East African Antler closes $13.5M fund to support early-stage tech startups

Early-stage investor Antler has closed its oversubscribed East Africa investment fund today at US$13.5 million to continue to support early-stage tech startups in the region.

The Nairobi office of VC firm and venture builder intended to raise $10 million but ended up with an extra $3.5 million — has LPs that include Baillie Gifford, a well-known Tesla backer; family offices such as Canica; and institutional investors like the IFC.

The company was founded in August 2019. It runs a full venture building model with two cohorts each year.

Its parent company, Antler, founded two years earlier by Magnus Grimeland, employs a mixed model as a venture builder and VC firm. Five cohorts with 153 founders have passed through the accelerator programs so far, as the firm has made 14 investments. Some include AIfluence, Marketforce-subsidiary Digiduka, Honeycoin, Uncover Skincare, Try Cooked, and Vybe.

The firm that invests from pre-seed to Series C has cut checks in more than 250 companies from its $300 million funds. This new fund means allowing the company to embrace a similar approach: accepting founders who want to build their startups from scratch and investing in already formed teams that need capital to scale.

Selam Kebede, the firm’s director and part of the all-female-led team that includes partners Melalite Ayenew and Marie Nielsen and program manager Joana Borges said, “We still do the venture building. That’s still the core of what we do. Just that now that the fund is closed, we have enough money to spend in existing businesses that are coming in,” resume “And we can invest in stuff that’s already been built with a pure kind of VCs type setup investment.”.

Antler said that Founders going for the venture building model to find a co-founder and launch an idea would stay within Antler’s community for up to six months, which means it would accept founders and teams on a rolling basis.

Two to six weeks is all that’s needed for Antler East Africa to work with the team before the firm cuts a check. The firm said it will invest up to $100,000 in these startups at a “mutually agreed valuation.” It plans to make 35 new investments from pre-seed to Series A over three years.

Antler plans to make 35 new investments from pre-seed to Series A over three years. There’s also an arrangement for the global Antler fund to follow up on some rounds to Series C.

Kebede noted, “What changed now is, in the past, we were going only from zero to like the first $100,000 ticket. But now we’re saying we can also take in existing teams and ideas that formed outside of Antler, but they can come to us, and then we can invest just like any other VC would”.

Kebede also mentioned that Antler East Africa is sector agnostic; the firm is keen on investing in startups solving climate tech, agritech, and fintech. She also said the team has already made a few investments with this new format but declined to disclose their names.

Kebede said that Antler East Africa is a female-led VC team that is particular about investing more in startups founded and led by women in the region. It will try to improve the numbers from its venture building model, where 25% of the founders in its portfolio are women.

Female-run VC firms are firmly taking up their place in a male-dominated tech space as they try to address the funding gap that has plagued the industry for years, and the Antler East Africa team, led by Ayenew and Nielsen, joins that list of such firms, including those specially dedicated to female-founded and led teams like Alitheia Capital and FirstCheck Africa.

Kebede said, “There are few or no female-run VC 100% that I know of, at least in Kenya. But our partners [Ayenew and Nielsen] and I, we’re all women,” resume “And so it’s been super exciting to be able to do this, especially as first-time fund managers. It hasn’t been easy though because, you know, there’s the added kind of scrutiny and concern from other people when they see only women running it, but it has been exciting too.”.