Africa is becoming an increasingly hot destination for European startups, scaleups, investors, and more. We see Europe flocking to invest in African tech, an industry that has reached $5.2 billion in investment in 2021, and startups like Bolt and VCs including Norrsken looking to access this growing market.
To ease that access into the African market, global investment firm Partech is launching Chapter54 – the first accelerator helping European scaleups successfully enter the African market. The program will be run by Partech Shaker, the investment firm's innovation branch, with backing from German promotional bank KfW on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development BMZ.
One goal – establishing operations on African soil
As opposed to most accelerators, which are focused on the eventual financial output of accelerated companies, Chapter54's focus is on shared innovation and operations being brought to Africa. The program's one goal is clear – to have their participating scaleups establish operations on African soil.
This emphasis on operations is at the heart of every aspect of Chapter54 – from the companies brought on, the curated list of mentors with hands-on experience in Africa, and the keynotes that focus on African operating models, success stories, and post-mortems. A series of work sessions will also help the scaleup adjust its operating models and go-to-market strategies to the local context.
Entering any new market requires local market expertise and a network of partners. Partech's experience, with 15 investments already made across 9 African countries, helps. They've also supplemented the program with hands-on support by curating an impressive list of mentors and speakers from:
- Each of the 7 existing African unicorns
- Major African tech companies
- Global scaleups and companies successfully working in Africa (ex. Uber, Glovo)
All of the involved speakers or members have direct experience scaling in the African market, with roles including Heads of Sales, Heads of Supply Chain, Country Managers, etc. Chapter54 seems to be skipping the vague inspiration aspect and jumping straight into getting things done.
Accelerators for scaleups look different
Because scaleups are at a different stage of development, Chapter54 has shaped the accelerator to look quite different from what we're used to. It has been built around busy scaleups' schedules.
“Usually, accelerators take two founders, put them in jail for three weeks, and observe what comes out. That's not the case here. Scaleup founders have many different strategic topics to handle on a day-to-day basis, and Africa will only be one of them.” – Vincent Previ, Managing Director at Chapter54.
The program is custom-curated for and by the scaleups participating. It can be up to 8 months long, and they will have 17 mentoring sessions that can be used at any point over this time – sort of like credits that can be used at any time. They can go through the program as quickly or as slowly as they need.
The program is online by design, but the organizers will try to make 2-3 face-to-face work sessions or meetings with mentors happen early on.
Who can apply?
While there is no quantified milestone that has to be achieved, the scaleup should be large enough so that they have a role that can take responsibility for the African projects – such as Head of International Expansion, Chief of Staff, etc. The scaleup should also have operations in at least two markets. Because expansion to Africa is a major endeavour, the program would prefer that participating startups already have one international expansion under their belts.
Applications are open and will close on March 5th. The 10 selected scaleups will be announced on March 7th. Applications for the first cohort can be done at chapter54.com.