Your Hype-Free Guide to Angel Investing in Africa in 2017

Two years ago, LelapaFund embarked on a project that had been brewing for some time: opening access to investments in African start-ups. African start-ups were the hottest deals on the frontier markets horizon, and our plan was to give small investors like ourselves a chance to buy shares in them. This would involve a new regulatory framework, a slick online marketplace supporting distance investing, and, of course, a community of top-notch entrepreneurs and investors.

The project’s guiding rationale was that using technology to reduce deal transaction costs would catalyse equity investments in the sub $1mn investment space. Famously known amongst development economists as the “missing middle”, this deal size is too big for microfinance, too small for private equity, and, as we like to add, too weird for banks.

Fast forward to today, and that end goal has not changed. Our approach to investing in Africa has, however, been flattened and rebuilt several times through interactions with over 500 small businesses. We grappled with tough questions, like knowing what balance to strike between quality and quantity of deals, whether we should be imposing European venture capital standards on lesser developed local markets, and how we could, or should, reconcile the goal of broad financial inclusion with the exigencies of equity capital.

Somewhere between coaching groups of sixty entrepreneurs in our living room in Nairobi on equity finance basics, and stuffing our suitcases with products to gauge investor interest in Paris, we defined our role as an intermediary. In parallel, we spearheaded the development of a regulatory framework for equity crowdfunding in East Africa, so that African angels may invest in local businesses with appropriate risk awareness, protection and shareholder rights.

This process led us to build cost-efficient products that focus not only on deal execution, but on the pre-deal work required to get companies structured so that financial and impact returns are maximised. Small funds, which we call Venture Partners, can now access opportunities where significant due diligence has already been undertaken by our team, and drive further in-depth analyses using our collaborative tool, LelapaFLOW. Small investors will be able to access deals anchored by a Venture Partner through our syndication platform at www.lelapafund.com.

Whereas other platforms focus on high volumes of lightly vetted deals, LelapaFund sources high-potential companies that are most likely to raise several rounds of capital on its platform. The flexibility of LelapaFLOW allows development finance institutions and investors, be they impact or finance-oriented, to share the burden of rigorous due diligence while ensuring blended returns outcomes aligned with their respective mandates.

If that was too much jargon for you, here are a few tips for investing at the “coalface of risk” in early-stage African ventures:

  • Tech start-ups are not as hot as you think. The vast majority are not investable, leaving you to fight your way into overpriced, overhyped deals. Look towards value-adding agribusinesses, and consumer goods/services companies tapping into new consumer habits. Many of them are solving inefficiencies in their supply chains and distribution channels just to get their product to market, at times leveraging new technologies such as mobile payments to enable or enhance their operations.
  • Know how much you’re willing to pay to play. Ask an angel investor or small fund what the total transaction cost of their last deal was, and you might be hard-pressed to find an answer. For VCs entering the small deal space, making a first $500k investment can easily cost 15%-25% of that amount. For angels, the need to pay attention to your sourcing, due diligence and legal costs is far greater. Consider investing through a platform or angel network to split those costs.
  • Co-invest to learn faster. You will often be told to “co-invest to share risk”, but what does that really mean? For first-time investors, it means that you learn about actual and perceived risks by comparing and analyzing many companies within and across sectors, instead of picking one company and focusing all your time on trying to de-risk it perfectly. In addition, leveraging the trusted networks and primary data of a local partner will ensure you don’t burn all your cash – and motivation – on your first deal. 
  • Your skills and networks are worth more than your money. As with any early-stage investment, creating value is an all-hands-on-deck job. Small funds and angel investors are likely to have minority stakes, but this must not discourage active participation of shareholders, from giving product feedback, helping find and hire talent, to giving tutorials where there is a skills gap in the management team. Crucially, shareholders must hold companies to account, so that good governance distinguishes them from competitors when it comes to exit opportunities.

In practice, none of the above is particularly straightforward. Investors must also heed the usual advice of avoiding over reliance on data, reducing exposure to government corruption and limiting the use of local courts for dispute settlement. Getting your first deal done is likely to take twice or three times as long as expected, and it is important that first-time funds’ operations are as lean as possible through that first deal cycle.

On the flip side, helping build young companies in such fast-moving economies is terrifically rewarding on a personal level, and for many individual investors is a refreshing change from the low-impact positions they might hold in large financial institutions, corporates or consultancy firms.

