Petra Wolkenstein about the Startup Wise Guys Africa Fund
As many know, besides her work at Konsultori, Petra Wolkenstein has another role. As one of the general partners of the Startup Wise Guys Africa Fund, she supports selective Africa-based entrepreneurs in the investment process. After two years of working online, they finally met in person again. How is the acceleration going, and have the entrepreneurs developed? What are the biggest challenges, and what can we learn from our African colleagues? Konsultori interview.
Hello Petra, welcome back! You have just returned from your business trip to East Africa. Could you please tell us about your experience?
I have been on the road with my dear colleague Franziska Kolk. Besides Konsultori, we are both general partners of the Startup Wise Guys Africa Fund. We have invested in early-stage startups in Sub-Saharan Africa and will continue to do so. We launched two years ago and made our first seventeen investments last year. It was once again time to visit our startups and have conversations in presence about how they are progressing with their strategy and how they are doing in fundraising. It was also an opportunity to meet our local partners and engage with the ecosystem, accelerators, incubators and government institutions, as well as fellow investors.
What is the Startup Wise Guys Africa Fund?
Startup Wise Guys is an accelerator plus Venture Capital Fund for startups with a tech solution. We are investing in digital solutions with a \”Business-2-Business\” business model. In many cases, when we invest in a startup, we are so-called first believers. That means that besides family and friends, we are the first investor outside their existing personal network. We support and accompany the startups with the Startup Wise Guys acceleration program including product sprints, market sprints, sales, organizational scaling, and fundraising, in order to increase success in the scaling process.
We have more than 60 people at Startup Wise Guys working with different funds and acceleration programmes, and the Africa Fund is one of them. Thus, we have a whole team that we can call on, whether it\’s legal, marketing, PR, scouting or programme management. In addition, we have a dedicated Africa team, which is our regional director in East Africa and project managers who run the acceleration programme. We are also working with ambassadors, venture partners, cooperation partners and 40 local mentors on the ground. We are complementing our local knowledge with international coaches from Startup Wise Guys who have worked with us for many years. Acceleration is a group effort. Many people are involved in supporting the startups and guiding them through the exciting phase of improving their revenue-generating products. How to scale their business? We stand by them to make sure they get to the next level.
How are you involved in the acceleration?
There is a long scouting process before startups are accepted into the Acceleration programme. From more than 1000 startups per year, our Startup Wise Guys Africa Fund invests into about 15. The scouting team also does a tremendous amount of work.
In a particular stage of the scouting process, we analyse and evaluate the startups as general partners. By doing so, we prepare investment decisions. Why is this crucial? After the big moment of the investment decision, they can start the five-month acceleration programme. We accompany them and participate in board meetings, strategy and fundraising meetings. After the acceleration programme, we continue to work with the startups because it is a long-term commitment.
What is the biggest challenge for a startup founder in the process?
Most discussions revolve around investment and investor readiness. Where do we find suitable follow-on investors? With a fast-growing start-up in the technology sector, in most cases, you don\’t have enough cash in the company to fund it, so you need external investors on board. Very often, we need to work with them to get an additional round of funding to secure the next step. That is an important topic.
Which countries have you visited in Africa?
We were in East Africa to visit the startup ecosystems and our startup investments in four countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. And in Nairobi, we attended the largest East African conference: the African Tech Summit.
Was your business trip with the Startup Wise Guys Africa Fund successful?
Success is always a question of why we went there and whether we achieved it. For me, it was great to see how the startup ecosystem in East Africa is growing and what kind of solutions are coming out of the innovation ecosystem that meet the needs of the respective countries. I would say that the trip was more than worth it. I would have loved to stay longer.
You have been invited as a jury member to the Africa Tech Summit 2023 in Nairobi.
The African Tech Summit in Nairobi was beautifully organised, congratulations to the team! It was a three-day event with excellent knowledge transfer and lots of networking. Well-prepared start-ups presented themselves there. Out of our 17 start-ups, 2 were selected to pitch among the 10 finalists. I am proud of that because it helps the startups to gain more visibility.
