Yesterday Nest VC announced it has launched its first African office in Nairobi under Aaron Fu to help invest in innovative tech startups across the continent and help turn around their fortunes via mentorships, business model design and networking apart from just funding them.
Techmoran caught up with Fu and this is what he told us.
Why did you choose Nairobi over Lagos? After Nairobi which is your next big stop in Africa?
Guys, it’s the Nyama Choma, clearly. But before we start a cuisine war, Lagos, without a doubt, represents an extremely large market base and is home to many startups we will be looking to engage in the coming months.
We are setting up in Nairobi to participate in the city’s vibrant startup ecosystem driven by a number of factors, key to which is talent. The pace of growth of Nairobi’s quickly increasing tech talent base, driven by communities like the iHub and developer training centres like Moringa, combined with an increasingly larger population of energetic entrepreneurs, with strong experience gained from years of working with large corporates and NGOs that are headquartered here, present a very appealing recipe for startups that are both well engineered and have a developed understanding of the business environment.
The team does not have immediate plans to set-up another physical presence in Africa this year however we will be looking at building on partnerships to extend the reach and depth of the nest ecosystem in other innovation hubs on the continent.
Having invested in 49 companies over the last 5 years and run accelerators in 3 different sectors in the last year, we believe the time is right to grow our proven model of investing in and developing startups to the African startup ecosystem.
How will nest.vc work in Kenya?
We will be bringing all aspects of nest’s global ecosystem to Nairobi and are inviting all startups who feel they can benefit from our proven support structure of Strategy, Marketing, Funding and Network to kick-off a conversation with us.
Beyond access to direct support from our team in Nairobi and across the world, which includes access to our rigorously curated equity crowdfunding platform investable.vc, we will also be encouraging startups to apply to be part of the global cohort of startups participating in the sector focussed accelerators we co-developed with some of world’s strongest brands.
And of course, building on our experience co-developing innovation programs with global brands, we will also begin to play a key role in accelerating innovation with our corporate partners in Africa.
What value do you bring Kenyan startups? How different are you from the local VC/ angel funds around?
The startups we work with in Africa will not only gain access to active support in the region, but also access to our global ecosystem.
Our active involvement can range from deploying financial management support, to help re-focus the founder’s energy away from managing invoices and book-keeping and back onto building the business, through to digital marketing support where our team gets hands on with building the startup’s customer acquisition process.
The technical team is not left out of this neither, as we will also look to link our startups to support from some of the world’s leading agile software development and design thinking teams in the nest network.
We are also in a unique position to connect startups in Africa to Asia, where they will have access to firstly, peer-learning from the other startups in our portfolio with experience building sustainable, scalable businesses in an emerging market environment, and secondly, market access to deploy their solutions to markets with significantly closer conditions than Europe and the US, ones where, just like in Kenya, populations are fast-growing, young and where mobile device adoption is skyrocketing.
How many and how much do you aim to invest in local startups?
At nest, we invest in the top entrepreneurs solving pertinent problems with disruptive solutions. Thus, we don’t have a set number of investments that we plan to make in the region or even globally. We are actively looking to support as many of the world’s top entrepreneurs as possible, so we will invest in as many energetic and passionate founders with great ideas as we can find!
We normally commit between US$50,000 to US$200,000 in the startups we invest in.
Do you have a specific sector you want to invest in?
Leveraging our accelerators with global corporations like AIA, Asia’s leading insurer, DBS Bank, a leading financial services group in Asia, and Infiniti Motors, Nissan’s global premium automobile brand, in the fields of HealthTech, FinTech and the Internet of Things, we intend to extend this sector focus globally and certainly into Africa.
Other sectors of interest include startups involved in riding on the exponential growth of mobile devices and e-commerce in the region, as well as EdTech, where we will begin by supporting the winner of this month’s winner of StartUp Weekend Education in Nairobi with both digital marketing capabilities as well as access to our global investor and mentor base when they are ready.
Do you have any experience in Africa?
We have worked with and invested in startups across the world in both developed and emerging markets spanning the US, Europe and Asia and will look to build on that experience as we begin supporting startups in Africa.
My own experience in the region comes from having worked in and with Africa for over 2 years driving digital financial solutions for Standard Chartered Bank across the continent.
Hardware is less attractive but appropriate for Africa do you aim to help invest and nurture the hardware ecosystem?
Certainly! We see a great degree of synergy here, our connections to our head office in Hong Kong allow us to support startups in this sector by connecting them to hardware and manufacturing expertise in the region.
As the costs for prototyping continue to decrease, we see this as an increasingly appealing sector with companies able to efficiently test, iterate and develop products to create the most viable businesses and find that elusive product + market fit.
Do you think Obama’s visit will have an impact on Kenya’s tech entrepreneurship scene?
President Obama is an aspirational figure across the globe and certainly, to many young Kenyans, he represents a belief that no dream is too big. His visit to Nairobi, I hope, will not only reinvigorate startup founders who are already on the path of chasing a dream but also to be a tipping point for would-be tech entrepreneurs to take the leap and fulfil their life’s purpose, to believe that the time to live their dreams, is now.