EchoVC, the stage-agnostic, technology-focused VC fund has been quiet since it first came to Africa in search of investment opportunities in 2012. At the time, local tech press reported EchoVC – which set out from Nigeria – was going to invest more than $30 million dollars into local African tech businesses. But that was not to be. At least, EchoVC wasn’t handing out cash as the “pundits” expected.
In a 2012 article, EchoVC’s managing partner, Eghosa Omoigui was made out to have said no local tech business as at then was worth the fund’s dollars. Eghosa, in a rejoinder at the time, said, this was a misattribution by the reporter. That, of course, would have explained EchoVC’s general disinterest in investing at the time.
But that story seems to have changed. If anything, EchoVC has taken on a bullish sentiment around investment opportunities in Nigeria.
Over the past six months, we’ve seen and heard more about the fund than we have in its three years of presence in Nigeria. EchoVC’s first public investment was in Mark Essien’s hotel booking startup; Hotels.ng. In May, 2015, EchoVC, along with Omidyar’s Network invested $1.2 million in the business.
Next was Printivo, the digital printing startup founded by Oluyomi Ojo. What Printivo announced as a six – figure investment (in the range of $100,000 and $999,000) was EchoVC’s second public investment in a local tech company.
It’s significant to note these investments as public investments because EchoVC has made some investments behind the scenes. Some of those would be similar to its investment in Adbox, a digital advertising startup that launched in 2014. This investment has not been made public, but it’s only EchoVC’s third investment we have come to be aware of in the space of three months.
This is a hat trick for what is essentially now the only tech-focused VC company in Nigeria that is not an accelerator or hub or PE firm.
In total, we speculate EchoVC would have invested between $1.5 and $3 million in Nigerian tech businesses. That is a timid estimate based off of the investment history from above and on the fact that EchoVC’s typical investment ranges between “$25,000 and several millions of dollars”.
We also understand that EchoVC leaves the public disclosure of its funding activity at the discretion of the founders it invests in. And from experience, most founders – ironically – don’t like to disclose funding until they have to. In fact, the Printivo funding happened months before the press finally got a wind of it.
So, EchoVC’s investment could be way more than we currently speculate by a very long shot. The figure could increase when we add its investment in other African countries. But then of course, most of those are undisclosed.
Eghosa – fomerly with Intel Capital – floated the fund back in 2011, along with Amber Fowler, a former exec at the Founders Fund, an early stage technology investor. EchoVC has invested in around 20 startups outside of Africa, including Stacksocial, Zerply and Grooveshark.
At the time EchoVC was still “hibernating”, there was a $15 million ICT innovation fund that EchoVC was designated to manage for the then ICT minister and the Federal government. Not much has been heard of that since it was announced in 2013, and both Eghosa and the federal government have remained mum about the transaction.
Generally, more investors are becoming more confident about opportunities in African tech businesses in reaction to its high quality founders and large underserved market opportunities – if a little slow in doing so. But more non-predatory angel investors, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs need to come in the ecosystem for it to have real growth.
Eghosa himself doesn’t speak much with tech press – if at all – but it seems EchoVC is done kicking tires and is ready to begin placing bold bets on Nigerian tech companies.