Demo Africa sheds light on investing in startups

Approaching the right investors and the characteristics of a good or bad investment were discussed in How to Get Deals Done, one of the knowledge sessions held on the first day of the Demo Africa 2016 conference in Johannesburg.At the two-day event, held at the Sandton Convention Centre on 25 and 26 August, entrepreneurs and investors from all over the continent were networking and sharing insights into the tech industry.The event was hosted by Lions Africa in collaboration with the City of Johannesburg, the Department of Science and Technology, Google, Intel and Microsoft.Some of the investors said: “The cheapest investment is to just bring cash. Access to business networks is another way of being part of an investment deal.”


The organisers said that this year, 723 tech entrepreneurs from 27 African countries applied to be part of Demo Africa. Of these, 30 entrepreneurs were chosen to present their businesses to local and international investors at the conference.The entrepreneurs included Rodney Kuhn of Sortd., a Johannesburg company that designed an app to help businesspeople organise their lives and work through their emails.Other start-ups at the conference included Art Nigeria, an online company that sells the work of Nigerian artists globally. This artwork can be in the form of a mug, a throw pillow, a duvet or on a frame.Mum’s Village is an online platform that gives information to pregnant women in Kenya.Owners of all the startups were given six minutes to pitch their businesses to investors and judges on the two days of the conference.The judges then gave their opinions on the presentation and offered advice. Through this, the startups stood a chance to get funding for their businesses.

The boot camp

Two days before the conference began, 27 tech entrepreneurs took part in a boot camp hosted by Demo Africa. During this, they received coaching and mentoring on how to pitch to investors.”The Demo Africa boot camp is a continuation of an online mentoring and coaching process we have in place for the finalists,” said Harry Hare, executive director of Demo Africa.The online programme ran for four weeks and was concluded with the boot camp.The process of mentoring and coaching was vital for many of these entrepreneurs, said Hare. “Our experience has shown us that the Demo Africa finalists are at different development and maturity levels within their businesses.”A lot of them are also technically minded rather than business-minded, so we refine them to think more about their business and what they are offering to investors,” he explained.Stephen Ozoigba of the African Technology Foundation was one of the mentors at the boot camp. He said 30% of the startups in the finalists’ group were led by women.He encouraged the attendees to support their local startups, especially those run by women. “It’s important that we empower women.”                                             demo finalists                                                                                                          The 27 Demo Africa 2016 finalists were part of a two-day boot camp with mentors. (Image: Demo Africa 2016)

Advice on making deals

In the How to Make Deals session, Ozoigba said designation was important when approaching an investor. “Some cities are more favourable.”He spoke about issues that could cause an investor to stop funding a business. One of these was lack of structure, which could lead to your losing a deal with an investor. “It’s good to learn governance early [about how business works]. Come into board meetings and learn how things work.”For example, learn about what voting is in a board meeting.”

Ozoigba                                                                                                              At Demo Africa 2016, Stephen Ozoigba (right) of the African Technology Foundation says everyone should support their local startup. Liew Claasen (left) was also part of the discussion. (Image: Melissa Javan)

It was important that owners of startups understood the legal status of the entity, said Tomi Davies of the African Business Angels Network. “Before making a deal with an investor, decide who will get the money that you will make.”Their process as investors was simple, said Liew Claasen of Newtown Partner. “You first send out the application to us. We then meet face to face if we think we want to invest into your business. It helps us to make consistent decisions.”Mistakes some entrepreneurs made were that they did not communicate much with the investor after they got the capital, he said. “Post-deal communicate a lot even if you feel this person is too important and busy.”A bad investment is when [the startup] doesn’t give updates [to the investor]. We must have a good relationship. Your relationship with your investor will also send out a message to the next investor about you.”

demo panel A panel at Demo Africa in Johannesburg on 25 and 26 August 2016 on How Deals Are Done gives advice to entrepreneurs on dealing with investment partners. (Image: Melissa Javan)Other knowledge sessions included Venture Growth Strategy.

Insightful event

Entrepreneurs such as Innocentia Msimango said the conference was an eye- opener for her. She is the owner of a food distribution company called Cyber Mobi Royal Kitchen. Her staff cooks food for clients, which the company then delivers.Msimango said she did not have an idea about what investors sought. “This information gives me hope.”Not only will I get capital, but heartfelt support of experience. I find it encouraging that there are people wanting to help us.”The conference gave quite refreshing insights, said Donovan Nadison of the Business Place Network. “The information here is about how to deal with and manage complex small businesses support issues.”It confirms to me that South Africa is on the right track. We have expertise in dealing with SMME issues that are complex… Everyone can benefit from the networking done here.”There were 500 attendees at the conference. The Global Entrepreneurship Congress will be held in March 2017 in Johannesburg. One of the objectives of this conference is to brand the City of Gold, as Joburg is known, and the whole of Africa as an investment destination.

Original article can be found here.