WeChat puts R50m into startups

December 7th, 2015
WeChat Africa plans to invest 50 million Rand in tech startups in Africa, to support local entrepreneurs and technology innovations.

WeChat Africa will identify promising tech startups, via an application and selection process, and support their speedy entrance into the market using the WeChat platform.  Access to markets was listed as one of the biggest inhibitors to growth for African tech-enabled businesses in the recent Emerging Companies survey conducted by PWC and Silicon Cape.

To coordinate the initiative, tech strategy practice firm, Batstone, has been appointed by WeChat Africa to source and coordinate early stage investment opportunities among tech startups in Africa.

Brett Loubser, head of WeChat Africa says, “Our fund aims to provide financial support to businesses so that they can effectively get on the WeChat platform.  This will include technical integration and communications tactics across the Naspers’ stable and other suited channels.”

Since the success of partnerships with startups such as Money4Jam, PicUp and Order In, WeChat’s growth strategy has increasingly focused on integrating with early stage businesses whose models strategically fit with, and clearly demonstrate, the power of the platform and its positioning in the market.

In addition, the rapid access to a national audience becomes much easier once a business has integrated with the WeChat platform – this helps to bridge the gap between the tech startups and their customers.

“We have been working with Batstone since mid-2014 and in that time have come to trust their purpose-led approach to understanding and supporting tech businesses.  This approach, coupled with their networks, means our partnership is well placed to identify and vet the best possible investment opportunities for WeChat.” says Loubser.

This program will focus on selecting tech-enabled businesses that have initial market validation as well as a viable product and could clearly benefit from WeChat’s technology platform and the accompanying access to potential consumers.

“Our experience in the past two years has demonstrated that many companies have huge potential but are unable to communicate what they do clearly,” says Alexandra Fraser, Head of Batstone Ventures. “We don’t want to miss the chance to work with smart businesses just because they can’t succinctly tell us what they can do in an online form so our process will include a face-to-face workshop element to mitigate this risk.”

In addition to identifying potential partners for WeChat Africa, Batstone will provide strategic consulting services to effectively support these businesses through their growth phases and entrances to the market.

Applications via Batstone’s website (www.batstones.com/wechat) will open in mid January 2016. Selection will be based on a mix of online application and a series of purpose workshops.

“This fund fits beautifully into the local VC landscape,” says Fraser.  She concludes: “Our sense is that it complements many of the existing funds and investment strategies in the market. Ideally we, and WeChat Africa, can partner with great businesses as well as VC funds looking for a platform with large market reach to test their investments’ potential.”

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