Ben White: Crowdsourcing knowledge on doing business in Africa

Dear Members,

The VC4Africa Questions & Answers tool connects you to everything you want to know about doing business in Africa. It is a place for us to solve our problems and to share our own experience and knowledge with fellow members. We invite you to participate as we crowd source an open and accessible knowledge base for the space.

Business Models (8) –
Business Plans (3) –
Diaspora (3) –
Due Diligence (4) –
Finance (23) –
General focus (19) –
Government (2) –
Green Entrepreneurship (1) –
Investing (11) –
Legal (5) –
Marketing (4) –
Partners (5) –
Product Development (1) –
Resources (11) –
Sales (1) –
Social Entrepreneurship (11) –
Startups (9) –
Strategies (12) –

Kind regards and Happy Networking!
The VC4Africa Team
Posted By Ben White

2012/2013 Africa-wide Women in Science Competition Call for Abstracts

With a population of approximately 1.03 billion in 2011, and a growth rate of 24 million per annum, Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050. Africa’s chances of halving poverty and hunger by 2015 remain slim. The continent needs to increase agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner as well as find endogenous solutions to respond to the twin challenges of climate change and volatile food and energy prices. Increasing investments in the agricultural sector and more specifically in science, technology and innovation is seen as a viable option for achieving broad-based agricultural led economic growth, equity and prosperity.

This competition seeks to promote excellence and recognize and reward outstanding women scientists who are undertaking scientific and innovative research, technology and engineering related development activities and communicating the outputs (knowledge, technologies and approaches) to improve agricultural performance and socio-economic development in Africa.

NUANCE: Newsletter of UbuntuNet Alliance: Networks, Collaborat​​​ion, Education: Vol. 4, Issue 11: March 2012

Volume 4: Issue 11: March 2012

NUANCE is a monthly e-newsletter published by UbuntuNet Alliance. Key content is news from, about, or of interest to National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa. We request and invite you to submit an item before the 20th of each month capturing:

News and developments from your NREN and news items of interest to NRENs
Content networks: how researchers and academics are using the REN infrastructure to enhance effectiveness and efficiency their work and to promote national and international collaboration
Hot tips about something you have done successfully (organisational or technical)
A photo that tells a story
Looking into the future, especially with regards to fibre infrastructure
Submissions should be sent to

Ben White: 15% establish a joint venture or secure finance via VC4Africa

Dear Members,

People ask the question, does VC4Africa produce success stories? First off, this is the wrong question. VC4Africa doesn’t ‘produce’ success stories rather our members do. In just the same way people make meaningful connections via Linkedin, our members are able to progress their African business interests via connections they make on VC4Africa. We don’t ‘manage’ the networking process, but rather focus on the technology, the platforms, tools and services that make it easier.

This aside, we are working to understand what works and where we need to invest more of our time and energy. Bottom line, we want as many entrepreneurs to find the support they need to realize their potential as possible. We measure both financial and non-financial matches. A key finding was to discover that 15% of members have been able to establish a joint venture partnership or secure finance via the VC4A network. Clearly we will be working to drive this number moving forward. Some other points we have distilled from recent user feedback.

– 86% of our members are registered as entrepreneurs and 12.8 % of our members are registered as investors

– 90% of our members have been a member for less than two years. 55% have joined in the last 6 months.

– 56.7% of entrepreneurs who have registered a venture found it worth their time and effort. 26.7% find the service ‘awesome’ and 43% have gained increased exposure.

– 36.9% of members have attended a VC4Africa meet up. The VC4A services that are the least known include Questions & Answers, Free Feedback Friday, the Mentorship Program and the Booster Program.

– 14.3% of members say VC4Africa does not create any value. 44.9% say we create some value while 26.5% say a lot of value and 14.3% claim the service is outstanding.

– 65% of members have gained interesting insights while 43% have been able to make meaningful connections.

Members in general find VC4Africa an effective tool for making meaningful connections. The site is personal, and the membership is focused and professional.

Moving forward, it was also made clear we need to be doing a lot more. VC4Africa needs to be better known, secure increased exposure, bring on board more entrepreneurs and expand the investor network. We also need to improve the user interface in a number of areas and offer more support in matchmaking, offering dedicated channels for connecting entrepreneurs and investors.

Now is the time for us to double our efforts. Join us on and together we can achieve even more.

