Hong Kong venture capital firm Nest launched in Africa two weeks ago with an eye out for investment opportunities in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. In a market that is seemingly bubbling with ideas for solving problems facing the continent, the investor is looking for startups that are ripe for development and can scale.
Founded in 2010, Nest is an early-stage venture capital firm that bills itself as offering a full-service ecosystem that includes support with strategy and marketing as well as access to funding and a network. The company has supported 48 companies in Asia so far and is looking to inject between US$50,000 to US$200,000 in African startups.
Aaron Fu, the managing partner at the Nest Nairobi office, told IDG News Service why the Asian venture capital firm has opened for business in Africa.
IDGNS: Nest just landed in Nairobi to expand into Africa. What qualities does Nairobi have that attracted the company?
Fu: Today, Nairobi is the site of major African headquarters for Google, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM. Nairobi is also home to the pioneer mobile payment technology M-PESA, and other fintech (financial technology) success stories such as MoDE and Craft Silicon.
Kenya is an exciting frontier market and Nest has the opportunity to be one of the first Hong Kong early-stage VC firms and accelerators to make an impact and accelerate the growth of startups in Silicon Savannah.
What makes Africa really exciting is the opportunity to enable startups here with all the tools and support that we have seen work for us in Asia. Nest will help the startups it invests in to scale in Asia, and more so globally.
IDGNS: Are there similarities between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Asian market that you will build on?
Fu: A lot of the technology that is being developed in Africa could be relevant for the Asian market but in the past there hasn't been the support system or network in place to help these companies scale across the two markets.
There is a lot of fintech innovation coming out of Africa, and as one of the leading markets in mobile money, there is a natural fit with Hong Kong as a global financial hub. Nest has the expertise, network and knowledge to help bridge African startups with Asian funding and opportunities.
IDGNS: What opportunities is Nest looking for in Africa?
Fu: At Nest we support entrepreneurs that solve pertinent problems with disruptive solutions. We look for those who have a personal connection to the problem that they are trying to solve, or are invested in their startup on a deeply personal level as we believe those are the people who will make a business work, no matter what.
That said we typically invest technology companies in the health tech, fintech and smart cities/Internet of Things sectors and we believe this niche is well aligned to the needs and demands of the African market.
4. Everybody is talking about funding, but how important is mentorship in growing business from startups to enterprises?
Fu: Far more valuable than mere funding, Nest provides mentorship, advice, space to develop ideas as well as access to shared legal and accounting experts so they can focus on developing their products and growing successful businesses.
Through sharing knowledge and experience, providing access to funding and making introductions to successful entrepreneurs, Nest supports startups on their path to success and enables them to scale rapidly. Our core focus and overriding mission will be to connect the region's most promising entrepreneurs with Nest's proven startup eco-system through the pillars of marketing, strategy, funding and network.
5. What are your next steps in engaging startups and business in this region?
Fu: We are already supporting Creative Fish, the winner of StartUp Weekend Education in Nairobi, with both digital marketing capabilities as well as access to our global investor and mentor base when they are ready. Their product, Pi-kuza, is putting offline content in your home and school with the cool Raspberry Pi.
Nest is launching a monthly series of fireside chats and a showcase aimed at sparking disruptive ideas and great conversations centered around "What Next" in Nairobi.
We have more events and programs in the pipeline, and we invite ambitious startups, investors and corporates to collaborate with Nest to spur innovation and accelerate businesses in the region.