In the past few years, there has been a growing list of global accelerators who also double as micro-VCs interested in either setting up across the African continent or admitting African startups. From Silicon Valley darlings like Y Combinator - which has backed over 30 African startups - and 500 Startups to TechStars.
Last year, in October, London-based corporate-backed accelerator Founders Factory also launched its African arm called Founders Factory Africa backed by Standard Bank as the first corporate investor. The accelerator has already gone on to back five fintechs from across the continent.
According to Digest Africa data, there are at least 80 accelerators targeted to the African continent and offer a cash investment in the range of US $5,000 to US $350,000 per startup in the cohort following an average 6-month acceleration program. The investment instruments being used are mostly straight equity and non-equity assistance even if a model incorporating Simplified Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) is beginning to be adopted.
The latest accelerator to launch in Africa is Antler which describes itself as a “global startup generator and early-stage VC firm”. Antler was founded in 2017 by Magnus Grimeland, the co-founder of Zalora, a Rocket Internet VC backed e-commerce platform.
The accelerator leverages a matchmaking model where it admits individuals who are then encouraged to identify co-founders with whom to work on a startup idea.
“We push our founders through a number of tests, team building exercises, team challenges and hackathons to evaluate compatibility and ask the tough questions early on. Through our co-founder pairing framework, we dramatically increase the chances of finding a suitable co-founder with complementary skills," - Antler
According to the Antler, to date, they have held ‘successful’ programs in Singapore and Stockholm. They are therefore looking to replicate this success by expanding to the African continent. “[Antler] has expanded its operations to include East Africa as well as London, Amsterdam and Sydney,” wrote Antler.
It started operations in East Africa at the beginning of 2019 with their team distributed between Kenya and Ethiopia. “The Antler team has been working out of Addis Ababa and Nairobi since January 2019”.
They have already set up the program and will be looking to accept “future founders” for Nairobi by close of August 2019 while the Addis Ababa plan will be effected immediately after they finalize in Nairobi.
The Kenyan cohort will accommodate at least 40 “future founders” who will then come up with startups that Antler will invest in. “We are looking to invest in a minimum of 16 startups every year in Nairobi, but this could be even higher depending on the quality of the ideas coming out of the programme”.
The accelerator is also looking to spread its wings across the African continent over time. “Over the next 5 years, aims to expand to additional African countries, such as South Africa, Nigeria and more”.
Antler takes the “future founders” through two initial phases - each lasting a month - before they are admitted into the accelerator.
The first phase, over one month, is to sort out those that they think meet their criteria including a clear indicator of what one is great at, grit as well as inner drive. At this level, all the participants receive a stipend of US $1,500 to cater for the basic expenses during the period.
Once one makes it to the second month, they are then eligible to receive investment provided they successfully go through a final investment committee. “At the end of the second month, Antler invests in companies that pass our investment committee and these proceed to the second phase of the program.”
Antler invests US $100,000 of which US $85,000 comes in the form of cash while the remainder comes in kind to cover the “5-month program and comprehensive support.” In exchange for the investment, Antler takes a 20% equity stake in the startup.
This model is similar to that operated by other accelerators including MEST Africa as well as Founders Factory Africa. Each of these makes an investment which comes in a mixture of cash and services in kind.
However, according to Antler, their model differs from that of existing accelerators. “Antler differs from traditional startup accelerators because it builds companies from the ground up by focusing on ambitious professionals and removing the barriers which normally prevents people from starting their own business,” they wrote.
In April 2018, it debuted in Asia with a $3 million seed investment which came from a couple of high profile angel investors.
The funding round included the participation of investors such as John Riady (Director of the Lippo Group in Indonesia), Birger Nergaard (founder of Verdane Capital, which is known to be the first venture capital fund in Scandinavia), and Andreas Ehn (first CTO at Spotify).