Happy networking,
Ben & the VC4A Team

In case you missed the VC4Africa News [Update]

Jayanth Varma wrote recently re: India:

Last month, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) published a 95 page report (The emerging equity gap: Growth and stability in the new investor landscape) arguing that over the next decade, there is likely to be a shortage of equity investors globally. This is based on two arguments:

  1. Demographics and the regulatory aftermath of the financial crisis are reducing the demand for equities from investors in developed markets.
  2. Global wealth is shifting to emerging market investors who have historically had less appetite for equity investment.

The second prong of this argument is clearly debatable. Had there been a think tank examining such questions in the nineteenth century, it too would have worried about the shifting of wealth from the UK (which was then the dominant source of risk capital for the world) to newer rivals. We do know with hindsight that with increasing wealth, the rising powers of the nineteenth century went on to become major sources of risk capital to the rest of the world. That could well happen again, but it will not happen unless today’s emerging markets create the preconditions for a vibrant equity market.

Concerning how those “preconditions” are developing in Africa, Jonathan Marks recently posted this vimeo with these comments: is one year old in its present form, though the idea has been around with co-founders Ben White and Bill Zimmerman for a lot longer. After experimenting with the ning platform, they decided to build their own platform where they can tailor the functionality of the site to match the needs of both African entrepreneurs and investors. As bandwidth opens up on the continent, especially later in 2012, I’m helping the team with some experimental video projects. We’re actually working from the premise that video isn’t needed at all, unless it can add something to the story. Ben White recently gave a presentation which explained very clearly the thinking behind VC4Africa, why it’s needed, how it’s working with collaborative teams across the continent, and what’s been achieved in such a short time so far. I confess to being very impressed by their ability to work WITH entrepreneurs rather than FOR them. This is turning sharing of expertise into a sustainable business model. Enjoy.

VC4Africa – Review of the First Year from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

This infographic may also be helpful:

VC4Africa 2012 Infographic

Ben White: VC4Africa takes a look at the progress made in 2011

I think it is fair to say that 2011 was a good year for the VC4Africa community. What originally started as a Linkedin group has now grown into a thriving and productive network. This year we closed the old website and started a new chapter on

We now have more than 4.300 members who have opened personal profile pages on the new site and over 200 entrepreneurs stepped forward to crunch their venture online ( ). There are promising businesses making progress in over 30 African countries and we have seen members in Cameroon, South Africa, the United States, Kenya, Nigeria, the Netherlands and Somaliland establish partnerships, investments and joint ventures. Increasingly, VC4Africa featured entrepreneurs are being picked up by global media channels like Forbes and BBC World. We have opened a new thread where members are starting to share their successes as their continued progress remains our bottom line – as a community and organization ( ).

In the past months we have launched a number of new programs and resources VC4A entrepreneurs can tap into for support. For example, entrepreneurs are now calling in on Free Feedback Fridays ( ). These are sessions hosted by business experts and are useful for working through challenges faced in the business development process. We also hosted several Business Modeling Workshops and worked with entrepreneurs to practice and film their elevator pitches ( ). More recently, we launched the ( ) VC4Africa Mentorship Program that connects members for peer-to-peer coaching with some early successes already on the books. We also gave a facelift to the venture profiles and entrepreneurs can now post their video pitches online, one of the reasons ventures like ( ) Njorku are top ranked all time. In the year ahead we will be doing even more to support our entrepreneurs as they champion their ventures.

Our team is constantly working to introduce new tools and services that further improve the VC4A networking experience. To foster more effective network building we launched our own ‘dating widget’ that matches members on the basis of complimentary skill sets and forwards recommended connections. How do you tap into a global network spread across 159 countries? This past year saw the release of ( ) Questions & Answers as a tool for crowdsourcing knowledge from across the member base. There are now 68 open threads and 128 responses. We also launched dedicated groups that allow members to come together around a specific country or theme. Some notable groups we look forward to growing in 2012 include ( ) Green Entrepreneurship, ( ) the Social Entrepreneur, ( ) VC4Africa Mentors and ( ) VC4A Woman Entrepreneurs.

Far and away, one of the greatest projects we launched this past year was VC4A Badges. Building great companies and an effective network of contacts is a lot of hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun. With great looking badges we look to recognize your milestones and contributions along the way. See an overview of all of the badges and keep your eye out for new ones :) ( )

Editor: Got me my nifty VC4Africa Officer Badge Rightcheer; woohoo!:

VC4Africa Officer Badger

VC4Africa Officer Badger

We will continue to listen to your feedback and build the tools that enrich your time spent with VC4A ( ).