Being a jury member sounds like you are judging, but that was not the case. It was about giving feedback and asking questions because it is difficult to go into everything in a three-minute speech. It was nice to discuss with fellow panellists and give the startups a platform for potential investors because that’s much needed.
“It was an intense and inspiring week on the occasion of Africa Tech Summit 2023 in Nairobi. I particularly enjoyed connecting with old and new partners and investors focused on East African early-stage startups.
It was wonderful to catch up with our Kenya and Uganda-based portfolio startups Hisa App, Naivera Inc., Kiotapay Inc, Sortika Inc, Zemo , Dukapepe, Zofi Cash and meet their teams in person.
We have been invited as a jury for a pitching event within the summit. Our partner Petra Wolkenstein got a chance to interact with passionate startup founders.
Two of our portfolio startups Kiotapay Inc and Zofi Cash have been selected to pitch live on stage and could attract interest of several investors.
Looking forward to next year\’s Africa Tech Summit!”Franziska Kolk, Linkedin
How can you use this work experience at Konsultori?
The experience we had in the last 20 years in Eastern Europe also applies to startups from Africa and the other way around. Only the products are different because the best entrepreneurs are the ones who can adapt the product to the market.
But I have learned a lot in the last two years, and that is: pure respect for the resilience and the fight for business success with scarce resources. It\’s impressive and rewarding to work with our startups on investor readiness and fundraising, I can\’t even tell you how much I love it.
A winner is a dreamer who never gives up, said Nelson Mandela. What inspired you most in Africa?
It has touched my heart how much our founders have opened doors for us in their countries. I have the feeling that not only we are proud to have invested and to be able to accompany them, but also the founders are proud to be on board and within the Startup Wise Guys alumni community. They open doors for us, just as we open doors for them to new investors or experts.
The unique attitude and mutual support between our startups and the investor community very inspire me. I was very impressed by the other VCs we met. You don\’t often see in Europe the ease with which we were able to work together.
It was a Friday event that also gave me a lot. We gathered most of our Eastern African startups in one room. And suddenly they started doing business among themselves. It wasn\’t just about an external impact on the customer portfolio, but they started to collaborate and help each other. They even started selling each other their own products or sharing customers. Hey, these customers would be good for you, too! I think that\’s a network of portfolio power, and I\’m glad to witness it.
The 17 investments from the Startup Wise Guys Africa Fund up to now
- T40 helps Intercity Transport and Logistics Businesses Work Better (retail webshop, operator App, operator POS and financing)
- Kiotapay is an end-to-end real estate platform for automating billing, collections, payments, expense management, sales and other real estate records
- Zofi Cash enables salary advance payments in the East African Region, a 478 mUSD market. They offer instant micro-loans to employees using partnerships with their employers. They have processed USD 250,000 salary advances in 12 months at a zero default rate.
- FXKudi digitizes informal cross-border money transfers in Africa, a $100b market. They offer instant and reliable no-fee money transfers using distributed agent networks and in-app self-service transfers. They have 1500+ agents in over 700 locations in 3 countries.
- Nigenius works with teachers, parents and educators to quickly generate well-researched, vetted lesson plans and teaching resources.
- Nikkle is a financial management system for small businesses and freelancers.
- DukaPepe is a suite of a tech-enabled mobile applications that digitizes the distribution of Fast Moving Household Goods (FMHG) in Africa.
- Scrapays is digitalizing waste collection and the recycling process of plastics.
- PayQin is a payment solution for online payments and money transfers.
- Sortika is a passive savings solution that helps consumers to achieve financial stability by utilizing tools that simplify their financial planning.
- Built is an all-in-one finance platform for SMEs in Africa for business reporting tools and access to financing
- Naivera is an all-in-one digital marketplace connecting property developers, property investors and credit union lenders for property-backed financing.
- Hisa is a social investing solution to enable borderless investments into capital markets in Africa and the US.
- Tunzaa is a save-now pay-later solution for marketplaces.
- Bounce enables revenue assurance for fintech startups.
- Zemo is an expense management solution with corporate cards and 0% interest working capital loans for growing businesses.
- Shipbubble is a logistics solution for e-commerce helping online retailers and marketplaces to manage all of their shipping operations.