Egyptian internet startup Knellen has closed an investment deal with both African and European angel investors through online venture capital community VC4Africa. Knellen is a new platform that allows emerging artists to exhibit, promote and sell their work virtually, and gives art lovers insider access to new talents.
After having worked in business and marketing, 24-year-old Egyptian Ahmed Koraiem decided to combine his passion for arts with his business expertise, and together with co-founder Makarious Farag established the company Knellen. Ahmed Koraiem: “We are offering a solution to artists by providing them an online gallery to display and sell their art. At the same time we’re allowing people who are interested in viewing and buying art the freedom to do so from home, offering them a wide variety of art and decoration pieces at a suitable fee.”
Many entrepreneurs running small businesses in Africa struggle to find investments. Knellen co-founder Ahmed Koraiem: “We found that one of the most popular and most appealing ways to find mentors and investors is through VC4Africa.” It is very easy for entrepreneurs to fundraise through VC4Africa’s online platform. After a one-click signup it is possible to register a venture profile and start a round of fundraising, making the venture available to the VC4Africa Investor Network – including both well-established investment firms and individual angel investors, in and outside of Africa.
The company Knellen was incubated through Innoventures in Cairo, Egypt. Hesham Wahby, a principle of the Innoventures program: “The strength of the Knellen team is that it is a good mix of technical and business people. They’ve already identified a number of potential partners and clients, and have reached the finalists stage in a number of competitions.”
He expands, “Often our companies can secure initial investor interest locally, but often this isn’t enough and we need to expand their pool of contacts. It helps to secure the support of investors from abroad who can add additional valuable experience and network. It also gives local investors more incentive to engage local companies knowing they are part of a larger market. VC4Africa is a great way for startups and incubators to access global investors who are interested in Egypt and other countries in Africa. Together with VC4Africa we act as a link between the local start-up network in Egypt, and the more global tech start-up network.”
VC4Africa’s Investor Network is the largest network of dedicated investors interested in supporting African based SMEs. Investors who register on VC4Africa can see which ventures are fundraising and follow the progress of the ventures they find interesting. Presently more than 500 venture profiles are published on VC4Africa, from over 35 countries in Africa. On VC4Africa’s platform investors can also network with fellow investors, and pool resources with fellow investors. In this way, VC4Africa works to lower barriers to investing in Africa’s most promising entrepreneurs.
Lead investment by Egyptian angel
As with other deals closed through VC4Africa, a lead investor played an important role in successfully closing Knellen’s fundraising campaign. Egyptian angel investor Loay El Shawarby expressed early interest to invest in Knellen and then worked with the team to raise the additional capital.
Loay El Shawarby explains: “I like the concept of trading art on the internet. There is definitely a gap in that area. The team is also a motivation for my decision to invest – young, aspiring, and full of enthusiasm and passion to make a change and grab the business opportunity.” He expands, “VC4Africa has been and will remain valuable for me in terms of co-investment possibilities for risk mitigation, and access to their wide pool of start-ups for consideration. The platform provides a wide range of investment opportunities.”
Knellen: a new international brand
Knellen has already made agreements with art schools, home decoration stores, art enthusiasts and galleries for strategic alliances, and plans to launch a fully functional website soon. Co-founder Ahmed Koraiem: “At Knellen we aim to promoting new, contemporary talent and bringing boundless art to a wide audience. Artists manage their own portfolios and price their own work, letting both artists and collectors skip the formalities of the traditional gallery structure. We hope to position Knellen as the number one place when you think of art, to make it an international brand: first in Egypt, then expanding to the MENA region, and later worldwide.”