Silicon Valley VC firm looks to invest in African start-ups

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Grace Legodi, country manager of Plug and Play SA and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Grace Legodi, country manager of Plug and Play SA and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Silicon Valley-headquartered venture capital (VC) company Plug and Play is preparing to open its Sub-Saharan Africa office in Johannesburg later this year.

The global innovation platform is calling on the first five South African launch partners to join its journey of supporting innovative African start-ups to grow and become global companies.

Plug and Play provides active investments, with 200 leading Silicon Valley venture capitalists under its belt, and hosts more than 700 networking events per year.

Since its inception in 2006, Plug and Play has built accelerator programmes, corporate innovation services and an in-house VC to help businesses with technological advancement.

With an ecosystem of more than 20 000 start-ups, 400 major corporate partners and VC firms across 35 global locations, Plug and Play says it aims to connect entrepreneurs with some of SA’s biggest corporations, government departments and universities to build one of the highest quality innovation platforms in the country as well as for the rest of the African continent.

The company’s innovation platform consists of three pillars: venture capital, start-up business development accelerator and corporate innovation.

“Plug and Play chose SA because it has the most developed corporate sector on the African continent to effectively link with start-ups,” says Grace Legodi, who will head up Plug and Play’s South Africa office.

“Our key value proposition in the venture capital segment has been as a global investor for start-ups that have global ambitions. With an investment portfolio of over 900 active investments, we have the appetite to take a risk on entrepreneurs that are committed to taking a risk on themselves.”

The company seeks to help talented African start-ups to grow and become global companies that will help drive the economy, and create the jobs we so desperately need, continues Legodi.

The innovation platform was founded by technology investor Saeed Amidi, who has over 25 years of experience in founding, operating and growing successful companies.

Amidi has been involved with more than 20 new emerging growth companies, including Paypal, Preview Systems, Lending Club, Zoosk, Flipora, Affinity Circles, Techdirt, Sigmaquest, Scanscout and NextBio.

Almost a dozen of Plug and Play’s investment companies have grown to become unicorns exceeding a $1 billion valuation, notes Legodi

In Africa, the company has invested in companies such as fintech firm Flutterwave, satellite data monitoring company WorldCover, and e-health start-up HealthLane, among others.

Elaborating on the company’s accelerator programmes, Legodi points out it is fine-tuned for start-up business development in particular. “Start-ups are at the very heart of our innovation model. Here, our key value proposition is toward assisting B2B enterprise start-ups to work with corporate companies in the pilot and scale of their product offerings.

“We also aim to assist start-ups to connect with investors and industry mentors. Uniquely, our model does not require start-ups to give up their equity as it ensures ‘corporate start-up stakeholder alignment’. The value proposition for the start-up is giving them a global avenue to generate revenue and gain broader market exposure.”

In terms of the corporate innovation pillar, Plug and Play says it is focused on finding and implementing technologies that address corporate innovation needs.

“For Africa, in particular, the value proposition is to provide a service offering that will help corporates learn how best to work with start-ups. Without the support and participation of corporates, start-ups cannot survive. Corporates can be leaders in ensuring a thriving ecosystem,” Legodi concludes.

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