime chance to turn his struggling dream into a success. Plus it was great fun to watch him question the American food markets and butchers on why they did not have goat meat in their selection.”
Asked if he wanted to add anything else Luni replied: “We’d love to see a VC4Asia and VC4LatAm, as neither of those regions have an equivalent website for entrepreneurs and investors to find each other.”
And he also has a recommendation for fellow investors interested in African startups: “Note that there are just 1,800 company profiles on VC4Africa. Whether you can afford to make 1 or 10 or 100 investments, don’t be afraid to look through all 1,800. There are many needles hiding in that haystack”.
In a few years VC4Africa has become a premier online platform for entrepreneurs, mentors and investors building innovative companies in Africa. Thousands of entrepreneurs all across Africa present their companies on the online platform. Investors can become Pro Account users of the platform to access the companies’ background documents, set up intelligent alerts, follow progress, conduct due diligence and connect directly with the continent’s leading entrepreneurs. African entrepreneurs and investors are welcome to join.