WeChat Africa will invest R50 million in tech start-ups

By mahlokoane percy ngwato

WeChat, the company behind an innovative mobile messaging app, is planning to invest R50 million in tech start-ups across Africa, to support entrepreneurs and technology innovators.

The firm will identify promising tech start-ups and expedite their entrance into the market using its 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, so this method is sure to become a decisive factor for many start-ups.

To coordinate the initiative, tech strategy practice firm Batstone has been appointed to source and coordinate early stage investment opportunities.

Brett Loubser, head of WeChat Africa said: “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 start-ups 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.

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“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,” said Loubser.

Tech-enabled businesses that have initial market validation alongside a viable product could clearly benefit from WeChat’s technology platform and will gain access to potential consumers.

Alexandra Fraser, Head of Batstone Ventures, said: “Our experience in the past two years has demonstrated that many companies have huge potential but are unable to communicate what they do clearly. 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.”

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.

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