The team behind VC4Africa – meet our co-founder Bart Lacroix

Early versions of the new VC4Africa logo

On Monday November 1st VC4Africa will launch its new matchmaking platform. Hard to believe knowing we started with only a Linkedin Group and later a platform on Ning:) In lead to this date we would like to publish a bit more on the ‘process behind the scenes.’ It is actually quite remarkable given we worked with designers from Rotterdam and Nairobi, software teams in Amsterdam and in Cameroon and photographers from Kenya and Ghana!! Not to mention the project team comes from Seattle, Limburg and Santa Fe:)

None of this would have been possible without an incredibly talented and motivated team. This week I will be interviewing different people who worked on the project so you can get an insight into the process. It shows that a project can truly be crowdsourced from across Africa, the US, Europe and elsewhere. We hope the new VC4Africa platform serves to mute the naysayers and shows what’s possible instead.

Today I interview our co-founder Bart Lacroix. Bart is also the founder of the 1%Club and my former colleague from Africa Interactive (the publisher behind Amazing to realize that we have already been working on projects together for a couple of years. Man time flies! But really, I couldn’t ask for a better person to be part of this team. It’s always when we have the biggest set backs that we sit down together and get excited again about all of the opportunities still out there.

What was the draw for you to join VC4Africa and elevate the project to a new level?

We have been discussing the idea to develop an online platform for African entrepreneurs for years at the Friday afternoon drinks with the Africa Interactive team. Ben White had enough of only talking and decided to just do it. He started with a VC4Africa LinkedIn group, Twitter and a Ning website and organized the first VC4Africa meet up in Kampala. When I was in Nairobi I told Ben I was willing to help him set up a second event. He posted the VC4Africa Nairobi event online and to my big surprise more than 40 Kenyan entrepreneurs and investors showed up. They didn’t know each other but were part of the VC4Africa community online. The interest was clearly there and this showed me the huge potential entrepreneurship and VC4Africa has. Now already 15 VC4Africa meet ups have been organized all over the world, from Johannesburg to Kigali to London to San Francisco to Amsterdam.

How did the process work for you, what made it different from other projects?

The project that I am used to work on start with the development of a website with the goal to build a community around it. VC4Africa started the other way around. There was already a large VC4Africa community on social media websites like LinkedIN, Ning, Twitter and Facebook and there were already VC4Africa meet ups happening all over the world. This project was about creating a platform to bring all these online communities together and bringing VC4Africa to the next level. I see this as the new way of bottom up development, start with the community and build on that!

What are the key points/ideas behind the new website?

When I am in Africa I always meet a lot of young energetic entrepreneurs with exciting business ideas. They often have a good idea and the right skills but lack access to market, networks and capital. On the other hand I also meet more and more investors that are willing to invest in African entrepreneurs but they say it is a challenge for them to find the right entrepreneurs with high quality business plans. Because due diligence is a long and expensive process for the investors they end up investing mostly in large businesses instead of the Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SME’s). The risk and transaction costs are too high to invest in SME’s. The idea behind the new VC4Africa website is to crowdsource the due diligence of the business ideas and plans that otherwise fall into the missing middle. The ambition is to become the Digg for African business ideas where the crowd decides what the best and most potential business plans are.

How do you look at the results?

I am really proud to see the VC4Africa platform ready to launch. I think it’s a well thought out and innovative approach. VC4Africa allows African entrepreneurs to crunch their business plans in a way that makes it easy for the crowd to identify the entrepreneurs and ideas with the most potential. As a community we can bring them to the next level.

How did you experience this collaborative process?

The intercontinental co-creation process of developing the website is probably the most exciting part of this project. Designers from the Netherlands and Kenya and web developers from Active Spaces in Cameroon and WEBclusive from the Netherlands all collaborating online as one project team. The best practice of International Cooperation 2.0 that I have been involved in so far. It shows to me the potential of co-creation in an international environment with everybody adding value from their own competences starting from the local needs and context.

Anything else you think is interesting to add?

I am really excited about the launch of the VC4Africa website and cannot wait for the first business ideas to be crunched and rated. I hope this is the start of something huge and will bring a lot of added value for both entrepreneurs and investors. I would like to thank to whole VC4Africa project team and feel honored being part of it.


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About zia505

The world is changing right before my eyes. Sometimes I don't know how I will ever keep up. There are so many ideas floating around on this internet. If only I had the means to collect them....

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