Savannah Fund Launches second $25M Africa Tech Seed Fund led by IFC, Draper, and others

By Mbwana Alliy  |  March 10, 2021

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Savannah Fund, Africa’s leading technology seed fund, today announced a $25 million fund that will invest in early-stage startups across sub-Saharan Africa with a focus on supporting women entrepreneurs and disruptive companies in high-growth sectors. 

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, led this 1st close with participation from the Women Entrepreneurs  Finance Initiative (WeFi). Other notable investors include Tim Draper of Draper Associates and Visa Forsten, co-founder of Supercell (now part of Tencent). Senegal-based Venture studios UMA also participated.

The fund will focus on Seed to Series A investments in core markets Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, with an eye on expansion to emerging hubs across Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda in East Africa as well as Ivory Coast and Ghana in West Africa.  Key investment sectors include Fintech, Education, Logistics/E-Commerce, SaaS, Healthcare, Agtech, and innovation at the bottom of the pyramid. 

As part of this second fund formation, Mbwana and Paul warehoused 7 startups into this latest Fund’s portfolio; these include Aerobotics from South Africa in the Agtech space, IoT and Analytics startup Safi, Moringa School – both got started in Kenya., subscription mobility startup operating in South Africa and Mexico. More recently, we backed pre-seed rounds of Orbit Health in Ethiopia and Cloud kitchen company Ando Foods in Kenya.  

“Savannah Fund II will continue its long-term mission to partner with ambitious founders, building startups that will scale across Africa”, said Mbwana Alliy. “We’re incredibly bullish on startups that have the potential to scale beyond the continent that can expand into Silicon Valley and emerging markets like South East Asia, Central, and Eastern Europe, and Latin America,” said Paul Bragiel.
Mbwana further added; “Entrepreneurs in Residence, especially female founders, are a key part of our investment strategy. We’re proud to partner with WeFi to further expand and encourage female founders on the continent.” 

“Early-stage funding is vital to enable more of Africa’s emerging and growing tech founders to grow their business and fuel the transformation of Africa’s Internet economy. By partnering with Savannah Fund, we can help more entrepreneurs to access funding,” said Kevin Njiraini, IFC Regional Director for Southern Africa and Nigeria. 

Led by Mbwana Alliy and Paul Bragiel, Savannah Fund is one of the earliest sub-Saharan Africa-focused tech venture capital firms, starting its investment activities in 2012 when it launched its first accelerator program in Kenya.  In 2016, it transitioned completely to Seed/Series A investments.  To date, it has invested in 31 companies across 7 countries on the continent. 

African tech is booming with investments to start-ups in 2020 totaling more than $1.5 billion. , Start-up investments have grown fourfold in the last 4 years. Savannah Fund’s portfolio raised a record $118 million in 2020 across Series A, B, and C with over 1,000 tech employees and a few companies operating in US, Europe and LATAM in addition to Africa. 

Savannah continues its strong links with Stanford, where Mbwana earned his MBA and guest lectures Emerging Market Entrepreneurship with Steve Ciesinski.  With Fund II we’re proud to announce Steve Ciesinski, previously President of SRI (Stanford Research Institute), is joining our Investment Committee. 

Finally, Savannah Fund will track and report ESG metrics and has set the goal to raise the profile of early-stage startups we invest in around environment, social, and governance as key differentiating factors.  

Twitter: @savannahfund

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Mbwana Alliy Founder and Managing Partner of Savannah Fund, having worked in the technology industry in UK’s Defense Industry at QinetiQ to Product Management at Microsoft before transitioning to working with Startups and VC in his last in Silicon Valley before moving back to Africa to start Savannah Fund and support the growing ecosystem. 

He has overseen over 30 investments in African 7 countries (Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Ghana). 

He serves as board chair of Ubongo Kids in Tanzania, Africa’s leading edutainment not-for-profit,  creating fun, localized, and multi-platform educational media that reaches millions of families through accessible technologies. Mbwana is pledging a portion of his Fund II carry (fund profit share) to support Ubongo Kid’s mission to reach over 400M kids. 

Mbwana has guest-lectured and taught courses with Stanford, University College London, and the University of Cape Town. 

Currently residing in northern Tanzania, he enjoys safaris and photography. He has a Bachelor’s Engineering degree from Bristol University and an MBA from Stanford Graduate school of Business. 

Paul Bragiel, Founding Partner – is a 3-time entrepreneur turned global investor.  He’s collectively invested in the seed rounds of over 200+ companies, including holdings in multi-billion dollar companies like Unity, Niantic (Pokemon Go) & Zappos.  He also sat on the advisory board of Uber from 2010-14.  In addition to his work with Savannah, he’s the founder & chairman of venture capital funds in Silicon Valley, Asia & Europe. 

Outside of work, he’s deeply involved in sport and the Olympic movement.  He competed for the Colombia National Cross-Country Ski Team and was National Champion from 2013-16.  After his  retirement, he’s served as a team coach at the 2016 Summer & 2018 Winter Olympics.