Thanks to new regulations and technology, many more investors can now experience being a shareholder in an African venture. Such an opportunity perhaps provides as much value through insight into the genesis of markets established on different cultural norms and capitalistic models as it does through its potential for high financial returns. We hope that you will derive both in 2017.

Wishing you a brave new year,

The Lelapa Team

LelapaFund In The News

Get the latest press articles and events about LelapaFund!

Collaboration with MyAfricanStartup on the Top 100 African Startups to Invest In In 2017:

http://www.myafricanstartup.com/

“East Africa-focused investment platform LelapaFund has pivoted its business model, moving away from equity crowdfunding towards a new closed syndication-style platform, LelapaFLOW, enabling funds and angels to co-invest.”

http://disrupt-africa.com/2017/02/lelapafund-shifts-model-launches-co-investing-platform/

AfricaInvestor:

http://content.yudu.com/Library/A3wrbr/AfricainvestorVolume/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Ffree.yudu.com%2Fitem%2Fdetails%2F3596401%2FAfrica-investor-Volume-13-Issue-5

“We are excited about developing a micro-equity finance model that is built to the needs of African SMEs simply because no capital markets infrastructure has ever done that successfully. African stock exchanges, including alternative exchanges, have mostly failed in channeling equity finance to small and medium-sized enterprises.”

http://sheinspiresher.com/tag/investment/

“We are really talking about patient capital, that is not speculative at all, it’s really development capital”

http://www.smesouthafrica.co.za/16915/Why-the-Le-Lapa-fund-is-crowdinvesting-startup-to-watch/

W-Project short video on LelapaFund, direct from Nairobi!

 

BBC: Africa discovers the power of crowdfunding

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33100535

HowWeMadeItInAfrica: “Crowdinvesting platform LelapaFund is hoping to shine the light on the opportunities of investing in start-ups in other sectors, primarily those manufacturing consumer goods.”

http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/platform-seeks-to-facilitate-investment-into-african-consumer-goods-smes/51785/

5 African Crowdfunding Startups to Watch

http://www.startup365.fr/africa-5-african-crowdfunding-startups-to-watch/

Life of a Kenyan small business in 12 charts and 1 side hustle.

After a hectic six months discovering Kenya’s small business scene, LelapaFund is happy to share some insights from the ground with our community. Over 300 companies have joined our pipeline, learnt about a new form of raising equity capital – crowdinvesting – and are actively structuring their companies to benefit from it. Thanks to the countless meetings, workshops, site visits and afterwork nyama chomas, our team has acquired a wealth of knowledge about early-stage investing in Kenya, and built relationships of trust with truly dedicated entrepreneurs. We are most grateful to every entrepreneur for teaching us about their industry and daily challenges, and are excited to fine-tune the crowdinvestment solution to local needs. Happy reading!

From the iHub to the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, we have met with small business owners across the spectrum. Thanks to their high visibility and organisation in clusters, tech startups are the most represented group in our pilot phase. Following that, we’ve seen a strong showing from the consumer goods sector, which includes food production, fashion design, beauty and personal care products.

For the following charts, we define SMEs as companies older than 3 years with at least one sales cycle under their belts, and startups as companies younger than 3 years at idea or prototype stage.

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As expected, the capital needs of SMEs fall squarely in the range dubbed the “missing middle” – amounts that exceed what microfinance lenders can provide, but are too small to interest traditional investment funds. It’s a tricky stage of growth to be in: entrepreneurs can either take on more debt which hampers their growth, or find a shareholder who might invest informally for controlling stakes or at unfairly low valuations to compensate their individual risk. The latter has resulted in a high degree of suspicion regarding local investors and a general reluctance to disclose company information. As an equity capital solution, crowdinvesting remedies this by allowing multiple minority shareholders to share risk, limiting their individual exposure and in so doing maintaining fair valuations and keeping control with the entrepreneur.

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Unsurprisingly, success favours those who are able to finance the early stages of company creation with money from friends and family. This carries into later stages too, creating a class of family-owned and run businesses. Indeed, more SMEs have raised capital in the $500-$20k range from family and friends than from banks. For startups, the reliance on the former is particularly important. Democratising access to capital is an often-touted merit of crowdfunding, be it donations-based, equity-based or debt-based.

