Venture Capital

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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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: 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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Most influential South African VC – Roelof Botha

Roelof Frederik Botha is a partner at Sequoia Capital, one of the most influential VC firms in the world. Sequoia has the highest rating on TheFunded website of 3.9. Here is his bio from the Sequoia website:

Roelof Botha is a venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital focusing on services and software investments. Prior to joining Sequoia Capital in 2003, Roelof served as the Chief Financial Officer of PayPal (EBAY). Earlier, he worked as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company. Roelof is a certified actuary (Fellow of the Faculty of Actuaries), and has a BS in Actuarial Science, Economics, and Statistics from the University of Cape Town and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.                                     

Botha is the grandson of Pik Botha (not to be confused with PW Botha), South Africa’s former minister of foreign affairs. He was born in South Africa and completed his Actuarial Science degree at the University of Cape Town. Botha also graduated with an MBA from the Stanford Business School in 2000. He received 3 MBA awards including the Henry Ford II award for being the top scholar.

Elon Musk, then CEO of Paypal, hired Botha in 2001 and 7 months before Paypal’s IPO he became its CFO. After Paypal’s acquisition by eBay for a cool $1.5bn he joined Sequoia Capital. According to the Mercury News Botha is one of a few VCs to turn its first deal into a billion dollar deal. That’s exactly what Botha did with Sequoia’s small investment in YouTube in 2006. The following SiliconBeat Q&A with Botha provides insight regarding YouTube before the Google acquisition.Botha is #22 on the 2008 Forbes Midas List, moving up one position from 2007. The Midas List chronicles the top deal makers in the world. He is also listed as one of the PayPal Mafia in a 2007 Fortune article.

 Here is Kara Swisher’s July 2007 interview with Botha at the Sequioa’s offices on Sand Hill Road: 

Botha is involved in the following Sequoia investments:

Not a lot is known about Botha’s personal life. He is married and has two sons aged 2 and 5 years old. He likes to play chess. Here is his LinkedIn profile.

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Hasso Plattner (ex-SAP CEO) Ventures launches $45mm VC fund in South Africa

I’ve mentioned Hasso Plattner a number of times in my blog. He is the colorful co-founder and former CEO of SAP AG. He is also the father of SAP’s client-server 3-tiered product called R/3.This week Hasso Plattner launch HP Ventures Africa (Hasso Plattner — not to be confused with Hewlett Packard) in Cape Town, South Africa. Vendorprisey mentioned it in his blog. HPV is also active in Europe. Jeff Nolan used to work for SAP Ventures and he had blogged about his first meeting with Hasso Plattner.I quote from this week’s BusinessWeek article:

Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa will be targeted mainly at companies in telecom, mobile applications, media, software, renewable energy, and energy-saving technologies.

and from the website:

A new R350 million venture capital fund has been launched to give innovators in South Africa a leg up into the global technology arena.The Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa, named after the co-founder of software giant SAP, aims to invest in and manage a portfolio of investments that have a unique innovative offering either based on the business model, product offering or underlying technology.Focusing predominantly on activities in South Africa and later in other emerging African markets, the technology investments will concentrate on telecommunications, mobile applications, media and software as well as clean technology investments such as renewable energy, energy-saving concepts and similar business segments in early stages of their development.Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa aims to identify companies that have the potential to succeed on an international level and will provide access to an international network of leading companies, venture capital firms and institutions in the technology arena, according to Andrea Böhmert, who is going to head the fund.”In the past SA technology companies have found it almost impossible to get funding from international groups outside of South Africa,” said Böhmert.“All start up businesses know, that it is extremely important not only to get investment funding but also assistance in accessing global markets. This is where our fund can score. Prof. Plattner and co-funders MAN Ferrostaal will be able to `open doors´ for start ups that would never be accessible otherwise across the IT industry as well as in the industrial solutions sector.”

C|Net talks about the fund’s Green focus.And finally you can click here, to submit a proposal to the Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa Fund. Good luck!

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Laurie Olivier – Venture capitalist learned to handle risk fighting off snakes

Laurence (Laurie) Olivier, an Atlanta VC and ex-South African, was recently profiled in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Laurie is a partner in Veritas Venture Partners. Veritas has investments in the following Atlanta based companies: Clickfox, CytoDome, and Asankya. Laurie serves on the board of these companies. He is the Chairman of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce – Southeast Region and on the board of the Atlanta Venture Forum. Laurie is also instrumental in organizing the annual U.S.-Israel business exchange in Atlanta.In South Africa he currently serves as a technology commercialization advisor to the major government controlled research organization and the University of Pretoria. Laurie was born and raised in South Africa, and holds a B.Engineering (Electronics) from the University of Pretoria, and a B.Com (Hons) and Dip. Datametrics from the University of South Africa.Here is an extract from the Nov 23, 2007 article. Read the rest here.

Venture capitalists, particularly those who concentrate in early-stage investments, need diamond-hard nerves. Laurence “Laurie” Olivier, an Atlanta venture capitalist, got some good training early on. Growing up on a farm in northern South Africa with leopards, baboons and the ultradeadly black mamba, Olivier learned how to confront risk. “The biggest daily problems that we faced were snakes,” he said of his days on the farm in Groot-Marico, near the Botswana border and 150 miles north of Johannesburg. “There was seldom a week that had gone by where we did not kill at least a snake or two inside or very close to our house — some of the most poisonous snakes on earth, like the black mamba and the puff adder. “Olivier, who is distantly related to the famed British actor of the same name, is in somewhat less dangerous territory now, though still in a high-risk line of work: He runs the U.S. operations of Veritas Venture Partners, an Israeli venture capital firm with $100 million in assets under management that invests in early stage high-tech firms. An electrical engineer by training, Olivier, 47, was a former executive at Anglo-American Industrial Corp. in South Africa, where, in 1988 — at age 28 — he was tapped to run that company’s new business development unit. That work helped lay the foundation to what would eventually become his second career as a venture capitalist in 2000, the year he left Anglo-American to join Veritas.”My challenge was to find new businesses that we could start from scratch,” Olivier said. “One way to find new businesses was to scout for technologies, and one way of scouting for technologies was to actually invest in venture capital.”

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