Naspers commits R1.4bn start-up fund to boost SA's tech sector

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Naspers chief executive Bob van Dijk.
Naspers chief executive Bob van Dijk.

Naspers has pledged its commitment to a R1.4 billion start-up fund to boost the South African technology sector.

The initiative, called Naspers Foundry, was announced at the inaugural South Africa Investment Conference 2018 in Johannesburg on Friday, and aims to fund and support South African technology start-ups seeking to address big societal needs.

As well as providing much needed funding, Naspers Foundry will help talented and ambitious South African technology entrepreneurs to develop and grow their businesses, the company says.

"Technology innovation is transforming the world," says Naspers chief executive Bob van Dijk. "The Naspers Foundry aims to both encourage and back South African entrepreneurs to create businesses which ensure South Africa benefits from this technology innovation."

Today, Naspers is one of the largest technology investors in the world, with operations and investments in more than 120 countries and markets. Its portfolio spans technology sectors as far-reaching as online classifieds, payments and fintech, online food delivery, online travel, social and Internet services, education, and health. Its Naspers Ventures team already finds and backs promising entrepreneurs and early stage businesses across the world.

"The group started in South Africa and understands the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of South Africans," says Van Dijk. "We believe the best ideas often start locally, with passionate entrepreneurs starting businesses that meet the needs of the communities they know best. And when those needs are universal across the markets we know well, with the right backing, there is the future potential for their businesses to grow beyond their home market."

Naspers CFO Basil Sgourdos adds: "When we invest in an entrepreneur, we are able to bring much more to the table than just funding: we understand what it's like to build and grow tech businesses, and we share that knowledge to help them succeed. We also recognise the important role that local businesses can play in boosting local economies, which in turn boosts the wider South African economy. That's why a significant portion of the Naspers Foundry investment will be focused on black-owned South African start-ups."

Over the next three years, Naspers will invest around R4.6 billion in the South African technology sector, with R3.2 billion allocated to the development of its existing technology businesses, including OLX, Takealot, and Mr D Food, and R1.4 billion committed to Naspers Foundry.

The Naspers Foundry will launch during 2019 and further announcements will be made in due course, the company says.

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