Savannah Fund is a seed capital fund specializing in US$25,000-US$500,000 investments in early stage high growth technology (web and mobile) startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Initially focused on East Africa, the fund aims to bridge the early stage/angel and venture capital investment gap that currently exists in Africa. The Fund expects to achieve this objective by combining capital with mentor networks both in the region and from Silicon Valley via an accelerator program and a follow-on independent seed fund.
The fund is managed by an experienced and technology savvy team that have founded companies or are actively involved in angel investing. Members of the team have also run successful accelerator programs in the past and also understand the unique Subsaharan African environment. We are backed and supported by local, regional and international networks of angels and venture capitalists whose expertise we can draw on to help startups succeed and scale to fully fledged regional or global companies.
We believe in the potential for Africa to become a global technology innovator by creating sustainable for profit companies that create jobs and make an impact. Take a look at our accelerator or connect with us on AngelList if you have a more mature startup.
Mbwana AlliyManaging Partner
Mbwana has worked in a variety of roles in Silicon Valley, UK and Africa from startups to corporations. Most recently as a Entrepreneur in Residence EIR at i/o ventures where he founded Savannah Fund. Mbwana has worked as an aerospace systems engineer & software developer at QinetiQ (formerly the UK’s Defense Evaluation Research Agency) in flight testing with clients such as Airbus and UK Ministry of Defense. He has also served a Product Manager in the Microsoft Office and Business Intelligence Group responsible for Excel and Access product line. He has since worked and advised at 2 US startups in social networking & gaming (AppPrizes and PixPulse) and worked as a founder of the first East Africa online travel portal, Yellowmasai.
Other ventures Mbwana is involved in include Usizame (ferry safety alert system) and Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic and was an advisor of the Dar es Salaam Teknohama Business Incubator via the Tanzania’s President’s Office. He was accepted to the Kauffman Foundation Global Partners program in 2012 and actively speaks about promoting entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world. He blogs extensively about Africa technology and entrepreneurship.Mbwana has a bachelor’s degree in Electrical & Communications Engineering from the University of Bristol, and an MBA from Stanford (2007).
Erik HersmanGeneral Partner
Erik Hersman harnesses Africa’s boundless spirit of innovation by creating platforms to improve daily lives both inside and outside the continent. Hersman facilitates a host of web, mobile and community projects through organizations like the iHub, a Nairobi innovation hub for the technology community, bringing together entrepreneurs, hackers, designers and the investment community and built around the vision of an epicenter for Kenya’s booming tech industry. The mobile app Ushahidi, which he co-founded, allows users to share breaking news through text messaging, and continues to revolutionize and empower journalists, watchdog groups, and everyday people around the world. He is also the founder of the BRCK, a backup generator for the internet.
Hersman, a TED Senior Fellow and PopTech Faculty Fellow, grew up in Kenya and Sudan and is, as he puts it, “one of those guys who’s much more ‘at home’ in Africa.” He keeps two influential blogs: WhiteAfrican, where he writes about technology on the African continent, and AfriGadget, a group blog that celebrates African ingenuity. He is also one of the founding organizers of Maker Faire Africa, an annual event to showcase the inventors around Africa, which happens in a different country each year (so far, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt and Nigeria).
Paul BragielGeneral Partner
Paul is the managing partner and a co-founder of i/o ventures, an early stage startup accelerator and fund in San Francisco. Previously, Paul founded and served as the CEO of three companies including: Lefora, online forum community platform (sold 2010), Meetro, the first location based social network, and Paragon Five, a game development studio. He’s also actively involved as an investor or advisor in 30+ companies. In addition to his work at i/o, he often advises governments – including Brazil, Malaysia, Poland and Tanzania – on entrepreneurship and policy that encourages startup ecosystems.
Companies Paul has been involved in include:
- US: doubledutch, crowdgather, graph science, Uber, Aksel, flingo, Yourmech, Openocean, Life360, Kapture, Scripted, skout, cc:betty
- International: playfire, microtask, transfluent, 2mundos, segurar, applifier, intelliwise, vivid games, taringa
These companies have collectively raised over $75 million in financing.
Marsye joined Savannah Fund as a Venture Partner in 2015. Previously Founder and CEO of Pokeware, a company that enables object search results from images and videos. Responsible for establishing corporate relationships, innovation and strategy. Focuses on the implementation of digital campaigns, optimizing discovery tools and the integration of user-friendly video solutions. Aims to equip advertisers and content producers with proprietary tools and facilitate partnerships that enable organic integration of contextual product search, on-demand analytics and advertising consumers enjoy. Played tennis at Univ. of S. Carolina. Marathon runner, participates in events to raise funds for several charities. IFR-rated pilot and aviation enthusiast.