By investing in start-ups that are eager to solve problems facing the world in the energy, health and agriculture sectors, a local firm is turning dreams into reality
Rachel Crawford, the Global Talent Product Manager at Village Capital, can spot a diamond in the rough from afar, especially one that is transformational.
Crawford who works at Village Capital with Adedana Ashebir, Regional Manager, Africa and Tina Nyamache, Africa Operations Associate is keen on building a community of entrepreneurs who want to solve some of the world’s biggest problems in the health and energy sectors.
Village Capital has invested in 14 start-ups in Africa ranging from energy, health and agriculture. One of the companies they have invested in is Eco-Fuels Kenya, which discovered the shells of a croton nut were a good source of organic nitrogen used to make fertiliser. The seedcake from the biofuel production also has high protein levels, perfect for use in making commercial animal feeds. They have invested in PayGo Energy, a company that distributes services that harness the power of pay-as-you-go technology to bring clean fuels to homes. They have also invested in Olivine Technologies; a financial service software company that specialises in designing and developing automated data-capture tools that integrate with third party solutions such as Quickbooks and M-Pesa.
“The entrepreneurs who we train have to be tech start-ups that incorporate energy, health care, education and Fin Tech. From the curriculum that they will go through the 10-12 entrepreneurs will select who to receive the funding, which helps to prevent investor bias,” said Crawford. Crawford has a wealth of experience in the tech field having previously worked with private equity firm Patron Capitol.
She worked there for four years leading the product development of youth accommodation portfolio, Generator Hostels. At the time she was working at Patron Capitol, Generator Hostels was operating in two cities; Berlin and London. She later sold it for Sh46 billion (US$450 million). Later she joined the founding team of a travel tech start-up, Tripr application as the director of marketing and partnerships. This was her debut into the start-up scene. She currently is an employee at Village Capital as the talent’s Manager improving access to talent for start-ups. They invest in the early stage companies that do not have more than Sh103 million (US$1 million).
“We invest in companies that have minimal viable products that the clients are already using,” said Adedana Ashebir, Regional Manager, Africa. They have also invested in companies outside Kenya. One such company is Nigeria’s Piggybank, which is an online savings platform that securely makes saving possible by combining discipline and flexibility to encourage saving. They launched their FinTech Africa 2018 programme in collaboration with PayPal. This will enable them to choose four to 10 entrepreneurs that have technologies, which incorporate energy, health care, education and addresses financial concerns.
“The advantage that this programme offers is that the entrepreneurs are able to have the peer to peer evaluation and there are usually three workshops, which are held in three months,” said Tina Nyamache, Africa Operations Associate. Crawford said they held a workshop this year in May where they had 60 angel investors and two start-ups walked away with a deal.