Announcing FirstCheck Africa
Women are under-represented in African tech. We’re on a mission to fix that.
Our mission is to advance equity, capital and leadership for a generation of women in Africa through technology & entrepreneurship.
In 2021, FirstCheck Africa plans to invest up to $25,000 each, “ridiculously early”, in women in Africa with bold, entrepreneurial ideas.
We’re also developing the middle tier of female angel investors, by building a community of millennials and mid-career women that want to learn about tech and angel investing and put their dollars — small or large — behind ventured-backed technology companies in Africa.
We’re looking for:
- Audacious women in that are determined to launch their first technology-enabled startups; and
- Mission-aligned partners that see the overlooked potential of Africa’s women-led startups.
What We Know
The early-stage funding ecosystem doesn’t work very well for women.
In 2019, less than five per cent of global venture capital went to female-led companies, and the trend is negative due to the global pandemic. This under-representation of women plays out as much in Africa as anywhere else.
Investors point to a pipeline problem, but female founders cite decision-making bias and a lack of early conviction by investors. Study after study proves that women are right: venture fundraising processes favour male founders from very early on, particularly at the pitch stage. And yet, women are starting more companies than ever.
Women in African tech are over-mentored and under-funded.
So many well-meaning programs offer female entrepreneurs mentorship, training and incubation. But this disproportionate focus on women’s capacity over our access to capital and networks ignores the consistent evidence that women-led startups tend to perform better and shifts the burden of fixing the problem to female founders.
The stark reality is that even when pitching identical businesses, women are less likely to get funded.
Supporting female founders should be about economics, not social impact.
Women entrepreneurs are more likely to get funded by VCs if they amplify their businesses' social impact when pitching. Ironically, when female angel investor groups have stepped in to fill the early-stage funding gap, there’s evidence that the market interprets this as ‘diversity activism’, rather than as a signal of quality.
Social grants for female entrepreneurs don’t work for women building high-impact tech companies.
Women in tech should play a meaningful role in building Africa’s next generation of companies.
Entrepreneurship and technology are massive high-leverage opportunities for African women to build wealth and influence, not just as founders, but also as early investors.
In the last five years, startup capital into Africa has risen 5x, and still, there are no women among the founders of the most highly-valued, category-defining startups led by African entrepreneurs. When venture funding into Africa reached its then all-time high of about $570M in 2017, just $30M went to companies with a female founder. Ignoring outliers like Andela (which has a female co-founder), the situation hasn’t changed significantly since then. While it was exciting to see Gro Intelligence raise a Series B at $85M recently, that did take seven years from launch.
What We Believe
Fixing capital access for female tech entrepreneurs in Africa needs an intentional, female-led approach.
We’re inspired by mission-driven, female-led investor communities like Portfolia, Operator Collective, All Raise and a growing list of women-led, women-focused VC funds. They’ve gone back to first principles, turning their direct experience and unique empathy for the problems that female founders face into a competitive advantage.
Similarly, Africa’s solution will come from women-led efforts committed to achieving better long-term outcomes for the technology ecosystem.
The solution lies at the very top of the startup fundraising funnel.
The African tech ecosystem needs to do three things:
- Increase the pipeline of female entrepreneurs,
- Address the biases women face, and
- Close the gender confidence gap, by making it easier for women to raise their first capital.
We believe that the best way to support female founders is to act consistently and with conviction: commit risk capital and work with women in tech to increase their odds of success, even if this means rolling up our sleeves to help women take their ideas to MVP, build early traction and raise their next funding rounds.
Role models matter.
There is strong evidence that role models matter in women’s choices to follow careers in technology or start venture-backed companies. While initiatives that amplify women in African tech, like Tech Women Lagos, are welcome and important, we need even more powerful representation, platforming female founders of scaling, venture-backed startups, in clear decision-making roles.
Long-term, one way to boost women in founder roles is to increase the numbers of women and girls studying STEM. Another is to create a class of role models intentionally, starting now.
What We’re Doing
We’re putting our money where our mouth is.
We know we can generate solid long-term returns by investing in women, so we’ll write female founders’ first checks and be their earliest believers. We’re not afraid to invest “ridiculously early” in great women.
We’ll act as active connectors & collaborators, using our networks and resources to accelerate their efforts. We’ll spend our time, financial and social capital helping them validate their ideas, gain all-important early traction and raise the next stage of capital.
We want to make it easier for women in African tech to raise capital.
We will invest in up to six women in 2021.
FirstCheck Africa will invest up to $25,000 in each woman that we support, working to help her raise a significant pre-seed round within 12 months.
We’re building a women-led, women-focused investor community.
Our investor community is open to everyone but we will prioritise women that want to invest in tech by putting their dollars — small or large — behind venture-backed startups.
We will pay particular attention to the middle tier of prospective angel investors, including, millennials and mid-career women who can’t afford to commit typical venture capital fund minimums in one go. FirstCheck Africa will create opportunities for women to invest at more comfortable levels, and support them with learning and educational content to help them get off the ground floor by writing their own first checks.
We want to make it easy for African women to raise capital and invest in tech.
We’re creating a future where women have an equal hand in leading and shaping Africa’s wealth creation through technology & entrepreneurship.