VC4Africa launches open data on African startups

VC4Africa launches an API (application programming interface) to embed public venture data from the startup funding platform on external websites, display subsets of venture data and more.

VC4A is often thought of as a startup finance platform, but at our core we’re really an organization that’s using technology to help entrepreneurs realize their full potential. When you think of VC4A the first thing that comes to mind is probably our member facing website. However, that’s only one side of our story. As our community and database of ventures continues to grow, we’re increasingly able to extract meaningful information and identify key trends that span the continent. Our recently published research breaks down these insights across five areas: employment, performance, investments, investors and influencing factors.

As a nexus for a large volume of entrepreneurial activity, we’re in a unique position to crowdsource primary data on the African venture space. We’re also committed to organizing this data and making it more accessible. To that end, we’re excited to announce that our venture data is now open and available to anyone with an interest in exploring it.

Making data interoperable

A key feature of open data is interoperability, or the ability of diverse systems and organizations to work together. In this case, it’s the ability to interoperate—or intermix—different datasets. One of the best ways to promote this intermixing is by publishing (developers often use the term “exposing”) datasets via an application programming interface, or API. In simple terms, APIs are sets of requirements that govern how one application can talk to another. APIs make possible a sprawling number of “mashups,” in which developers mix and match data from a vast array of providers to create entirely new consumer apps and services. In a similar fashion, open data provided by governments and institutions can increase transparency, promote participatory governance and create both social and economic value.

VC4A open data

We’ve had requests in the past from members who wanted to embed our ventures map on an external website, or display a subset of our venture data that was relevant to their context. Open data permits not only this but a number of interesting questions to be answered. For example, how many companies focused on the health sector have successfully fundraised in the last year? Or, how does the rate of growth in companies tagged ‘solar’ reflect interest in the renewable energy sector? Queries such as these may be formulated and the resulting data combined with other external datasets.

After a period of beta testing with select partners, we’re now making all public venture data available via our API. This includes both aggregate data and details of individual venture profiles.

Getting started

VC4A’s open data is a public service for accessing venture data collected on our platform, searchable by tag, sector, country and fundraising status. To get up and running, follow these simple steps:

  1. Read through our documentation.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the API using this minimal JavaScript client.
  3. Fork or download our sample code in GitHub.
  4. Ask for advice and send us your feedback through our API discussion group.
  5. Tweet us when your project is live so we can promote it— @vc4africa.
A minimal client illustrating how to retrieve ventures data from the VC4A API and plot results on a map

A minimal client illustrating how to retrieve ventures data from the VC4A API and plot results on a map

A final thought. At VC4A one of our key goals is to be open with the communities we serve. For the development team, this means trying to be open and transparent with our code and the data collected by our platform. Democratizing our ventures data is a first step in this journey. Do you have thoughts on how can we improve our API? Use the comments section below to let us know.

Photo Credit: SamanthaGrimes via Compfight