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The use of startup capital is predominantly shared between product development and marketing, as founders seek product-market fit before scaling up. Naturally, SMEs require capital to finance their expansion locally and into export markets. Market linkages are often cited as a key motivating factor for SMEs to seek out foreign shareholders – the perceived need is great enough to justify foregone ownership at this stage in the growth cycle. Crowdinvesting can act as a powerful tool for such SMEs, with minority shareholders in the diaspora and beyond acting as simple brand champions or facilitating distribution for their investees.

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Thanks to the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurial Program, more than half of startups that applied to LelapaFund have received at least $5,000 in grant funding. The TEEP program funded 168 entrepreneurs across Kenya this summer, and one thousand across the continent. The structure of the funding- $5000 grant plus a potential $5000 loan – was particularly well thought-out given the constraints. With the majority of startups citing their team, idea and creativity as their key asset, this structure may provide a compelling alternative to the incubator model where multiple idea-stage equity investments are not always sustainable or profitable for the incubator.

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Over two-thirds of SMEs consider their product and creativity as their key asset. Value creation over the lifetime of an equity investment is likely to build on this through injecting brand equity, consumer experience and product innovation. The long-term vision of SMEs is naturally highly subjective, yet critical to every equity investment. For many SMEs, listing on the stock exchange or taking advantage of local capital markets to drive long-term growth remains a relatively new possibility or ambition they believe is within their reach. Crowdinvesting works efficiently when capital markets are integrated, liquid and accessible for SMEs at every stage of growth. LelapaFund’s investment readiness workshops are thus designed to demystify exit strategies in local capital markets and harness existing structures such as the Growth Enterprise Market Segment of the Nairobi Stock Exchange.

We hope you enjoyed reading this and look forward to having you on board this journey!

To learn more about using LelapaFund for your small business please sign up on www.lelapafund.com – we’d love to hear from you!

Not ready yet? Stay in the loop by visiting our Facebook and Twitter pages, and check out our workshop slides on Slideshare

Lagos Bound!

Tony Elumelu, one of Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs, is giving a $100 million boost to entrepreneurship across the continent. The fund’s first cohort of 1000 entrepreneurs, selected from approximately 20,000 applications, was announced on Monday, 23 March (Forbes).

LelapaFund is thrilled to have been selected alongside such a diverse group of change-makers. As a start-up aiming to spur financial inclusion of SMEs in Africa through crowdinvestment, we share the values of the TEEP program: pan-Africanism and job creation through entrepreneurship. Lagos – here we come!

For the full list of Tony Elumelu recipients see: TEEP 1000 Recipients PDF

 

Special invitation to Kenyan TEEP entrepreneurs:

We can’t wait to get to know our fellow Kenyan TEEPers, so we’ve opened a second Nairobi Entrepreneur Meet-up on April 15th to welcome you all. Our monthly meet-ups are fun, informal info sessions on equity crowdfunding held exclusively for entrepreneurs: ask all your questions, grab some pizza and mingle with fellow hustlers. Over 60 entrepreneurs have already signed up for April – see you there too?

A love letter to the African Diaspora

At its first Speed Meet of 2015, Homecoming Revolution welcomes you once again in London on 20-21 March for the largest gathering of international African professionals, recruiters, speakers and media of its kind. It is the place to be if you’re an African seeking prestigious opportunities back home. Get your tickets.

Speed-dating is fun, but we at LelapaFund are already pretty serious about our relationship with the African diaspora.  Forget fancy invitations –

This is a love letter. 

Because, well, the African diaspora deserves a lot more love. Last year Kenyans sent home $1,4bn of their hard-earned cash, and Nigerians regularly send back over $20bn per year. As a group, Africans living abroad will inject over $40bn in 2016. We’re talking about regular people here – not investment banks.

With no incentive schemes, tax breaks or public recognition, sending cash home is pretty much a thankless task. (And that eye-popping cost of money transfer – in 2015, really?) The truth is that the African diaspora is quietly building Africa without anyone taking notice. Financial inclusion, economic development and upliftment are trophies that should be handed over to you – not Norwegian development funds or Bono.

