Tech support

East African Antler closes $13.5m fund to support early-stage tech startups


Start-up investor Antler today closed its oversubscribed East Africa investment fund at US$13.5 million to continue supporting early-stage tech startups in the region.

The venture capital firm and builder’s Nairobi office had intended to raise $10m but ended up with another $3.5m – has LPs that include Baillie Gifford , a well-known backer of Tesla; family offices like Canica; and institutional investors like the IFC.

The company was founded in August 2019. It runs a comprehensive business building model with two cohorts every year.

Its parent company, Antler, founded two years earlier by Magnus Grimeland, uses a mixed model as a business builder and venture capital firm. So far, five cohorts of 153 founders have gone through the acceleration programs, as the company has made 14 investments. Some include AIfluence, Marketforce subsidiary Digiduka, Honeycoin, Uncover Skincare, Try Cooked, and Vybe.

The firm that invests from pre-seed to Series C has cut checks at more than 250 companies from its $300 million fund. This new fund allows the company to take a similar approach: accepting founders who want to create their startups from scratch and investing in already formed teams that need capital to scale.

Selam Kebede, business director and member of the all-female-led team that includes Melalite partners Ayenew and Marie Nielsen and program manager Joana Borges, said, “We continue to build the business. It’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,” summarizing, “And we can invest in things that have already been built with a pure type of setup type investment CV.

Antler said founders opting into the business-building model to find a co-founder and pitch an idea would stay in the Antler community for up to six months, meaning he would accept founders and teams on an ongoing basis.

Two to six weeks is enough for Antler East Africa to work with the team before the company writes a check. The company said it would invest up to $100,000 in these startups at a “mutually agreed valuation.” It plans to make 35 new Series A pre-seed investments over three years.

Antler plans to make 35 new Series A pre-seed investments over three years. There’s also an agreement for global fund Antler to track some Series C rounds.

Kebede noted, “What has changed now is that in the past, we were just going from scratch to liking the first $100,000 bill. But now we’re saying we can also bring in existing teams and ideas that formed outside of Antler, but they can come to us, and then we can invest like any other VC would.”

Kebede also mentioned that Antler East Africa is independent of the sector; the company wants to invest in startups solving climate tech, agritech and fintech. She also said the team had already made some investments with this new format but declined to disclose their names.

Kebede said Antler East Africa is a women-led venture capital team that wants to invest more in startups founded and led by women in the region. He will try to improve the numbers of his venture capital model, where 25% of the founders in his portfolio are women.

Women-led venture capital firms are firmly taking their place in a male-dominated tech space as they attempt to bridge the funding gap that has plagued the industry for years, and the Antler East Africa team , led by Ayenew and Nielsen, joins this list of such firms, including those specifically dedicated to women-founded and-led teams like Alitheia Capital and FirstCheck Africa.

Kebede said, “To my knowledge, there are few to no 100% female-led VCs, at least in Kenya. But our partners [Ayenew and Nielsen] and me, we are all women. It hasn’t been easy though because, you know, there’s the kind of scrutiny and extra concern from others when they only see women leading it, but it’s also been exciting.