Breaking down France’s new $76M Africa startup fund

Weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a $76M African startup fund at VivaTech 2018, TechCrunch paid a visit to the French Development Agency (AFD) — who will administer the new fund — to get more details on how le noveau fonds will work.

The $76M (or €65M) will divvy up into three parts, according to AFD Digital Task Team Leader Christine Ha.

“There are €10M [$11.7M] for technical assistance to support the African ecosystem… €5M will be available as interest free loans to high potential, pre seed startups…and…€50M [$58M] will be for equity-based investments in series A to C startups,” explained Ha during a meeting in Paris.

The technical assistance will distribute in the form of grants to accelerators, hubs, incubators, and coding programs. The pre-seed startup loans will issue in amounts up to $100K “as early, early funding to allow entrepreneurs to prototype, launch, and experiment,” said Ha.

The $58M in VC startup funding will be administered through Proparco, a development finance institution—or DFI—partially owned by the AFD. The money will come “from Proparco’s balance sheet”…and a portion “will be invested in VC funds active on the continent,” said Ha.

Proparco already invests in Africa focused funds such as TLcom Capital and Partech Ventures. “Proparco will take equity stakes, and will be a limited partner when investing in VC funds,” said Ha.

Startups from all African countries can apply for a piece of the $58M by contacting any of Proparco’s Africa offices (including in Casablanca, Abidjan, Douala, Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg).

And what will AFD (and Proparco) look for in African startup candidates? “We are targeting young and innovative companies able to solve problems in terms of job creation, access to financial services, energy, health, education and affordable goods and services…[and] able to scale up their venture on the continent,” said Ha.

The $11.7M technical assistance and $5.8M loan portions of France’s new fund will be available starting 2019. On implementation, AFD is still “reviewing several options…such as relying on local actors through [France’s] Digital Africa platform,” said Ha.

Digital Africa­—a broader French government initiative to support the African tech ecosystem—will launch a new online platform in November 2018 with resources for startup entrepreneurs.

So that’s the skinny on France’s new Africa fund. It adds to a load of VC announced for the continent in less than 15 months, including $70 for Partech Ventures, TPG Growth’s $2BN Rise Fund, and $40M at TLcom Capital

Though $75M (and these other amounts) may pale compared to Silicon Valley VC values, it’s a lot for a startup scene that — at rough estimate—attracted only $400M four years ago.  African tech entrepreneurs, you now have a lot more global funding options, including from France.

Blockchain technology could be the great equalizer for American cities

The city of Austin is currently piloting a program in which its 2,000 homeless residents will be given a unique identifier that’s safely and securely recorded on the blockchain. This identifier will help individuals consolidate their records and seek out crucial services. Service providers will also be able to access the information. If successful, we’ll have a new, more efficient way to communicate and ensure that the right people are at the table to help the homeless.

in Austin and around the country, it seems that blockchain technology is opening a range of opportunities for city service delivery and operations.

At its core, blockchain is a secure, inalterable electronic register. Serving as a shared database or distributed ledger, it is located permanently online for anything represented digitally, such as rights, goods and property. Through enhanced trust, consensus and autonomy, blockchain brings widespread decentralization to transactions.

At the municipal level, blockchain has the potential to create countless smart networks and grids, altering how we do everything from vote and build credit to receive energy. In many ways, it could be a crucial component of what is needed to circumvent outdated systems and build long-lasting solutions for cities.

AUSTIN, TX – APRIL 14: A homeless man stands outside in front of a colorful wall mural at the Flat Track Coffee Shop on Cesar Chavez Blvd on April 14, 2017, in Austin, Texas. Austin, the State Capital of Texas, the state’s second largest city, and home to South By Southwest, has been experiencing a bustling building boom based on government, tourism, and high tech business. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

As Motherboard has previously reported, it’s a “rich getting richer” situation. But if it’s good enough for the wealthy, why can’t it be adequate to help the poorer, more vulnerable members of the population?

