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Building an early stage ecosystem for Africa’s growing community of entrepreneurs
VC4Africa is building a leading peer-to-peer network that connects African based entrepreneurs with the resources (network, knowledge and capital) they require to realize their potential.
Last week we announced the launch of DEMO Africa 2013, the second time this landmark event will take place on the continent, and already we are receiveing some quality applications. Think about payment systems designed for the elderly using touch screen, biometric and Kinect technology, the development of money management systems for Chamas, or mobile health technology used to diagnose and manage the treatment of cancer patients. These are just a few examples of the entrepreneurs and innovative ventures we seek to put into the spotlight at this year’s event. This is one example of the kind of collaborations that are taking shape under the partnership framework LIONS @FRICA, of which VC4Africa is a proud member.
It isn't only about managing the application process or facilitating the adjudication process online for an event like DEMO Africa, but making sure we plug participating entrepreneurs into a larger support ecosystem. Take for example our new peer-to-peer mentorship marketplace. Entrepreneurs looking for advice to grow their business in Africa get direct access to a pool of business experts from around the world. Entrepreneur Gilles Ajavon, who used VC4Africa’s mentoring services for his venture and was recently invited to pitch at last year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Dubai explains, “My venture Ujamaa is a proof that VC4Africa’s mentorship program works!”
At the same time, entrepreneurs who show the traction, and are ready to raise capital, have the ability to connect with members of the VC4Africa Investor Network, the largest active investor base investing in early stage enterprises. We recently profiled 40 investors part of this program. In a recent interview, Angel Investor Jerome Kisting explained the value VC4Africa creates for him,“I don’t have staff working for me, so if VC4Africa can do that initial screening and select entrepreneurs that actually have coherent business plans and it looks like the model can work that is really useful. A lot of Angel Investors don’t have their own infrastructure to assess things, so any pre-selection is really helpful.” Entrepreneur Teddy Ruge adds, “I like what I see so far and I like where VC4Africa has come from. This is what the future of development and investment on the continent looks like. We need to build a culture of supporting entrepreneurs building market solutions on the ground."
This is only the beginning and there are many ways we can better connect resources and match both the financial and non-financial needs of Africa’s startup entrepreneurs.
For example, one of the biggest problems facing the ecosystem of African entrepreneurship is collecting accurate data and federating this data across multiple sources. As the VC4Africa community has grown since its launch in late 2010, so too has the depth and richness of the data stored by our system. To date we have processed more than 1,000 venture applications and more than 500 profiles are published publicly on VC4Africa’s website, from over 35 countries in Africa. During this time we’ve had numerous requests from developers who have expressed a desire to gain external access to our data. One example of a popular request is to embed our map (or portions of it, such as country- or sector-specific data) of published ventures outside of the VC4Africa website. This is only the beginning. Other forms of public read/write access encourages further investment into a shared database, and can foster the growth of an ecosystem of developers contributing to its future development in various ways. Making a web API available to third-party developers and organizations is the first step toward achieving this goal, and a step VC4Africa has taken with the launch of its RESTful web API and developers portal. Investing into this shared infrastructure works to further connect Africa’s startup ecosystem.
Africa’s increased economic momentum is fuelled by a growing number of entrepreneurs and their ambition to transform the continent. It is imperative we seek out the collaborations and partnerships needed to bring together the capital, knowledge and network they require. In collaboration with the LIONS @FRICA partnership, the growing VC4Africa network of entrepreneurs and investors is central to bolstering the Entrepreneurial ecosystem across the continent, and offers a direct channel for anyone serious about being part of Africa’s next great success story.
VC4Africa is building a leading peer-to-peer network that connects African based entrepreneurs with the resources (network, knowledge and capital) they require to realize their potential. The platform VC4Africa.biz has 10.000 members spread across 159 countries.
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