2021 Annual- (released February 2022)
SA's quarterly Private Equity & Venture Capital magazine
by Michael Avery
I was bemoaning the dire state of South Africa’s economy – stuck in reform no-man’s land under the supine leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the genuinely frightening outlook for our country – to my friend over the weekend, and his terse response was quite pointed. He asked me simply, “so, what are you doing about it?”
A group of intrepid venture capitalists are doing something.
Entrepreneurship doesn't take place in a void at random or under the general influence of homogenous economic conditions. Rather, it occurs in specific places that create the right conditions for it within the context of a particular set of incentives and opportunities, as well as barriers. Now, this pithy quote from the Monitor Group report, titled Paths to Prosperity: Promoting Entrepreneurship in the 21st century, neatly encapsulates what we need to focus on in South Africa today if we want to support small and certainly start up enterprises.
We often complain about too much red tape weighing down SMMEs, and specifically high growth potential start-ups. Rather ironically, a group of ecosystem players are collaborating on a solution in the form of, yes, another piece of legislation. It's the SA Startup Act. And it’s actually anti-red tape, and all about creating a coherent supportive framework that enables rather than inhibits the ability of high growth enterprises to scale, by addressing issues around IP, work permits, and the like.
Given the importance of getting the enabling environment correctly calibrated, when it was announced recently that one of the driving forces behind the idea, Simodisa vice-chairperson and South African Startup Act Steering Committee chairperson, Matsi Modise, was appointed to Chair the Technology Innovation Agency, it was just the sort of tonic needed to assuage my inner doubt that we are beyond the point of no return.
Gradually, meritocracy is returning to key positions within the state, and with each such appointment, shattered confidence is slowly being pieced back together.
Catalyst recorded 149 transactions involving private equity funds during 2021. The most on record. A prominent dealmaker asked me rhetorically recently whether we are entering the era of private markets? Increasingly, market participants I talk to are questioning whether the current structure of public capital markets is fit for purpose. Listed markets are just not making sense at the moment and this record activity seems to reinforce that perception.
Congratulations to this year’s finalists for the Catalyst PE Deal of the Year. The winner emerged from the detritus of Ascendis, a disastrous private equity exit to public markets that created an opportunity for an asset fire sale that was pounced upon by other private equity buyers, who feasted on the carcass. In morte occasio!