Profile Photo Share: Investing in Kenya’s mobile disruptors, meet the Safaricom Spark Venture Fund

Boubacar Diallo

Safaricom in November 2014 launched a venture fund that invest in late seed to early growth stage support start-ups that use mobile technology as an enabler. We recently had a chance to catch up with Eline Blaauboer and her team managing this fund to find out more about their approach and first investment inSendy Limited.

The Safaricom Venture Spark Fund is a venture capital fund that aims to support the successful development and growth of high potential mobile tech start-ups in Kenya through a combination of investment, business development support and technical assistance leveraging on Safaricom’s unique capabilities, assets and market positioning.

How does it work?

The Total fund size is USD 1 Million (~KSH 90 Million) where the team seeks a minority equity stake in ventures or engages with convertible debt to selected start-ups. The average ticket ranging between KES 6 Million – KES 22 Million.

The start-ups the team identifies receive investment readiness support by the fund manager TBL Invest, a partner of Safaricom. Upon completion of the due diligence process the case is presented to the Investment Committee for funding consideration. The Investment committee consists of representatives of Safaricom Limited and TBL Invest. Following investment approval, the funds are disbursed, where the fund manager represents Safaricom in the start-ups board and provides mentorship support towards implementation of the agreed strategic plan.

See the Safaricom Spark Venture Fund page on VC4Africa for more details

We recently caught up with Eline Blaauboer and her team to find out more about their first investment in Sendy, a last-mile package delivery and logistics services, allowing customers to send packages and documents within Nairobi and its environs using a mobile application that connects them to motorcycle riders, and drivers of vans and pickup trucks.

Please highlight the type of companies the Safaricom Venture Spark Fund looks to support

“The Safaricom Venture Spark Fund supports companies across the mobile technology sector, who are looking for early stage (seed) investment. Companies will need to be post-revenue and have established a clear path for growth. Areas of interest include data & messaging applications, youth & infotainment, financial services and enterprise solutions.”

Why is Sendy promising in your view?

“Sendy has recognized that with the rapid growth of e-commerce in Africa, demand for delivery services is increasing. In addition, the low cost and convenience of same-day delivery provides a better alternative for slow and inefficient postal services and replaces the need for individuals to travel across congested traffic to deliver packages, saving them a lot of time.”

How does Safaricom Venture Spark Fund look to add value to this/other investments?

“Safaricom Venture Spark Fund adds value to its investments by assessing how the Safaricom infrastructure can support the investee companies. Examples are technical integration with existing Safaricom services, introduction to its customer network or support in marketing of the products. In addition Safaricom Spark Fund actively works on strengthening governance and financial management of its investee companies.”

Tips for entrepreneurs that look to work with Spark?

“Good ideas are many, but good execution of ideas is scarce. Entrepreneurs with good ideas are encouraged to focus on testing these ideas with their target market as early as possible. Once initial feedback is positive and paying customers have been on-boarded, the rest of the business can be developed. Entrepreneurs sometimes forget that in the early stage of the business, finding paying customers is the first priority.”

Any new announcements in the works?

“We have been meeting with many exciting entrepreneurs over the past months. We expect to announce a number of new investments in Q1 of the new year. Mobile tech is hot in Africa and entrepreneurs, both local and international are setting up shop in Kenya to be part of this exciting ecosystem.”

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The Safaricom USD 1 million Spark Venture Fund seeks to support mobile ICT startups in Kenya, and enabling the development of innovative mobile solutions. The fund offers equity investments and other debt instruments to Kenyan startups for values between USD 75,000 and US 250,000. See the Safaricom Spark Venture Fund page and Sendy Limited profile on VC4Africa for more details.

Source: https://vc4africa.biz/blog/2015/12/22/investing-in-kenyas-mobile-disruptors-meet-the-safaricom-spark-venture-fund/

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