Grindstone Ventures launches a $6.5m female-led capital fund to support innovative tech startups

Grindstone Ventures launches a $6.5m female-led capital fund to support innovative tech startups

Grindstone Ventures has announced the launch of a $6.5m (R100 million) female-led African venture capital fund dedicated to supporting South African technology startups who have completed or are part, of its Grindstone Accelerator programme.

The female-led African venture capital fund will be focused on post-seed investments, where there is currently a major gap in the South African funding landscape. The fund will also target SMEs that have a sustainable impact and are able to create meaningful jobs.

The fund will invest primarily in early-stage innovation-driven and/or technology companies that are female-led and act as an early due-diligence mechanism for the new fund.

Grindstone Ventures is led by Catherine Young, Andrea Bohmert, Rapelang Rabana and Grace Legodi, an all-female team with exceptional depth of experience across value chain funding, and a proven track record in scaling startups. Venture capital firm, Knife Capital, is overseeing certain of the fund management elements.

In a statement, Catherine Young, Managing Partner at Grindstone Ventures said their aim is to provide superior returns to investors and create a sustainable yield in the long term.

“While the tech ecosystem deal space across Africa has shown exceptional growth over recent years, there remains a gap in the market for post-seed, pre-Series A funding across the continent. Our vision is to fill this gap and prepare these businesses for larger funding rounds, exponential growth and to ultimately exit.”

“Our secret sauce lies in our robust Grindstone Accelerator, which enables innovation-driven tech startups to access knowledge, networks, funding and markets.  Typically, an accelerator follows a fund, but Grindstone Ventures is turning this model on its head.  Grindstone Ventures was launched as a result of the excellent pipeline of businesses emerging from Grindstone Accelerator, which provide investors with a de-risked opportunity for returns.”

Investment from the SA SME Fund

Young added that the fund received its first investment from the South African SME Fund.

“We were very excited about the vote of confidence the SA SME Fund’s investment showed in our vision for the fund, and our team.  The SA SME Fund is known for its ability to spot and act on viable, exciting investment opportunities and as a first mover, we believe the confidence that they have shown will pave the road for other investors”, says Young.

“We chose to support this fund because we believe it will fill a vital gap in the post-seed market.  As a fund, it is as innovative as the startups that it will fund.  The team is deeply experienced, has a proven track record and we are excited about the opportunity and impact that they will have on this market.  Watch this space.” said Ketso Gordhan, CEO of the SA SME Fund.

Grindstone Accelerator is jointly owned by Knife Capital and Thinkroom Consulting and takes South African SMEs with proven traction through an intensive year-long review of their strategies and provides them with the necessary support to build a foundation for growth in becoming more investable, sustainable and exit-ready.

Some of South Africa’s best scale-up companies have been through Grindstone, including radar startup iKubu (acquired by Garmin); augmented reality animation & gaming company SeaMonster (recently secured a $1-million investment from FirstRand’s Vumela Fund); online payment gateway Payfast (last year acquired by DPO Group); financial inclusion business Picsa; and on-demand grocery delivery service OneCart. Knife Capital invested in ticketing solutions provider Quicket and warehouse management software company Granite via its SARS Section 12J Venture Capital Company: KNF Ventures.

The fund will target between 30 and 50 early-stage companies that possess strong intellectual property, demonstrate high growth potential and have the ability to raise follow-on funding from credible funders in the ecosystem, or deliver sustainable cash yields over the long term.

The typical investment structure will be via a SAFE (simple agreement for future equity) to align the speed of negotiation and execution with the investment stage.