Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa’s portfolio of companies

Hasso Plattner’s African Venture fund was launched in early 2008. In February 2009 I attended the fund’s Emerging Market Africa conference in South Africa. HPVA has invested ZAR80mm of ZAR350mm in 5 companies to date and expect to invest in at least 5 more. HPVA doesn’t disclose investments and shareholding, although they did indicate that they only take minority shareholding.You can find Hasso Plattner Venture Europe’s investments here.Recently the African fund disclosed some of the investments it has made so far:

  1. Cibecs: Enterprise backup solutions. According to some articles, HPVA invested ZAR8mm for a 25% stake in the company (HPVA indicated that these numbers aren’t correct. They didn’t say what the correct numbers are.) Cibecs was formed in 2004 by Richard Dewing, and its software has been sold to more than 30,000 users in South Africa.
  2. Inala operates in the fields of telecommunications and broadcasting in South Africa.
  3. Global Vision specializes in marketing automation software.
  4. KnowledgeTree is an open source document management system. KnowledgeTree uses a number of social media technologies to promote its products, including Facebook, Twitter, and blogs…very progressive!
  5. Dabba Telecom: Low-cost telecoms in South Africa. Dabba’s CEO Real Lissoos was voted Social Entrepreneur of the year in 2008.

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SAP making a difference in South Africa using mobile phones

Thanks to the Collaboration@Rural project, SAP enables small grocers in rural South Africa to sell the goods, their customers actually need – through a mobile delivery system.

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Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa Conference – February 2009


I had the distinct pleasure to visit my homeland, South Africa, to attend Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa‘s first conference after forming HPV’s ZAR350mm VC fund in early 2008. Andrea Böhmert, one of HPV Africa’s co-managing partners, invited me to participate on a panel discussing “Local entrepreneurs going international”. The panel consisted of:

Other speakers during the one day event at the beautiful Webersburg Wine Estate in Stellenbosch included:

Chris Gibbons did an amazing job as MC of the conference as well as moderating the panels.I’ve attended numerous conferences over the years, and I have to say that the HPVA conference was unique in at least 2 ways:

  1. The conference attendees were each given a silver money box as a gift and the first person to open it were given the opportunity to donate R5,000 to a charity.
  2. Having James Durno as a graphic facilitator during the whole conference. James captured the day’s discussion in a set of cartoons. I think James played an important role in the day’s proceedings by keeping us entertained and informed.  Here is how he captured my contributions:

Carel Bekker @ HPVA 2009

Photos, presentations, speaker bios and more of the one day conference are available here: Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa 2009 Conference.This was an exciting day for me. I met a number of very interesting people, I was educated regarding the current state of ITC in South Africa and Africa (did you know that Africa has 350mm mobile phone subscribers?), I was given a state of the union regarding South African politics and I played a small part in allowing South African entrepreneurs to think global.South Africa has some truly ground-breaking technologies to offer the world and if the entrepreneurs that were at this event is anything to go by, then I’m sure we will soon be celebrating more Mark Shuttleworths, Elon Musks and Vinny Linghams.

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SynthaSite is on the move – $20mm in new funding

I previously blogged about SynthaSite‘s charismatic CEO, Vinny Lingham (Wow, I see Vinny has been selected as a 2009 Young Global Leader!). SynthaSite seems to be growing by leaps and bounds amid all the bad economic news.On February 17, 2009 Synthasite announced a $20mm in second round funding from Reinet Investments. I received this email from Vinny announcing the news:

To all my friends, family & colleagues,Today, I’m proud to announce that Reinet Fund has just invested $20 million into SynthaSite, securing our future and enabling us to continue to build our business model and product offering.  This is a massive vote of confidence in SynthaSite.  I have attached the press release for your benefit – there is also an article on TechCrunch today about the announcement: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/02/17/synthasite-gets-a-20-million-boost-for-simple-website-creation-software/When we began building SynthaSite from our humble base in Cape Town, we sought to create a company whose product would change the lives of millions of people by giving them a voice online.  We wanted to provide the opportunity for anyone anywhere to build a website that would achieve their unique goals, from starting a small business to showcasing their achievements.In 2007, we raised $5 million in venture capital and moved our headquarters to San Francisco (where I am now based fulltime), keeping a good portion of our technical team in Cape Town.  Since then, SynthaSite has grown from just a handful of people to more than 40 individuals across both offices, supporting over one million users and growing rapidly.I’m unbelievably excited about the future of SynthaSite and look forward to building on our success in helping you and many others reach their potential online.  These past 15 months have just been the beginning…

I wish you lots of success Vinny!

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First private rocket to orbit the earth!

On September 28, 2008 SpaceX finally placed a privately developed rocket in an orbit around the earth. SpaceX is Elon Musk’s privately funded space exploration company.

 SpaceX Falcon 1 launch
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The Integrity Advantage

I recently finished reading a 100 page book entitled “The Integrity Advantage”. The authors, Adrian Gostick and Dana Telford, describes 10 characteristics that defines Integrity. They claim, and I agree, that how taking the High Road (Integrity) creates a competitive advantage in business. I encourage you to read and study this little book. Integrity, that I define as being honest in all our interactions with ourselves and others, is one of my company’s principles. I like this book’s broader definition of integrity.Gostick is the co-author of the recent book, The Levity Effect.How would you rate yourself on each of the following 10 integrity characteristics:

  1. You know the little things count: Businesspeople lose their integrity a little bit at a time. To have the Integrity Advantage you do not lie or cheat on the small things.
  2. You find the white (when others see gray): You do not make tough decisions alone. You ask questions, receive counsel and take a long-term view.
  3. You mess up, you ‘fess up: Open and honest disclosure, e.g., Tylenol scare.
  4. You create a culture of trust: You reinforce integrity through principles, controls and personal example and you reward those employees who display personal integrity in their actions. I think it is time for me to read, The Speed of Trust by Covey.
  5. You keep your word: It’s walking the talk and setting the example.
  6. You care about the greater good: What goes around comes around. “Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns.”Ecclesiastes 11:1
  7. You’re honest but modest: Sounds like what Jim Collins calls a level 5 leader. Humble, quiet leaders are also considerate and courteous. They do the little things that win friends and admirers. They: smile and greet coworkers every day, they reflect on how their decisions will affect others, they praise and recognize their employees and even their bosses, they control their tempers, and they allow others to be kind to them.
  8. You act like you’re being watched: I once heard that the definition of character is what you do while your alone. Btw, if you are a leader you are being watched.
  9. You hire integrity: Key business principle according to Jack Welch and Warren Buffet. “Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without the first, you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”
  10. You stay the course: You have ethical consistency and predictability. Your life demonstrates wholeness and harmony between your values and your actions.
Read it!
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