These developments aside, VC4Africa had a great year because we have such great members. People who believe in the continent’s potential and want to see its best entrepreneurs succeed. It is remarkable to see more than 30 VC4Africa meetups organized by members from around the world. We already have great events online for 2012 starting with Accra, Oslo and London.

Certainly Africa is a great business opportunity and we all agree the time to make it happen is NOW.

The best part about all of this? We’re just getting started :)

Repost – Wireless Health – New Mentor at Blueprint Health and Lessons from Venture “Assistant”, Vinod Khosla

Paul Sonnier writes:

Group: Wireless Health
Subject: New Mentor at Blueprint Health and Lessons from Venture “Assistant”, Vinod Khosla

Dear Wireless Health group members,

I founded the group to connect people, facilitate knowledge sharing, and accelerate health-related business innovations by entrepreneurs, startups, and established companies. Helping entrepreneurs is something that I’m particularly passionate about. In this context, I am excited to announce that I am now a mentor at Blueprint Health, the health and wellness-focused startup accelerator based in New York City.

In a recent interview, Vinod Khosla – who just closed a new $1B investment fund – stated that he is a “venture assistant”, not a venture capitalist. The hands-on assistance his firm provides to entrepreneurs is a core component of his investment success. A case in point is Jawbone, which was about to go under when Vinod invested in it. Vinod’s partner, David Weiden, made a key introduction to AT&T, whose distribution channel enabled a massive growth in sales, thus saving the company. (It’s noteworthy that UP, the company’s newest product is, you guessed it, a personal connected health solution. Another portfolio company is ZocDoc, the OpenTable-like application for making healthcare appointments.)

Why does this matter? In the relatively chaotic and burgeoning digital health innovation space, the startups that succeed will most likely do so as a result of the hands-on assistance provided by mentors and investors, who partner with them and amplify their talents via strategic advice, key introductions, and the ability to foresee and help guide entrepreneurs through the inevitable pivot points that occur along the way.

In my evolution as a social and business entrepreneur, the Blueprint Health mentor role is a huge step forward and further validation of my efforts. I’m eager to focus my energy on helping entrepreneurs, starting with the inaugural class this January. This is not a full-time role and I’ll continue working with the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance, serving as a co-chair of the Healthcare Communications SIG at CommNexus San Diego and, of course, curating and building the Wireless Health LinkedIn group.

A brief overview of Blueprint Health:
Blueprint Health is a TechStars affiliated startup accelerator program based in NYC that helps early stage healthcare companies get started. Surround yourself with nearly 100 mentors – healthcare entrepreneurs, VCs and innovators – that want to help you succeed! Over the course of a 3 month program, we support entrepreneurs who are building innovative companies at the intersection of health and technology by providing capital, office space and, most critically, access to the most robust community of healthcare mentors of any accelerator program. We encourage you to learn more and to apply to our Winter program, which starts January 12th, by visiting

Mentor list:
Recent media:

Also, here’s a link to the fascinating interview with Vinod Khosla: What Cash Crunch? Khosla Ventures Closes Another $1 Billion Fund –

Best regards,
Paul Sonnier

Follow me on Twitter:
Connect with me on LinkedIn:
Posted By Paul Sonnier, MBA

VC4Africa nominated for the Accenture Innovation Award [Please vote and repost]

VC4Africa wants to initiate a shift to business as a key tool in the development of the continent. The VC4Africa social network is aimed at investors and entrepreneurs seeking sustainable businesses in Africa. 1.9 million African persons operate online. 43% of the African population is under 14 years old. This rapidly growing open platform, has members from over 250 countries, and meet ups worldwide.

Please see and|or

NUANCE Call for Articles

NUANCE is a monthly e-newsletter published by UbuntuNet Alliance. Key content  is news from, about, or of interest to National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa. We request and invite you to submit an item before the 20th of each month capturing:

News and developments from your NREN and news items of interest to NRENs
Content networks: how researchers and academics are using the REN infrastructure to enhance effectiveness and efficiency their work and to promote national and international collaboration
Hot tips about something you have done successfully (organisational or technical)
A photo that tells a story
Looking into the future, especially with regards to fibre infrastructure

Submissions should be sent to