Consider, for a moment, that it might be a major player in the more inclusive future we’ve always wanted.

Arguably, we have a lot of work to do. According to new research, 43 percent of families struggle to afford basics like food and housing. These populations are perhaps the ones who stand to gain the most from blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the advent of smart cities — if done right.

Smart city technology is growing ever more common here in the US and around the world. Our research shows that 66% of cities have invested in some sort of smart city technological infrastructure that enables them to collect, aggregate and analyze real-time data to improve the lives of residents. Smart cities are already showing great promise in many ways to improve the lives of people who live in cities.

Take, for instance, electricity. With the help of blockchain, we can turn microgrids into a reality on a macro scale, enabling communities to more easily embrace solar power and other more sustainable sources, which in turn will result in fewer emissions and lower healthcare costs and rates of disease. But in the more immediate future, blockchain-enabled microgrids would allow consumers to join a power “exchange” in which they can sell their surplus energy. In many scenarios, the consumers’ bills would either significantly drop, or they’d earn money.

Then there’s the question of building credit. It should be no surprise that the poor are the most likely to have debt and unpaid bills and, therefore, bad credit. They are also the most likely to be “unbanked,” as in they don’t use banks at all. In fact, seven percent of Americans don’t use banks. But with blockchain, we can design an alternate way to build and track transactions.

And, of course, there is voting — an issue that, more than ever, is vital to a thriving democracy. The US has lower voter turnout than just about every other developed country. In fact, just over half of voting-age Americans voted in 2016. We don’t talk enough about how important civic engagement — and holding politicians accountable — is for making the playing field fairer. We do, however, talk about what it would be like to be able to email our votes from the comfort of our home computer or smartphone. While email isn’t nearly secure enough for selecting our leaders, being able to vote from home is something we could — and should — aim to do.

UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 11: Voters exit the polling station at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, after voting in the special election to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat in the U.S. Senate. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Blockchain is proving to be a secure enough system to make this a reality. The result could be more youth, communities of color and disabled voters “showing up” to the polls. These online polls would be more “hack proof” — another contemporary concern — and votes could be counted in real time. Imagine never again going to bed thinking one candidate had won a race but waking up to find it was actually someone else.

Where will we go next with blockchain and what can this powerful new tool do for cities? Our latest National League of Cities report, Blockchain in Cities, provides mayors and other local officials with some clues. The research not only explores how cities can use blockchain now, but also how it will be used in the future to enable technology like autonomous vehicles that can “talk” to each other. These types of use cases — plus existing opportunities from blockchain—could potentially be transformative for municipal operations.

Blockchain is far more than just cryptocurrency. In time, blockchain could turn American society on its head, and at the same time make our major institutions, and the places we live, more inclusive. Cities — and in some cases states — are the places where this will be piloted. By developing smarter cities and utilizing blockchain as a secure resource, city leaders can provide community members with the tools they need for success.

Sequoia Invests $13 Million In A Seed Round For Lemonade, Which Is Looking To Transform Insurance

4560586060_468814b68e_b In one of the largest seed investments in the firm’s history, Sequoia Capital is committing to a $13 million round for Lemonade, a company that’s looking to bring the idea of peer-to-peer personal insurance to the U.S. There is perhaps no industry more universally reviled than the insurance industry and Lemonade’s co-founders, Shai Wininger (a co-founder of the jobs… Read More

Safe Haven Is A TC Disrupt London Hack To Connect Refugees With Aid Organizations

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CommuniGift Launches With A New Way For Kids To Give To Charity

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 3.53.50 PM With the goal of making every kids’ birthday a dream come true, Los Angeles-based CommuniGift has launched a new business to promote charitable giving just in time for the holidays.
The company, founded by four undergrads from the University of North Carolina, has identified a novel way of connecting would-be donors with those in need.
Their method? The birthday party.
Working… Read More