Kenyan tourism-focused venture studio, Purple Elephant Ventures (PEV), the world’s first, has closed a pre-seed round of $1 million. The venture studio wants to use the funding to build at least three startups every year. 

PEV’s mission is to lead Africa’s tourism industry towards a greener future. Tourism, Africa’s third-largest industry and employer of tens of millions across the continent, suffered tremendously during the COVID pandemic and is highly vulnerable to the effects of the changing climate. 

Founded by Ben Peterson, Jan Van der de Willebois, and Mikul Shah, the venture studio asserts that the majority of its startups are scalable, tech-first answers that accelerate essential efforts to strengthen Africa’s tourist sector’s resilience and sustainability in the face of climate change.

Participation in PEV’s pre-seed round came from Klister Credit Corp, a Canadian investment firm and early backer of Shopify; Fede Pirzio-Biroli, founder of Playfair Capital; Ian McCaig, former CEO of and M-Kopa board member; Anthony Rock, president of Rock Impact Capital; The Untours Foundation; Rich Hoops, executive director at Impact Capital; Jim Villanueava, managing director of Global Partnerships Social Venture Fund; and Helena Riese Harstad, co-founder and chair of the Optimizer Foundation. 

To date, PEV has launched two startups. The first is Nomad Africa, a content-to-commerce business that informs Africa’s domestic tourism market about sustainable and local travel experiences. The other is Elephant Bookings, a SaaS business that helps African hospitality providers become more efficient by getting online. 

Speaking on the raise,  Ben Peterson, CEO of  Purple Elephant Ventures, said, “We’re sitting on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to modernise a major continental industry while driving real climate-action victories. Tourism is a significant driver of Africa’s economy, but sadly, there have been only a small handful of startups that have tried to modernise the largely offline industry. We decided that the industry could benefit from dozens of startups, each addressing different major challenges—so we built PEV.” 

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