Boosting entrepreneurship in Africa one angel at a time

Abu Cassim, founder and director of Jozi Angels [Photograph: John Hogg]

The role of corporates in the startup ecosystem is not new. They help drive the growth of startups and boost innovation. Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) is one of the various ways that corporates go about engaging with the startup space and involves investment of corporate funds into young game changers. This strategy is fast entrenching itself globally, playing a key role in the development and success of international startups.

Not many have adopted this strategy in Africa though, with little CVC implementation in its purest form. Abu Cassim, founder and director of Jozi Angels, an angel network that facilitates and helps startups grow, says that while CVCs are a viable option in South Africa there’s also a role for the corporate individual to play.

“While I believe in CVCs, the Jozi Angels’ Entrepreneur Energizer programme encourages employees within corporate organisations to become angel investors. Leveraging their knowledge, networks and capital to get involved in exciting young upstarts without disrupting their day to day activities as an employee. They then become the champions that drive an organisation’s entrepreneurial culture. There’s a need in modern organisations to be innovative and entrepreneurial, our programme gives employees the hands-on experience needed in today’s economy,” says Cassim.

The Jozi Angels’ Entrepreneur Energizer programme is an immersion exercise. It starts with a two-day sprint covering topics such as design thinking and lean startup methodologies. Participants are then mentored by experienced angels along their journey.

According to Cassim, individuals within corporates can become a working part of the country’s drive to grow entrepreneurship and boost innovation: “It’s a mindset we need to introduce that they can work for a great company and then invest in an exciting young business, which is reshaping our landscape. Investment still tends to be made in traditional asset classes such as property and mutual funds.”

He says that in today’s economy, disruptors are key, bringing even more excitement to potential angels: “Exposure to disruption is addictive and exhilarating. Supporting this development brings not only financial benefits, but also an opportunity to be part of some ground-breaking business and technology breakthroughs.”

There is also the learning curve and individual angels will be exposed to new business models, gain greater market knowledge and build relationships with innovative startups. Cassim does advise though that potential angels need to be vigilant in what they invest in to, which is where Jozi Angels and network mentors can play a guiding role.

“We facilitate and help grow the startup ecosystem and excited about the potential of the angel space. We have a proven screening process, ensuring that investments are thoroughly assessed. South Africa needs a broad variety of angels and we are confident that by creating a breadth and depth of investors, startups and corporates will flourish,” says Cassim.

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