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Q1 2023 - (released May 2023)

SA's quarterly Private Equity & Venture Capital magazine

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Endeavor puts its carry where its mouth is to support African tech scale-ups

by Michael Avery

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Despite the recent tech pullback in the US, investors are still making big bets on Africa’s tech-enabled entrepreneurs and high-growth startups.

One notable example is Harvest Fund III, a co-investment fund launched by Endeavor SA, which aims to raise R500m to back the most promising South African and African-founded tech-enabled businesses that are scaling globally. Harvest Fund II, the predecessor of the current fund, successfully raised R190m and invested in 18 companies in the past 18 months, making it a winning formula worth replicating.

To learn more about Harvest Fund III and its investment criteria, Catalyst interviewed Antonia Bothner, Capital Markets Lead at Endeavor. Bothner explained that Harvest Fund III will continue to invest exclusively into Endeavor’s high-growth tech and tech-enabled entrepreneurs looking to scale globally. The fund focuses on businesses that are part of Endeavor’s network and have been selected through a rigorous selection process. Specifically, the fund targets high-growth tech-enabled businesses that are scaling, often at the Series A and beyond stages, like TymeBank, for example. 

Harvest Fund III is also expanding its focus to major tech hubs in Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt.

 

Bothner acknow-ledged that tech entrepreneurship in these markets comes with its own set of challenges.

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Regulatory risks are often high, and securing funding can be difficult, especially in the South African ecosystem. Additionally, businesses in these markets often have to build out new industries due to limited infrastructure, which presents unique challenges.

However, Bothner believes that these challenges also present significant opportunities for tech entrepreneurs to solve real-world problems in these markets, such as agtech, logistics and fintech, which tend to dominate in less developed markets like Nigeria and Kenya.

“Tech entrepreneurs are always up for a challenge,” enthuses Bothner. “That's the nature of being an entrepreneur.”

One notable feature of Harvest Fund III’s operating model is its non-profit approach, which allows for 100% of the carried interest (carry) to be reinvested into the local ecosystem to support the next generation of entrepreneurs. Bothner shared some examples of the impact that this model has had so far. As of the end of 2022, the 61 high-growth entrepreneurs in Endeavor’s network had delivered revenues of 47%, equivalent to about R13bn. These entrepreneurs are also supporting 16,000 jobs, with job growth at 36% per annum and 80% of the jobs going to local youth, with 75% to black Africans. The reinvestment of carry back into the ecosystem aims to multiply this impact by supporting more jobs, revenue growth and innovation in the local economies.

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When asked about the current global environment for VC-backed entrepreneurs in emerging markets, Bothner expressed optimism. She noted that while interest rates have started to rise, and though there have been recent stresses in the Silicon Valley Bank ecosystem, there is still appetite among global investors to look beyond mature ecosystems and explore opportunities in emerging markets. In fact, Bothner believes that this could provide a tailwind for African tech entrepreneurs, as global investors seek new avenues for growth.

Bothner also highlighted the importance of partnerships and collaborations in the African tech ecosystem. She mentioned that Endeavor has partnered with other organisations, including venture capital firms, to provide support and resources to its entrepreneurs. These partnerships have been instrumental in helping African tech entrepreneurs overcome challenges and scale their businesses globally.

Looking ahead, Bothner is optimistic about the future of African tech. She believes that Africa has immense potential for tech-enabled businesses to thrive and to make a positive impact on local economies. 

“I think you can already start to see the world shifting to there and how they perceive Africa, and how they perceive risk in Africa [after the recent shocking rise in inflation and interest rates around the world]. In terms of population growth to 2050, the numbers are staggering, and they cannot and are not being ignored. One in every four humans and one in every three youths will come from Africa by 2050. That is a massive consumer market. And actually, if you can look at it as quite a flat playing field, which tech can do, you can really start to reassess risk in a way that's a little bit more bottom up, looking at those fundamental drivers such as the population growth, and what comes with that.”

Harvest Fund III is just one example of the increasing interest and investment in African tech, and Bothner hopes to see more collaboration and partnerships in the ecosystem to support the growth of high-growth tech-enabled entrepreneurs. 
 

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