In the first half of this year, investments in African startups have risen back to pre-covid levels. While there’s more excitement about big investment firms like Sequoia and Tiger Global who are making bold statements about their interest in Africa with their investments, some newer players are looking to take part in the action.
One of such players is Expert DOJO, a US-based early-stage fund that has decided to commit up to $5m to invest in African startups this year. It’ll be making 20 to 50 new investments.
Since the firm’s first fund launched in 2018, Expert DOJO has invested in over 100 companies at pre-seed and seed stages across 30 countries. Some of these companies include Shipsi, Squadra and Woodpecker.
Expert DOJO decided to focus more on Africa when it noticed that some of the strongest performers in its portfolio were from across Africa.
Setting itself apart from other global accelerators, Expert DOJO has assembled an entire Africa-dedicated team plus cross-functional experts and Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs).
In addition to its new fund, the firm will dedicate an Africa-only cohort this September 2021 (currently accepting applications) to startups targeting the African market. Similar to the international cohort program, for this cohort, Expert DOJO, is looking to provide $100,000 in funding and a three-month virtual accelerator program.
Which startups qualify for this? Tech-enabled startups with a proven and scalable product. These startups also must have their main operations based in Africa and generate at least $5,000 monthly recurring revenue.
StarNews Mobile, a mobile video network for Africa, is one of the first African startups Expert DOJO invested in. It currently has over 10m mobile subscribers across Africa and has secured content partnerships with Universal and Sony Music distribution as well as marketing partnerships with Pan-African mobile operators MTN, Orange, and Moov.
How was Expert DOJO helpful to StarNews Mobile? “They helped with introducing us to service providers like Accountant, legal counsel and digital marketing. They also provided strategic advice,” Guy Kamgaing, the company’s CEO, said.
He wasn’t necessarily looking for investment in 2019 when Expert DOJO invested. But the turning point for him was when he realized that apart from money, Expert DOJO had a support network and were focused on understanding Africa better.
“Over the years,” Kamgaing said, “Expert DOJO has been consistent in terms of their interest and commitment to African companies.”
For Brian Mac Machon, the founder of Expert DOJO, they were motivated by the success of startups like StarNews to invest further in Africa.
“One commonality we’ve seen throughout our Africa portfolio is these founders’ focus on growth from day one, with extraordinary resilience, grit, and most importantly, results. We’ve witnessed these startups take the tools and resources provided in the DOJO accelerator and scale at super speed, well beyond industry standards,” Mac Machon said.
What’s different about Expert DOJO?
65% of DOJO’s portfolio companies are women or minority-led. “With a valuation of $32M and the third most active startup accelerator in the United States, Expert DOJO aims to close the global inequities in venture capital funding: “We’re investing in founders who represent the diverse society we live in, and not just the privileged Silicon Valley elite,” Mac Mahon said.
Another of Expert DOJO’s notable investments is Klasha, a female-led Nigerian fintech startup.
Jess Anuna, CEO of Klasha shared her DOJO experience by saying that DOJO works relentlessly to secure funding for their startups and ensure they’re being introduced to the right investors that will help their company scale, invest in future rounds, and strategically align with their company’s needs.”
For startups that go through Expert DOJO’s acceleration program the support received goes beyond the three months. Victoria Mehran, an Investment associate at Expert Dojo explained this saying, “We’re committed to supporting them for life. We are hopping on growth strategy calls with all our founders. Brian is on the phone with founders from 5 am to 11 pm and same thing with other members of the team.”
Expert Dojo’s inaugural Africa cohort is only the beginning of its plans in Africa. The hope is that they will start an Africa-only fund in the near future.