It’s not just a story about money. Africans living in London,  Paris and New York are forging a unique identity (Afro-what?) blending their background, expertise, communities and creativity. While this might seem like a by-product of a relentless struggle of identity and integration, it is the two-way bridge across continents that will transport the global African businesses of tomorrow. With that in mind, let us use this nano-space on the Internet to appreciate the tremendous value of the diaspora.

At LelapaFund, we believe that the diaspora must, and will lead Africa’s growth. No one understands consumer trends and investment risks in Africa better than you. Non-diaspora investors must follow your lead in deciding how and where to build opportunities. Tony Elumelu agrees:

That’s why we’ve built a crowdinvestment platform for you and your friends to invest small amounts together in African companies and products that you want to see in malls and supermarkets back home.

If one in every 10 of you invested $1000 of your savings in local SMEs and start-ups, this most creative, modern layer of the home-grown economy would get a boost of over $3bn. Your potential is enormous.

We’ll be waxing lyrical about you at the Homecoming Revolution in London on 20-21 March and @LelapaFund. It’s a date – see you there!

 

Meet our team in Nairobi, Paris and London !

LelapaFund kicked off 2015 by adding two fresh new brains to its team: Serena Lolo, a Cameroonian student at Sciences Po Paris and Jerry Crossan, an American third culture kid who flew all the way from Boston, MA to settle in Kilimani, the heart of Nairobi’s startup ecosystem.

 

Serena describes herself as young future leader who is passionate about Africa and Finance. She sees LelapaFund as the opportunity to learn more about crowd-investing and African capital markets. But most importantly, she’s excited about grasping the creative mind of Africans expressed through their SMEs and start-ups. When she is not deep into Finance studies, she plays forward position in basketball. She was hired as our Investor Marketing intern.

 

Jerry is in charge of all aspects of SME Finance and onboarding, so if you’re considering equity crowdfunding for your company, he’s your guy! He was introduced to LelapaFund while studying Emerging Markets Finance at Harvard Extension School during his work building quantitative tools used for Global Equities research at Grantham, Mayo & Van Otterloo in Boston. That is how he got on the LelapaFund train and he is excited about the journey. Quoting Jerry: “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to disrupt the current fundraising environment in East Africa & beyond. I’ve had the chance to meet a wide array of exciting Kenyan entrepreneurs over the last few weeks and can’t wait to introduce them to the crowd-investing community.”

 

Come meet us in person!

 

You can meet with Jerry in Nairobi at one of his monthly Entrepreneur Meet-ups or join a weekly webinar (email Jerry at jerry@lelapafund.com with your skype ID and he will add you to the room) where he’ll explain how crowdinvesting works.

 

You can meet with Serena in Paris at the Semaine Africaine at Sciences Po in March (17th to 21st of March 2015)

 

You can meet our CEO, Elizabeth, in London at the Homecoming Revolution Speed Meet Africa in March and get a first-ever demo of our platform – yep, it’s almost ready!

 

HCR London-Event-Artwork-300x222

Crowdinvesting gets France’s “salut“

The past two months here at LelapaFund have flown by, and it’s great to blog from Nairobi again with the team in one place. We hope you enjoyed our first LelapaLetter. The next one will focus on an important part of our mission: bringing crowdinvesting legislation to Africa.

In the meantime, here’s a 2 minute recap on the new regulatory framework under which we’ll be kicking off.

France’s financial markets regulators, the AMF and ACPR, unveiled their official position on crowdinvesting at CrowdTuesday last month in Paris and rules came into force on 1 October. As a French-African platform, we’ve been studying the new framework and working out how it balances shareholder protection with easier access to finance for startups and small businesses. Overall, we think France has done a great job. Bravo!

In contrast with the current U.S. regulations, France does not distinguish between accredited and unaccredited investors. This means anyone can invest on a French platform, regardless of their wealth or experience. The onus of investor protection is thus shifted to the platform, which has to comply with a host of strict transparency rules covering risks, due diligence, investment offering material, and fee structure, as well as ensure that an investor’s profile corresponds to the proposed investment.

Getting the regulator’s approval is a hefty procedure for platforms which now have the choice of two new accreditations, the CIP (participative investments advisor) or PSI (investment services provider). The latter allows for more complex deal structures and requires regulatory minimum capital. Both require significant management experience in finance.

The message is clear: anyone can invest, but only on the very best platforms. Oh là là!

We couldn’t agree more.

