The role of Angel Investors in Zimbabwe

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This week Regina Bvudzijena (“RB”) sat down with Youfarm founder J.P Matenga (“JP”). Youfarm was the only start-up from Zimbabwe selected to represent the country at the just ended Angel Fair Africa, which was held in Maputo Mozambique between the 29th and 30th of November 2018. The fair brings together selected African entrepreneurs to pitch to a room of curated investors with the intent of doing deals. Below is a discussion with JP on his take of the event and the key takeaways.

RB: First let me congratulate you for being selected to represent Zimbabwe at the AFA. Tell more about the event and what it was all about.

JP: AFA is the brain child of Eric Osiakwan (“Eric Osiakwan, Managing Partner of Chanzo Capital is an Entrepreneur and Investor with 15 years of ICT industry leadership across Africa and the world. He has worked in 32 African countries setting up ISPs, ISPAs, IXPs and hightech start-ups”). The goal of the conference or two day event is to bring together angel investors, VCs, business people and 20 top startups carefully selected from across the continent into one room so that they can do deals. Since its inception in 2013 USD23m worth of deals have been facilitated through AFA.

RB: That sounds like a lot of money to be raised from investors in under 5 year. Who attended and what was the structure of the conference?

JP: We were nominated by someone who has been tracking our progress since we launched in 2017. USD23m is indeed a lot of money, and we are lucky to have been selected to participate at such as serious event. There were 10 start-ups from Mozambique and 10 from the rest of the continent, all in different sectors from agriculture to data collection and other technology driven ventures. On the investors side there were people like Kamran Elahian, the Mozambique Angel investor Network (Hamba), representatives from the Mozambique stock exchange, representatives from Standard Bank who were part of the sponsors with Idea Labs. There was a representative from Microsoft and venture capital firms like Goodwell Investments from South Africa which was represented by a Zimbabwean Danai Musandu. There were over 20 investors and companies that had come to do deals with the entrepreneurs.

RB: How was the event structured and what did you find useful?

JP: The forum was a 2 day event (4 for the entrepreneurs) the first 2 days for the entrepreneurs were spent in Boot Camp. The Boot Camp was conducted at the Standard Bank accelerator in Maputo. Here we were taught the art of pitching to investors. We were also taught how to raise funds and things to lookout for when picking an investor. The forum was a mix of pitches by the start-ups and panel discussions ranging from expansion plans and how to scale your start-up across the continent to how to successfully exit a start-up. Day one was followed by a deal making cocktail. The second day was more of the same with many start-ups meeting with investors on the side lines of the event so they could get to know each other and strike deals. There were several takeaways. The first and most important takeaway is that Zimbabwean start-ups need to up their game. Secondly corporates need to support innovation through formation or support of incubators and accelerators. Thirdly we need angel investors in Zimbabwe. In our case high net worth individuals need to start looking at local start-ups and invest in promising ventures. We have brilliant entrepreneurs with ideas but they are failing to get past the first hurdle of financing to test their idea. Just to give you an idea, one of the start-ups at the event was from Angola. The start-up is Tupuca is valued at $85m. When they started 2 angel investors saw the potential and invested 100k which is now worth millions. Some Zimbabwean startups need as little as 5-20k to develop their ideas or validate their models and can quickly evolve into big businesses. Another big takeaway is that entrepreneurs bring value to the investors not the other way around. Startups should not raise money when they are desperate. Start-ups should also take time to do due diligence on targeted investors. Don’t just accept money from anyone. It could bite you later further down the line.

RB: This is rather exciting especially the fact that corporates we part of the event. Do you think Zimbabwe is ready for such events, what can we learn from this as a young start-up ecosystem?

JP: Zimbabwe is ready for such event. We have many exciting startups that are looking for investors to take them to the next level. We are lacking someone to plant the seed. We need to start encourage local angels to start investing in the local start-up ecosystem. Once we get that bringing people from outside to Zimbabwe to invest in our start-ups will be easy. There are organizations like African Business Angel Networks (“ABAN”) who can come to Zimbabwe to teach our angel investors on how to pick investments and how to exit them. The more we expose our start-ups to angels the more likely we are going to get more success stories coming out of Zimbabwe

RB: You are a start-up yourself what would you say I wish I had known that before you started Youfarm? How was Youfarm received at AFA?

JP: I wish I had known how much work and perseverance is required to start a start-up. Having an idea is not enough. You need traction! Get to market as soon as possible so that you can validate your ideas. Never be afraid to pivot. And get good mentors. I have some really great mentors. It took me 6 months to find them but it has transformed my venture. The bottom line is that you don’t know everything so you have to absorb all the advice you can get. At AFA the investors received us very well and they share our vision of restoring Zimbabwe to its former glory of being the breadbasket of Africa while we change the face of agricultural finance in Africa. We met with a couple of potential investors and hopefully something will come out so that we can scale and hire so that we can get more farmers funded. We also had some interesting discussions with a representative from Microsoft who shares our vision of getting technology into the hands of Zimbabwean farmers. It’s clear that Zimbabwe has great potential.

RB: Thank you JP for sharing what is indeed an eye opener. Without angels start-ups in Zimbabwe will struggle. What is your parting shot to start-ups, angels and ecosystem builders in Zimbabwe? What needs to happen to take us to the next level?

JP: Local start-ups need to up their game. The level that the South Africans, Kenyans Angolans and Nigerian start-ups are playing is what we need to aim for and exceed. We have the brains, we need to work harder and we need to learn from our counterparts in other countries. Ecosystem builders like Tech hub and Impact hub are doing good stuff by creating spaces where people can network and collaborate. The future is bright and we need more events, spaces and networking opportunities. Angels need to come out of the woodwork and give start-ups opportunities to pitch. Hubs need to start linking with other players such as banks and investors so that we can create an environment that allows creatives and entrepreneurs to flourish and be noticed.

We hope you have enjoyed this Q&A. To connect with Tech Hub please visit our website http://cowork.co.zw or email me at rbvudzijena@brieftechonline.com