I still remember the critical question of an early-day supporter of Impacc: “Are you sure you will find enough initiatives to support?” At the time, we had two businesses in the pipeline, and it wasn’t a given that startups in Africa would be open to our approach of philanthropic investments. Well, by now I can say: “yes, we are sure”. In fact, we have just closed this year’s Call for Entrepreneurs, and received a stunning 189 applications from across Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. It is our aim to open a new country every year, and after last year’s cohort from Kenya, we are all set to go and expand across East Africa this year. Which of the three countries it will be isn’t clear yet – it depends on which country has fielded the strongest lineup of startups. But what is clear is that the process has been a great success so far:
In March, we opened the Call for Entrepreneurs inviting founders of companies with innovative, local, green products or services that create sustainable jobs at the base of the pyramid to apply for funding and venture building support. Our team reached out to pretty much every Accelerator, Incubator, Ecosystem Builder and our wider network – as well as social media with more than 90,000 in reach. The result: dozens and dozens of applications from great entrepreneurs who all have the same problem: a great idea and early success in the market, but no money to take their business to the next level. Indeed, only 2% of the world’s investment capital flows to Africa, and there are only 971 active investors into African tech start-ups in 2022. And that’s for 54 countries and for more than 1,4 billion people. Compare that with more than 300,000 angel investors in the US alone. The demand is huge, and it’s great to see that we have become a bit of a magnet for these businesses.
Another sign of magnetism is the media coverage we have been able to attract across Africa over the last few months. Our Managing Director Africa, Anne Lawi, has been all over the news recently – with interviews on CNBC, BBC Africa, NTS News (Kenya’s main TV station), and she has been invited to some high-profile panels to showcase our innovative approach, most recently at a panel organized by Meta, the parent company of Facebook. I am really happy about the recognition Anne and the African team are getting.
Anne Lawi, Managing Director Africa, on national news.
The next few months are exciting as we narrow down the list to the final half a dozen or so winners who will make up this year’s new cohort. In a first step, we have created a longlist of 81 companies. We have been able to win over a really impressive panel of judges to help us go from longlist to shortlist. 10 pan-African experts – a mix of investors, due diligence professionals, and successful founders – will work over the next few months to identify the 10 or so candidates for the final round. We will then visit them in person in June for a final round of due diligence, before we welcome the winners into our program in the summer. It will be a tough call because so many of them deserve our support – it’s a really exiting mix this year, with lots of businesses from the agricultural sector (which is no surprise given that more than half of the global base-of-pyramid market is in the food sector), and many of them using technology to reach more people with their products and services. I can’t wait to meet the best of this inspiring bunch soon, and to introduce them to you in my next newsletter.
Take care, Till