Getting our Hustle on!

Feels good to be back in our “Bright Continent“! I’m now sitting in snowy rainy Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

I was out of the country for one and a half month, so since my return, good friends here are like – where have you been dude? Got similar remarks from LinkedIn and Facebook contacts, as I didn’t share much on my profiles lately…

Those of you who are following this blog may be wondering the exact same thing – where the hell have they been? Answer is: we are busy building a company, folks!

Our hectic journey to crowdinvest Africa is extremely enriching, off course. As co-founders, we’re happy that the team could accomplish so much over the past few months. This wouldn’t have been possible without our dedicated group of advisors, supporters, friends, family, developers, partners and all the people involved in a way or another –brief Oscar acceptance moment

Some examples: the platform is currently under development (stick around for updates!); we have officially incorporated our venture under French corporate law –we’ll tell you more about the comparative CF regulations in an upcoming post; we’ve protected our trademark and we’ve also engaged on very promising collaborations.

Speaking of collaboration, great news: we got our official logoCheck this out:

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What do you thinkWe have the very talented Paris-based agency Chercheurs d’Or to thank for this brilliant work. “Mister T.“ and “Daddy J.“ totally got our requirements and they’re so easy to work with! We’re extremely satisfied with the result which is strongly influenced by origami, traditional masks and fractals. Got it?

What do we want to convey through our visual identity, exactly? Well, pretty much everything LelapaFund stands for: a modern, accessible and inviting new venture, instilling confidence and trust in Africa’s promising small-medium businesses!

As you know by now, leveraging equity crowdfunding, LelapaFund envisions to showcase the next generation of our Continent’s most exciting entrepreneurs. How? Through an enriched investment experience coupled with a sense of common purpose and a global vision.

This “global vision“ is exemplified by our current setup, with Libby –self-proclaimed Chief of the LelapaTribe– busy in Paris while I –Disruptor in Residence– scout around Africa with out-of-the building opportunities (well said, Eric Ries)… Division of labor, indeed.

Addis Ababa is definitely an exciting place to work from right now. Kudos to my friend Teddy and the folks at xHub: while I was away, they finalized the paint in their building. Lookout for future entrepreneurs coming out of this Addis-based ambitious business incubator!

image Teddy & Bobok, @ xHub – June 2014

Peace out, folks…

The Burrito Bond

The early stages of a startup often feel like a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. One day you’re full of confidence, the next you’re wondering if you’re crazy….

That’s why it was such an uplifting experience to sit down at the popular burrito joint Chilango yesterday in the Angel neighborhood in London and see this:

burrito

Alongside our order of two delicious pork belly burritos, we could check out Chilango’s crowdinvesting campaign on Crowdcube, one of the UK’s leading crowdinvesting platforms.

Think about it: for the first time, Chilango fans can invest in the company whose product they are holding in their hands while sitting in the actual store! It is, quite literally, hands-on investing.

For me this is the purest form of investment: you get interested first and foremost because you know the product is great. What comes after is a careful analysis of the company’s growth plans and how the investment fits your own risk/return profile.

Chilango has created a great video for this campaign too, in addition to getting their whole staff to wear catchy “Burrito Bond” t-shirts. It became clear that this crowdinvesting campaign was about team building and brilliant marketing in addition to capital raising – three wins for Chilango!

I look forward to having more of these experiences in other parts of the world as crowdinvesting awareness grows. And of course, I simply cannot wait for LelapaFund’s first company to campaign for funds – what a tremendously exciting prospect!

– Libby

Safari Njema LelapaFund

As Libby‘s journey in Nairobi is coming to an end (I’m still around and will keep running on the roads of Kilimani for 2 days – lucky guy), we start looking back at our achievements over the past couple of days.

This trip to NBO has been a giant step for the LelapaFund team. We successfully held our first meetings as a team, which involved raising awareness on our endeavor to bring access to capital to African small businesses through cross-border crowd-investing.

Not only did the various engagements go very well, but we also managed not to kill each other (…). A South African and a Cameroonian couldn’t get along better. The LelapaTeam has a strong focus on collaboration and we always keep an open spirit.

For us, these two values (collaboration and openness) are also the core forces underlying the crowd-investing movement that we hope will emerge in Africa.

Stay tuned.

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Libby & Bobok – LelapaTeam