Kenya Can Borrow Leaf From India’s Tech Startups Wave.

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Kenya Can Borrow Leaf From India’s Tech Startups Wave

Technology Thursday, March 5, 2020 0:01



Over the past decade, startup capital in Kenya has predominantly come from the West.

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Ninety percent of the general partner funds operating in East Africa are set up as outfits to manage capital from external LPs (limited partners), mostly Delaware based. However there seems to be a shift towards unlocking local capital.

Initiatives such as I3N — Intellecap’s Angel Network and Vikoria Ventures — are setting the pace for unlocking local capital from high-net worth individuals. According to Angel.Co there are about 1190 angel investors in Kenya with investments valued at about $3.7million (pre-money).

Compared to traditional asset classes like real estate, we have barely scratched the surface in unlocking the angel investments potential in Kenya. In 2017 for example, the value of new private buildings increased by 10.2 percent from Sh77.7 billion in 2016 to Sh85.6 billion ($0.9 billion) in 2017, mainly on account of a 9.7 percent increase in the value of residential buildings, according to data by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics (KBNS).

There are a few things we could do as a country. First, we need to tap into the diaspora community who have always shown interest in investing back home. The African diaspora are estimated to remit back home about Sh160 trillion ($160 billion) annually.


In 2018, Kenyans' diaspora remittances grew by 39 percent to Sh274.37 billion, according to the Central Bank of Kenya's (CBK) weekly bulletin.

One way to tap into this would be through accelerator programmes that offer startup linkages to diaspora money. Other options would be organising the diaspora community into an angel network or alternatively pooling their resources into a fund with a dedicated fund manager.

There are key lessons to be borrowed from other emerging startup ecosystems like India, Brazil and Israel. In India for example, the first tech wave in early 2000 created many self-made entrepreneurs in the business process outsourcing space, such as Infosys.

Many of them went on to become angel investors in the second tech wave that created startups like Flipkart, Zomato, and MakeMyTrip. In 2014 for example, Kris Gopalakrishnan became the first Infosys co-founder to join an Indian Angel Network.

Kris, as his colleagues call him, went on to make 18 investments into startups like Verloop and Hungerbox, according to his Crunchbase profile. He is also a co-founder of Axilor Ventures, an early stage seed fund and startup accelerator that invests in supporting Indian tech startups.

Kenya could borrow a leaf from India and start converting successful entrepreneurs from the older generation of entrepreneurs into angel investors. A buy-in from successful entrepreneurs can also help reduce the amount of time start-ups spend in the journey to scale.

Their seasoned experience in the business field will offer great insights through mentorship to innovators and entrepreneurs. It has been proved that startups with mentors stand a better chance of surviving their fifth birthday compared to those without.

Government also has a role to play in catalysing angel investments by creating conducive environment and favourable tax incentives. The recently created Association of Startup Enablers (Assek) could be one forum through which we can engage the government at a policy level.

Mr Njage is the co-founder and Chief Innovations Officer of Villgro Kenya.

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