Antler East Africa raises $13.5m to fund startups

 Antler East Africa has raised a $13.5 million fund to invest in early-stage tech startups in the region.

The firm targeted to raise $10 million but received additional $3.5 million. Leading investors such as Baillie Gifford, institutional investors such as IFC, and family offices like Canica participated in the round.

Antler East Africa, the Nairobi office of global venture capital firm Antler, was launched in August 2019.  

Antler is the world’s most-active early-stage investor, supporting hundreds of tech startups and thousands of entrepreneurs in six continents. So far, the company has invested in more than 400 companies in more than 30 industries.

To date the company has run five full cohorts comprising 153 founders, and made 14 investments. Some of the firms that it has invested in include AIfluence, Marketforce-supported DigiDuca, Honeycoin, Uncover Skincare, Tri Cooked and Wybe.

Antler will from this month start a new, community-driven platform approach where it will accept founders and teams on a rolling basis. The model will be twofold; working with founders looking to build their businesses with Antler from scratch, as well as early-stage startups hunting for more capital.

“We still do the venture building. That’s still the core of what we do. Just that now that the fund is closed, we have enough money to spend in existing businesses that are coming in,” noted Selam Kebede, the firm’s director. “And we can invest in stuff that’s already been built with a pure kind of VCs type setup investment.”

Ms Kebede is part of an all-female-led team that includes partners Melalite Ayenew and Marie Nielsen as well as program manager Joana Borges.

Antler says it seeks to provide one of the shortest institutional funding cycles for a global fund in Africa, focused on “bringing coaching and true value to all our founders from day one”. 

The company plans to make 35 new investments over the coming three years.

“We are excited about Antler’s presence in East Africa and over time in other parts of Africa,” said Magnus Grimeland, Antler founder and chief executive. 

“With fast growing economies and a rapidly developing startup ecosystem, we believe this is the perfect time to launch and build tech startups on the continent.”

He added: “With Melalite Ayenew and Marie Nielsen leading Antler East Africa, we have two great female partners who have shown exceptional skill as investors and entrepreneurs, and Antler looks forward to enabling and investing in entrepreneurs that are innovating across a range of industries in the coming years.”

Antler East Africa says it will work with existing startups for two to six and will invest up to $100,000 in these startups at a “mutually agreed valuation.”  It plans to make 35 new investments from pre-seed to Series A over the next three years. There’s also an arrangement for the global Antler fund to follow up on some rounds all the way to Series C.

Ms Kebede said Antler East Africa is “sector agnostic”. However, she added the firm is interested with startups solving problems in climate tech, agritech and fintech.

Being a female-led VC team, Kebede noted, Antler East Africa is focused on investing more in startups founded and led by women in the region.

VC firms run by women are increasingly playing a major role in tech space, playing their part plugging the funding deficit in the industry. The Antler East Africa team, spearhead by Ayenew and Nielsen, is now one of such firms, including those specially dedicated to female-founded and led teams like Alitheia Capital and FirstCheck Africa.

“There are few or no female-run VC 100 per cent that I know of, at least in Kenya. But our partners [Ayenew and Nielsen] and I, we’re all women,” noted Ms Kebede.

“And so it’s been super exciting to be able to do this, especially as first-time fund managers. It hasn’t been easy though because, you know, there’s the added kind of scrutiny and concern from other people when they see only women running it, but it has been exciting too.”

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