What we learned at the African Angel Investor Summit

How does one go about angel investing in Africa? Well, we went to South Africa for the African Angel Investor Summit and we definitely got more than just a lousy t-shirt. Instead, we made some new friends and came away with learnings. And lots of them.

The African Angel Investor Summit

The 4th edition of the continent’s largest gathering of business angels, or #AAIS20174, saw 300+ attendees, 75 speakers, 20 XL Africa Scaleups, and 80 investor organizations come together during two amazing days in Cape Town. From 11 keynotes, and nine panel discussions, its easy to see why everybody is talking about investing in Africa.

Angel investing in Africa: a growing trend

Let’s begin with the basics. The very fact that these kinds of events are happening shows that the startup and investment culture is gathering speed. The entrepreneurial ecosystem may be an emerging one. And that means Africa is truly a land of opportunity.

Great ideas – like in most places – are abundant. In Africa, however, they are scattered around the continent in a haphazard way. All the more reason for the existence of events like #AAIS20174. Overall, angel investing is still a relatively fresh concept here, and it’s excellent to see such enthusiasm among the organizations and people looking to move things forward.


This years’ theme, Start-scale-exit, F(o)unding Great Startup Teams Poised For Global Success, was one close to our heart. That’s because we are all about taking startup teams from idea to exit, especially to VC’s. We took part in an enlightening opening panel on Nov. 16 discussing Catalysing Smart Capital for Scale-ups.

And I would say that one of our key learnings from the two days was the importance of this concept of Smart Capital. That funding is only really one aspect of angel investing. Contributing relevant business acumen, networking and market access to a start-up are just as important. And in our case, offering marketing and technical support services as part of our lean acceleration programme. All of this is what constitutes Smart Capital in angel funding.

Out of Africa: what we brought home

So, Smart Capital is the watchword for angel investing in Africa. But is that it? Not by a long shot. We’re still picking the bones from the feast of information and insights. Few places in the world right now are heading for immediate rapid across-the-board growth than Africa, a continent with fascinating macroeconomics. And the exclusive investor-only event, hosted at Workshop17, brings that message home even harder.

In terms of unraveling #AAIS20174, then, here is a brief at-a-glance look at what we came away with:


  • The continent is made up of high quality and highly-skilled entrepreneurs, many of which have an academic and initial working background from the USA.
  • Angel investing is still in an embryonic stage, although it is becoming more and more common practice, with varying degrees across the different nations. There’s a lot of work to do, however, to introduce potential investors to best practices of early stage investing.
  • Local knowledge of the market is a key asset for an angels wanting to invest here. And by local we mean on a per country basis. The intricacies of each of the individual African states can not be underestimated.
  • VC investing is lagging behind the US and Europe. This presents a significant opportunity for new and smaller VC players in the US and Europe to get the upper hand by relocating to or focusing on African deals. The same goes for angels.
  • Although there’s a strong problem-solving mindset developing in the region, it’s very tough to implement or address Pan-African solutions.
  • The region is in need of many already existing and successful solutions implemented elsewhere, such as in logistics, FinTech, AgriTech and infrastructure.
  • Although such industries above are capital intensive, the ROI numbers work because the size of the capital investment is smaller than in the US or Europe.
  • Sponsors such as the World Bank in the XL Africa project are vital, as there is a long way to go before national policy makers introduce incentives for angel investing in Africa.
  • Current corporate CEOs and successful founders in Africa are prime candidates to become angel investors. They must be introduced and coached on early stage investing.
  • Similar inspiring events are popping up constantly which is something extremely good for the startup culture in Africa. They are the best way to bring communities together, enabling investors to make relevant connections.

Here’s looking at you, 2018

Looking ahead to what 2018 may have in store, it’s clear that some of the above issues will be tackled. The point is that the region offers incredibly fertile ground for early stage investment. Here’s to spreading the word about angel investing in Africa, and watching the region grow from strength to strength.

Silvertree founder takes aim at Silicon Valley model of building African startups

African angel investors and accelerators are doing a disservice to entrepreneurs by mimicking the Silicon Valley model of glorifying the pitching of ideas – rather than helping entrepreneurs to better execute on these ideas, charges Silvertree Internet Holdings MD Paul Cook.

“Far too often in our view, angels and even more so startup pitching events glorify pitching an idea rather than pitching some way that you are going to take a proven idea and execute in a market that is early stage,” Cook said, at a panel discussion held today at the African Angel Investor Summit 2017. The summit is being held at Workshop 17 in Cape Town and ends tomorrow.

He said incubators and hubs have been preparing startups for the “supposed” pool of hundreds of venture capital (VC) funds that don’t exist.

“We don’t have that whole ecosystem, we only have pieces of it. And that’s why we have so many incubators and hubs because they don’t need a lot of money (to run).

“But the problem is if you cut and paste one piece of the value chain and you pretend you’re doing a good service, you’re not because you’re preparing a startup for a piece of the value chain that does not exist,” he said.

Instead, he said accelerators and incubators should be innovative in how they nurture tech entrepreneurs

‘We shouldn’t be glorifying an idea, rather looking at how one can take a proven idea and execute in a market that is early stage,’ says Silvertree founder

He said the Silicon Valley VC-model — where startups compete for various rounds of funding until they are big enough to list on the stock market or their company or intellectual property is acquired by a larger firm — is very difficult to carry out in Africa.

There are too few exits for even medium-sized companies and the market is small, he reckons Africa’s VC market is one percent of that of the US.

To get around the limited amount of follow-on capital in Africa, startups, he said, should look for a funder that will stick with one as one develops – be they a corporate or venture capital fund.

