Last week, multiple startups from all over the world gathered in Helsinki, Finland at the largest founder-focused event in the world – Slush.
The event attracted startups, investors, Venture Capitalists (VCs), journalists, and executives to learn and collaborate to build the companies of the future.
Cape-Town based startup AfricArena aims to offer the same experience to startups in Africa, as many of them don’t have the opportunity or funds to travel and attend a global tech-startup event like Slush.
Much like Slush, AfricArena accelerates the growth of tech startups and the ecosystems in which they operate by providing a platform where they can share their business models, gain valuable networks, and attain funding.
How AfricArena was founded
Before AfricArena, co-founder Christophe Viarnaud started a number of tech businesses – the first of which was Methys, which develops tech for startups, corporates, and investors to digitalise private equity and investment.
“Starting out, we seed-funded a number of startups in various sectors, which led us to build the incubator French South African Tech Labs (FSAT Labs) in Cape Town – which is now primarily focused on helping black entrepreneurs access digital business development and creating digital ventures,” said Viarnaud.
According to Viarnaud, the reason for this is they’ve found that one of the biggest challenges for underprivileged founders in South Africa, and Africa generally, is to find opportunities to get market access, work with corporates, and get capital to scale their businesses.
“Particularly what we call under series A area, so startups raising from 1 – 10 million rand, and there are a handful of Venture Capatalists (VCs) in South Africa, but they only start looking at you when you need R5m -R10m and more,” said Viarnaud.
While many of these startups are already established, they need revenue and traction to raise that capital.
“You can bootstrap, but even when bootstrapping, you can’t always reach your full potential. Or you can raise capital by going to events like Slush, but without any sponsorship, it’s expensive and time consuming to get there,” said Viarnaud.
“There also aren’t a lot of Angels in Africa and South Africa generally, so we just thought that well, why don’t we create the Slush of Africa.”
“As a result, together with Silicon Cape, the support of Wesgro, and the City of Cape Town, as well as a number of other partners in South Africa and all across the continent, we started an initiative called AfricArena, which is 3 years old and has now become the premier deal flow platform of the continent.”
According to Viarnaud, the AfricArena Summit is held annually and showcases Africa’s best startups and innovators in front of an audience of local and international investors looking for world-class talent to partner with.
This year, AfricArena took place on 11 and 12 November, where the top 100 startups, 115 investors, and many corporates from all over the continent came together.
“It’s not just an event either, we are calling ourselves an ecosystem accelerator, because we start in March every year and cover all the continents through the AfricArena tour, and host pitching competitions for African startups from Nairobi, Lagos, to Casa Blanca, and even Cairo.
“Our strategy is to build an open source model. Effectively we have over 120 ecosystem partners from the continent such as Startup Bootcamp, Endeavour, and all the main incubators that you see on the continent and tech communities like Silicon Cape in Cape Town. it’s something we co-build with the community, which is why it is such a powerful movement,” said Viarnaud.
AfricArena represented at Slush
AfricArena representatives attended Slush this year in order to learn what works and what doesn’t.
“Slush is our main source of inspiration, and we try to be the Slush of Africa, as well as to push the African narrative in Finland,” said Viarnaud.
AfricArena’s main aim is to initiate collaboration so they can push the African narrative and attract global investment.
“The reason for this is because in 2018, the entire continent only attracted 1.2B dollars of investment in African tech startups, which in comparison to 80B in Europe and 5B in France, and 150B dollars in the US is not much.”
“So, we need people to realise that the only way to bridge the gap of employment and poverty in Africa, is to invest in our key resources, which are talent and entrepreneurs,” concluded Viarnaud.
To find out more, visit the AfricArena website, or watch the highlight video of this year’s AfricArena Summit below.
Carien Pretorius was a guest at Slush in Helsinki, Finland, made possible by the Finnish Embassy in Pretoria.