Partech, a global investment company with hubs in Paris, San Francisco, and Berlin, has closed its inaugural African fund at €125 million ($143 million).
The venture capital (VC) firm first announced Partech Africa last January, at which point it had €57 million ($65 million) in commitments, though it said at the time that it was aiming for an eventual closure of €100 million ($115 million). So, in effect, the new fund was oversubscribed by around 25 percent.
Founded in 1982, Partech has various funds aimed at seed-stage to early- and growth-stage startups, and in 2017 it emerged as something of a European VC giant after surpassing $1 billion in new funds over an 18-month period.
African startups haven’t always garnered the same international fanfare as companies elsewhere, but last year they drew in record investment. According to a new report from Disrupt Africa, African startups recorded more than $334 million in funding in 2018, up 71.5 percent on 2017, while the number of startups raising funds increased by 32 percent to 210. Nigeria was the number one spot for VC investment across the continent, with 58 startups nabbing $95 million. Other reports’ figures vary depending on their methodology, but the broader pattern remains the same: More investment is going into African technology.
For context, however, European technology companies last year raised around $13 billion, according to PitchBook data, which helps demonstrate the investment gap between the two regions. But Africa could be the next frontier for venture capitalists. Just last week, Al Gore’s investment firm, Generation Investment Management, led a $100 million Investment in Andela, with other notable participants including Alphabet’s VC arm GV and Mark Zuckerberg’s the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). Andela was founded out of Nigeria in 2014, though it’s now headquartered in New York, and aims to train Africa’s best software developers and match them with some of the world’s biggest technology companies.
Partech isn’t the first outside VC firm to target Africa — DDF Capital is a Silicon Valley fund “investing in African startups that can change the world” and is backed by DFJ founder Tim Draper.
It’s clear there is a bubbling undercurrent of interest in what’s going on across Africa, which is what Partech’s latest fund represents. It’s worth noting some of the fund’s big-name backers, including Orange and L’Oréal, as well as the European Investment Bank (EIB); the German Development Bank, KfW; the Dutch Development Bank, FMO; and the African Development Bank Group.
Partech said it will invest in series A and B financing rounds, which may amount to anywhere from $0.6 million to $6 million per investment, and it has already made two investments: Nigeria’s TradeDepot and South Africa’s Yoco.
“We are really proud to see major global investors rally around our vision and ambition to support extraordinary entrepreneurs building digital champions for Africa and emerging markets,” said Partech general partner Cyril Collon. “Our first investments in Yoco and TradeDepot provide strong showcases of how these champions can transform whole sectors, such as retail and payments in this region.”