Keeping Better Tabs On Startups In Africa

Morning Markets: A neat round from Kenya and a question.

Yesterday a Kenyan startup called Twiga Foods raised $30 million from Goldman Sachs, including a $23.75 million equity investment and $6.25 million in debt. According to TechCrunch who covered the round, the company “serves around 3,000 outlets a day with produce through a network of 17,000 farmers and 8,000 vendors.”

Crunchbase News noted that “[t]he Nairobi, Kenya-based marketplace company has raised $67.1 million in known venture funding to date.”

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It’s a neat company (mobile payments powering a multi-party food marketplace, expanding into the business-to-business world) with a solid investor set, but its existence made me ask a question: Who else is raising money in Africa?

It’s bad enough when I’m in Silicon Valley that Sacramento feels far away; there are great companies just starting up and coming of age around the world. I hadn’t heard of Twiga before yesterday. Who else am I missing?


To better understand this blind spot that I have and you might as well, Kenya, the seventh most populous country on the African continent, has seen hundreds of known venture rounds over time.

Looking back just a few months, here’s a sampling of what we didn’t cover:

Those and Twiga’s two-part round are just what we know has happened in Kenya in the past month. Indeed, Crunchbase reports over $4 billion in historical known dollar volume in the country, a figure that is conservative as some rounds are known by their title even as their financial weight remains occluded.

That’s a lot of money!

Crunchbase News has covered the African startup scene. During Jumia’s early Summer IPO this year our coverage was reasonable but late; how had we missed Jumia’s rise to an IPO-ready company, its recent struggles aside?

Something that I’ve learned watching our own Mary Ann Azevedo report from Texas is that there’s always far, far more going on in any town than you can see from afar. Splitting my time between San Francisco and Providence as I have for the past few years has also been an education. You can’t see Providence’s neat (if nascent) startup scene from SoMa, even if you can always feel the pulse of the latter in the former.

Twiga is a good reminder, then, that even as we write as fast as we can, we’re still missing more than we’re picking up.

Illustration: Dom Guzman.

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