In Brief: Co-Founders Of Africa's 10 Most Funded Startups

Development and consulting company RubyGarage highlights a seven (7) step guide on how to build a successful startup. From the development of the idea, exploring the market, consideration of risks and securing funding, these are all necessary steps that need to be taken. However, for the proper sustenance, the founders must share this vision and drive the activities to build the company. 

A founding team is the basis for successful startups both in Africa and worldwide. Its primary goal is to take the original idea and search for a repeatable and scalable business model. Entrepreneur identifies 4 roles every founding team should have: the visionary and dreamer (core founder(s) with the strongest vision and higher, aspirational purpose for the company), the customer champion (someone purely focused on users), the innovation architect (programming savvy member) and the rainmaker (one to play the financial and business function). 

Briefly listed below, are the backgrounds of 10 individuals that have helped birth 10 of the most notably successful startups in Africa, in order of venture funding their startups have raised. They have helped lead teams that have with a combination of hard skills (team member experience and qualifications) and soft skills (passion and vision.) More than half of the group are of African descent (8 out of the 10.) Despite any cultural differences they might have, all have attained at least an undergraduate degree from a University or College. 

Tunde Kehinde - Jumia ($745M)

Together with Sacha Poignonnec and Raphael Kofi Afaedor, Tunde Kehinde co-founded e-commerce and retail platform and Africa’s first startup unicorn Jumia in 2012. Jumia has become the most funded startup in Africa with $745M raised in venture funding before its exit earlier this year. Aside from being a Howard University graduate with a BBA, Harvard Business School graduate with an MBA and Unreasonable Fellow, Tunde is also the co-founder of one of Africa’s most funded startups Lidya and Africa Courier Express.   

Iyinoluwa Aboyeji - Andela ($181M)

At 28 years of age, Iyinoluwa has become one of the most prominent names in the Nigerian tech ecosystem after he co-founded two successful startups Andela and Flutterwave. Andela’s other founders are Christina Sass, Nadayar Enegesi, Ian Carnevale, Jeremy Johnson and Brice Nkengsa. Iyinoluwa went on to co-found, which is a community in deep conversation on Africa’s future and Street Capital. He attended the University of Waterloo and earned a degree in Legal Studies. Iyinoluwa has also been the Deputy Director-General of the Oby Ezekwesili Presidential Campaign, an Advisory Board Member at Share Africa Project, Rainbow Educational Services Limited and Filmo Realty.  

Xavier Helgesen - Zola Electric ($113M)

Xavier is a co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Zola Electric (formerly Off Grid Electric), a renewable energy startup founded in 2011. He is also a co-founder of Better World Books, a leading online used bookseller, former CEO of multi-channel e-commerce platform Indaba System and an Advisor at GSM Association. Xavier graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Information Systems, the University of Oxford with an MBA and is a Skoll Scholar. The other Zola founders are Erica Mackey and Joshua Pierce.

Kim Reid - Takealot ($100M)

Reid is a former Naspers executive, Multichoice CFO, MWEB CEO and current CEO of Takealot. Born in South Africa he attended and graduated from the University of Pretoria with a Chartered Accountant from the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. In 2010 he founded Takealot, one of the most funded startups in Africa that was later acquired in 2018 by Naspers. 

Mostafa Kandil - Swvl ($80.5M)

A graduate from The American University of Cairo and State University of New York at New Paltz, Mostafa Kandil, together with Ahmed Sabbah and Mahmoud Nouh founded of e-logistics startup Swvl, the most funded startup in Egypt. He also has had experience as the Head of Operations in Rocket Internet, a Market Launcher for Dubai-based startup Careem and is part of the worldwide entrepreneurship movement Endeavor. 

Sim Shagaya - Konga ($80M)

Named in Forbes’ 2014 List of Most Powerful Men in Africa, Nigerian entrepreneur Sim Shagaya has co-founded some of Africa’s big startup names including now acquired E-commerce website Konga, E-Motion Advertising Limited and now ULesson, that recently raised a $3.1M seed round backed by TLcom Capital Partners. He is now the Executive Chairman of DealDey Limited, a daily deal website. Sim graduated from The George Washington University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Dartmouth College with a Masters in Engineering and Harvard Business School with an MBA.  

Laurent Van Houcke - BBOXX ($75M)

Currently the company’s Chief Operations Officer, Laurent has been a part of BBOXX since it was founded in 2010. He is a Belgian national and graduated from the College Cardinal Mercier and Imperial College London. He also worked as an electrical engineer in 2008 and later went on to become a Power Academy Scholar from EDF Energy PLC in 2009. The other co-founders of BBOXX are Christopher Baker-Brian and Mansoor Hamayun.

Andrew Watkins-Ball - Jumo ($68M)

Serial entrepreneur Andrew Watkins-Ball has built and sold various businesses including Gateway Telecommunications that was purchased by Vodafone in 2008 and MWB Capital. Prior to that, he held multiple senior roles in investment banking and spent several years at Salomon Brothers in London and New York. In 2014 he founded Jumo, which is currently the most funded fintech in Africa. Andrew is South African-born and attended Diocesan College from 1994 to 1996.  

Ken Njoroge - Cellulant ($55M)

Kenya’s Ken Njoroge is the co-founder of Cellulant (with Bolaji Akinboro), one of Africa’s most funded fintechs. In 2018 he was the recipient of the prestigious Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year and the 2019 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year awards. He graduated from the University of Nairobi and Strathmore University. Aside from being an individual passionate about economic empowerment, science and technology, Ken is also trilingual and speaks English, Swahili and French.

Fred Swaniker - African Leadership Academy ($54.3M)

43-year old Fred is a Ghanaian national entrepreneur and leadership development expert. He is the founder of AL Group which has the African Leadership Network (ALN), African Leadership Academy (ALA), African Leadership University (ALU) and the ALU School of Business. He attended Macalester College in Minnesota and later on Stanford Graduate School of Business in California where he received an MBA and was named an Arjay Miller Scholar. He is also a recognized TED Fellow and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. 

If you are interested in accessing the data behind this research brief and require further insights and intelligence on the African startup ecosystem, you can download the data by subscribing here or contact us for custom requests.


Digest Africa


Digest Africa Technologies Ltd
Ntinda Complex,
Block B, Level 3 Ntinda,
Kampala, Uganda

© Digest Africa Technologies Ltd 2023.
All Rights Reserved.