How African Early-Stage Investors Play a Critical Role in Moving the Continent Forward

The 4th annual African Angel Investor Summit – #AAIS2017 – is set to be the next meeting point for Africa’s early-stage investor community. The Summit was held on November 15-16 at Workshop 17, right in the middle of Cape Town’s vibrant startup scene. Key debates will be held around the critical role investors play in supporting startup teams to launch, scale and exit.

In previous editions of the summit the importance of seed capital and strong collaboration within the ecosystem were discussed. This time the focus will be on the next steps of the investment cycle with the special theme: ‘Start-Scale-Exit, Funding great startup teams poised for global success’. 250 of the most relevant early-stage investors and key stakeholders will facilitate the exchange of best practices and plot the roadmap for the future of investing on the continent.


Program highlights
At #AAIS2017 there will be numerous key notes, panel discussions, roundtables and interactive workshops given by industry leaders. To set the scene the most experienced experts will unwrap the current investment climate on the African continent. All the ins and outs of the $40M investment secured by Andela will be released by the main players in the latest Series C round. And participants are invited to join roundtables on Angel Investing and Startup Research to share latest insights. Furthermore, this is your chance to learn from and get inspired by 10 distinguished panels on the following topics:

  • State of Play: Current Investment Climate
  • Seed stage: First investor in…..
  • Addressing the gaps in the market to enable innovators across Africa to find the investment they need
  • Unlocking Diaspora & International capital to drive local entrepreneurship
  • Expanding from Africa to the world
  • Accelerating Startups to Scale-ups: How accelerators drive growth
  • Scaling for growth
  • Catalyzing smart capital for scale-ups
  • Investing with exits in mind
  • Are Impact Investors even in it for the Exit?

Throughout the 2-day event the top 20 entrepreneurs from the XL Africa accelerator program will showcase their remarkable innovations and significant business traction. Also the World Bank will organize their policy workshop where recommendations for future programs for scale and impact in Africa will be discussed.

Headlining the Summit are renowned international and local investors – with leading African Angels representing over 20 local Angel networks and investors expected to attend from Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Kenya, Liberia, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Somalia amongst many others. At the same time, corporate partners like Orange Telecom, Google, Microsoft, Thomson Reuters, Ringier and Github will join the event together with senior representatives from the World Bank, the IFC, the AfDB and the EU.

Additionally the ‘Cape Town Innovation Tour’ on November 17th aims to give participants an on the ground introduction to the ecosystem, access to the entrepreneurs and leaders building the sector. Book your ticket for the tour on AAIS2017.com or contact the organisers for further details: info@aais2017.com.


About the organizers
The summit is organized by Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A), African Business Angels Network (ABAN) and South African Business Angels Network (SABAN). #AAIS2017 is powered by the Work in Progress! Alliance.

Event name: African Angel Investor Summit 2017
Event theme: ‘Start-Scale-Exit, Funding great startup teams poised for global success

Event website: www.AAIS2017.com

Event hashtag: #AAIS2017


For more information, contact Thomas van Halen via thomas@vc4a.com and David van Dijk via secretariat@abanangels.com


About Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A):
The mission of VC4A is to support the African startup community. VC4A is a network-building organization that started in 2007 and has grown organically over the years. The VC4A community has over 65,000 members in 159 countries, including 2.000+ investors. More than 10.000 entrepreneurs in Africa present their companies on the platform: early stage ventures that require investments of above USD 10K, but less than USD 2 million.


About African Business Angel Network (ABAN):
The African Business Angel Network (ABAN) is a pan African non-profit association founded early 2015 to support the development of early stage investor networks across the continent and to get many more (early stage) investors excited about the opportunities in Africa.


About South African Business Angel Network (SABAN):
The South African Business Angel Network (SABAN) is the non-profit, professional association for the South African early stage investor community. Established in 2016, SABAN represents a sector that plays a vital role in South Africa’s future, notably in the funding of Start-Ups. SABAN members fuel SA’s growth through the creation of wealth and jobs.


Africa’s early stage investor community comes together November 15th and 16th, with a bonus ‘Cape Town Innovation Tour’ November 17th for the 4th annual African Early Stage Investor Summit – #AAIS2017. This exclusive investor-only event, hosted at Workshop17 in Cape Town, South Africa, unites key stakeholders in the ecosystem from across the continent to exchange best practices, share lessons learned and plot the roadmap for the future.

This years’ theme ‘START-SCALE-EXIT, F(o)unding Great Startup Teams Poised For Global Success’ focuses on the role investors play in working with startup teams to scale internationally and ultimately exit. Topics key to this year’s event will for example be:

  • expanding from Africa to the world;
  • building international syndicates;
  • taking startup teams from idea to exit;
  • angels exiting to VC’s.


Joining #AAIS2017 provides a unique opportunity for you to network with the most influential thought leaders in the early stage investment space and to plug into the African tech startup ecosystem. Learn and exchange knowledge with a network of top investment experts and exchange best practices with like-minded investors. Register now to get access to quality deal-flow and explore co-investment opportunities in the continent’s top companies.=


Tuesday evening – November 14:
Invite-only speakers cocktail (at the Waterfront – exact location TBA).
Wednesday – November 15:
Full day Summit at Workshop 17 (17 Dock Rd, V & A Waterfront) + the network dinner at Two Oceans Aquarium (Dock Rd, V & A Waterfront).
Thursday – November 16:
Full day Summit at Workshop 17 + World Bank Policy Meeting (invite only parallel track) + After party.

Friday – November 17:
‘Cape Town Innovation Tour’: Mainly for our overseas guests (limited seating + $50 contribution). This tour aims to give you a great introduction to the ecosystem, access to the entrepreneurs and leaders building the sector, and you’ll spend the day being hosted by industry experts who are embedded in the community. Register your ticket here.