New US$200 million fund to invest in African start-ups


The co-founders of Internet calling app Skype and Nigerian payments success story Flutterwave are among the big names backing a new tech growth fund aimed at investing in African “impact start-ups”.

The growth fund is led by an entity called Norrsken22 – the result of the Norrsken Foundation, founded by payment services firm Klarna co-founder Niklas Adalberth, teaming up with Hans Otterling, partner at Northzone, and an investment team led by Natalie Kolbe, previous global head of private equity at Actis in South Africa.

Kolbe’s Actis colleague in Kenya, Ngetha Waithaka, and Lexi Novitske, founder of Acuity Venture Partners in Nigeria, are also part of the Norrsken22 team. Kolbe, based in Johannesburg, is Norrsken22’s managing partner; Novitske and Waithaka are partners based in Lagos and Nairobi respectively.

The fund has an advisory council of business leaders that include former MTN Group CEO Phuthuma Nhleko, JSE chairwoman Nonkululeko Nyembezi, former Ecobank CEO Arnold Ekpe and Masawara founder and CEO Shingai Mutasa.

Norrsken describes itself as offering an “impact ecosystem” for entrepreneurs. It runs Norrsken House in Kigali, Rwanda, which it says is the largest start-up hub in East Africa”, and Norrsken House in Stockholm, Sweden, a co-working space for “impact entrepreneurs”. It created Norrsken VC, a €130-million venture capital fund, and also manages the Norrsken Impact Accelerator for early-stage start-ups.

Norrsken22 announced the first close of the new Africa-focused fund on Monday, having secured US$110-million of investment capital of a total planned $200-million.

“The fund is backed by 30 unicorn founders, contributing their immeasurable entrepreneurial skills and $65-million in funding,” Norrsken said in a statement on Monday, referring to start-ups that have achieved valuations of at least $1-billion.

These founders include Olugbenga Agboola, co-founder of Flutterwave; Niklas Zennström, co-founder of Skype; Jacob de Geer, co-founder of iZettle; Niklas Östberg, co-founder of Delivery Hero; Carl Manneh, co-founder of Mojang; Sebastian Knutsson, co-founder of King; and Willard Ahdritz, founder of Kobalt Music.

“The fund is also backed by SEB Pension Foundation and family offices, who share the Norrsken22 vision of scalable entrepreneurship as a driver of long-term and sustainable economic growth across Africa,” Norrsken said in the statement.

Focus investment areas include fintech, edtech, medtech and “market-enabling solutions”. The Norrsken Foundation will reinvest its portion of the capital generated by Norrsken22 back into supporting African entrepreneurship.

“Eyes are turning towards Africa as the next epicentre for digital disruption. Technology is enabling emerging enterprises to leapfrog legacy ways of doing business. Leaders are emerging but a lack of growth capital is holding them back,” said managing partner Kolbe in the statement, explaining the opportunity for the fund.


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