In the past two years following the pandemic, Venture Capital funding available for startups has seen an increase. According to reports, startups in Africa collectively raised over $4.3 billion in various funding rounds in 2021.
A deeper look into this figure and the ones of previous years will reveal that a huge chunk of this investment comes from international players and foreign VC firms. A phenomenon that will likely lead to capital flight as the ecosystem matures to see more exits.
While international interest is now putting African startups in the spotlight, there are still very few support systems for aspiring local investors and opportunities for working professionals to break into VC in Africa. Notably, there’s still a huge gap between home-local financing solutions and funding towards homegrown startups in the continent.
Dream VC exists to change this and has ambitious plans to enable the next wave of aspiring investors by building the communities, educational infrastructure, and environment to thrive and add maximum value to startups in multiple African startup ecosystems.
Founded by Mark Kleyner and Cindy Ai, DreamVC is a community-centered educational platform for aspiring investors; running intensive remote fellowships on venture capital and investing in frontier markets.
In simple terms, DreamVC creates a community for persons interested in learning venture capital, whether they have gathered years of experience in the industry with tech startups or are just looking to diversify into the scene.
“The general idea is that Dream VC is meant to be an inclusive community for individuals who want to learn about VC irrespective of whether they bring ten years of experience to the table or have never heard of VCs or startups or understand anything about the market,” Mark Kleyner, co-founder of Dream VC told The Ouut.
Mark and Cindy are not strangers to the tech and VC landscape, with experience working with startups in Eastern and Western Africa, they first cofounded MZZ Africa, a remote-based consulting service that connects talent and opportunities across the diaspora with African tech startups. Under MZZ Africa, about 20 startups successfully went up to raise capital funding or become successful companies.
Mark is a repertoire of skills and talent, he’s worked on growth, strategy, with a background in investment, and widely in consulting. He advises more than ten startups on their board and engages a handful of accelerators across the continent. Cindy Ai, on the other hand, started out connecting South East Asian markets in Europe and the U.S. She was an operator, working on marketing and growth.
Cindy Ai focuses more on e-commerce, logistics, and community building across emerging markets. Ai found her niche on the platform side of venture capital. She handled stakeholder management, sustaining communities between limited partners and general partners for startups and external stakeholders. She has gathered experiences working with a wide range of VCs from big accelerators in the U.S that steer hundreds of companies each year.
As a first-generation graduate, Ai’s passion for startups stems from the history of Asian American communities which until recently, lacked representation of founders who gave back by giving value to their communities.
“I think it’s really important to get in a more diverse pool out there, specifically catalyzing local talent with untapped potential across the continent and that’s where I see myself coming in, specifically female entrepreneurs,” she said.
Dream-VC was launched in 2021 with its inaugural fellowship program. Through the program, fellows were trained and gained in-depth knowledge on the nitty-gritty to investing on the continent.
In the inaugural fellowship program, 97% of the fellows went on to achieve their goals, 60% of which were women. Fellows broke into top-tier VC firms or became funders themselves. The successes are seen in Ajim Capital, Oui Capital, Akribos Capital, AngelUp Investments, Consentio, and others.
“The programs are very nuanced because there’s one focused on younger professionals with clear goals in mind; they want to break into the VC firm, they want to work in the investment space. And then there are mid-career or later stage professionals who want something more substantial, whether they want to invest themselves, they want to create an ecosystem in their own right, they want to create an angel network fund, an accelerator, an incubator, or perhaps just want to understand the VC space to support whatever it is they’re already doing,” Mark said.
Dream VC pipelines resources and training for investors looking to fund local entrepreneurs. Creating a network and connections needed to harness the startup potential and help them grow, especially for early-stage startups. Whether launching into entry-level roles in VC firms or as cheque writers across the ecosystem.
Unlike last year’s fellowship that was held for free, the Launch Into VC program and Investor Accelerator program will cost $1,000 and $5,000 respectively.
“Our core ethos is making sure that the space is accessible for multiple generations forward and not just for someone who’s already wealthy. To that end, scholarships and bursaries are available for both programs and are specifically integrated into the application process”.
Dream VC envisions to be the go-to launchpad for anyone who wants to be an aspiring investor on the African continent, whether they are based on the continent or not. Creating a community-driven catalyst of the investment pipeline.
Ai mentions that there is no limit to how the firm can grow. The firm would resolve structural issues in VC fundings for startups in Africa, address challenges such as hiring talent in the VC and startup space, building a startup, and funding cycle issues whether at early or mid-stages.