Winnie Kimathi’s Take On The 10th Angel Fair Africa

I like to think that I’m quite an ambitious person, maybe to a fault because I take on new challenges a bit too much, sometimes to my suffering 🙂 haha… it feels like sweet pain to me, apparently this gives me pleasure, a kick and drive…try me 🙂

A couple of months ago, I found out that Eric Osiakwan of Chanzo Capital was planning Angel Fair Africa through our mutual friend. This was the 10-year anniversary, dubbed #AFA@10, and it was to happen in South Africa. I read up on it and two things came to mind. 1) I instantly knew that I wanted to be a part of Angel Fair Africa and 2) it was the kind of a new experience and inspiration that I was looking for! 

I knew Eric before as we’re both shareholders in one of Africa’s pioneering & leading TravelTech companies – HotelOnline. I joined HotelOnline through the acquisition of Cloud9 Experiences – a B2C traveltech platform. Eric was already a major shareholder in HotelOnline at this point. We’d met once briefly while he was visiting the office and I’d overseen planning of his travels while he was in Kenya. 

Fast forward to July this year after I’d read about Angel Fair Africa, I reached out to Eric after not having been in touch in over 2 years. I wasn’t sure if he still had my number or would remember me. I sent him a message while in doubt thinking – this might come off weird — he probably won’t remember me… I mean.. the guts on me … but there was nothing to lose. I felt that I wanted to reconnect with an investor I admired, I needed mentorship in the area of venture capital and investment, which I’ve been eyeing and he’s generally someone who’s great to have in your corner. Fun individual too – as versatile as can be. So, I sent him the message and prepared not to get a response. But it didn’t take him long, a couple of hours later I heard back from Eric. Yes, he remembered me, and he was happy to catch up and explore what we could do together. Imagine if I had let the small person’s doubts get in the way.

Winnie Kimathi of Angel Fair Africa and Mark Kleyner of Dream VC 

It’s been a great couple of months working towards #AFA@10. We started with a briefing breakfast meeting and things-built momentum pretty fast. I’ve been honored to lead the event organizing, I was the program manager for this year’s start up cohort and supported in investor relations as well. This was the most exciting and impactful role. 

In my previous experience as a startup founder, I went through a merger too early in my career /business journey, when we merged my first business – Heartbeat Adventures with Cloud9 Experiences and went through an acquisition a little over a year later and exited to HotelOnline. 

The gruesome journey that is building a business from scratch, growing it to a level that other people want to buy it, is no easy fit. I had to learn and grow in a very short time. We were as agile as can be, built and tested beautiful products and pivoted in pursuit of a Product-Market Fit. I left with valuable business acumen, management skills and with an interest in venture capital, investments and growing & scaling businesses. 

This is why I felt a strong desire to partner with Eric Osiakwan to make Angel Fair Africa a success and have it as a learning ground. Angel Fair Africa is a Chanzo Capital event that brings together selected African entrepreneurs and curated investors to facilitate deal making – investing in promising African Startups. 

Some of the founders hanging out with VCs 

For the last couple of months, I’ve interacted with and known amazing founders in the AFA@10 cohort from all over Africa. We had founders from eight countries – Nigeria, Ghana, CoteD’Ivore, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda and of course South Africa. We’ve helped some of these startups reposition themselves for growth, exciting new business opportunities for some and helped facilitate investor conversations and deals.

While the event was initially to be held in East London, we hit a wall in early November when we got into logistical challenges and couldn’t host the event in East London. In the face of making a tough call, Eric couldn’t choose to cancel the event completely. He instead decided to move the event venue to the mother city – Cape Town! Sometimes we don’t realize it in the moment, but some things are a blessing in disguise. Having the event in Cape Town was the best idea ever! We had the pleasure of working in the most beautiful city in Africa, in my opinion – Cape Town! This happened to be my first time in Cape Town, and I can’t tell you how mind blown it has been. My phone’s memory is full coz – c’mon- as a lover of nature and beauty, everywhere I look there’s a beautiful, picturesque view of a mountain in the backdrop, the ocean or just beautiful colonial buildings in clean and orderly streets. This city has given me hope that our African cities can get as organized and easy to live in (story for another day). We walked to meetings when possible because the Central Business District (CBD) area is so walkable, clean, conducive and not as hectic to stroll around as many African cities that I won’t mention names…😁. 

Unsurprisingly, this time of the year is the best to be in Cape Town – it’s summer; great weather, a lot of tech events and investor summits were happening around the same time and the city was flocking with investors from all over the world, startups and ecosystem builders. We had a cocktail mixer event to attend almost every night. We met and interacted with amazing people that’d be hard to catch any other time – including attending the sendoff party for Andrea Bohmert – outgoing managing partner of Knife capital at Innovation City, the tech safari mixer at Stitch, a dinner with Medica team and Innovation city’s second year anniversary among others. 

AFA@10 was in two parts – an entrepreneur bootcamp that happened between the 27th & 28th November 2023 at WomHub. We had our startups pitch without slides (they were taken aback by this), we had amazing conversations from experienced founders and investors and great sessions from covetable VCs. Topping the list was a session by Zacharia George of Launch Africa Ventures – an investor I’ve followed and admired from a distance, as well as Mark Kleyner of Dream VC. 

The main event happened on 29th & 30th November 2023 at the Fountains Hotel. The main event had investor panels, startups pitch sessions, and conversations with experienced founders. We had an all-female investor panel featuring Andrea Bohmert of Knife Capital, Hanna Subayi of Launch Africa Ventures, Audrey Verhaeghe of Anza Capital and moderated by Justin James of Fireball Capital. Other impeccable investor panels were with Keet Van Zyl – Managing partner of Knife Capital, Mia Von Koschitzky – Managing Partner at Future Africa, Idris Bello – Managing Partner at LoftyInc Capital, Sewu-Steve Tawia of Jaza Rift Ventures, Ian Lessem – Managing Partner at Havaic and Emmanuel Adegboye – Head of Medica. We had amazing keynotes from Esther Dyson of Wellville and Jason Njoku of Iroko Partners. We were honored by the knowledge and gems shared by these impactful industry leaders in investing and entrepreneurship.

Second day Investors Panel 

Two small businesses touched my heart. They were not prepared for an event like this, and had not foreseen the opportunities awaiting them at AFA@10 – one was a water bottling and refilling venture who distills and sells refillable water, another manufactures and distributes premixed cocktails. They were greatly impacted by the opportunities that AFA@10 presented. Above that, we had fintechs, edtechs, logistics and supply chain, manufacturing and other startups pitch at AFA@10 and the outcomes from the event are profound. We are grateful to all the investors, panelists and speakers who joined and made AFA@10 great, as well as those who influenced from a distance. 

My gratitude to friends and colleagues who supported us greatly – Rowena Luk of Africa Health Ventures, Mellisa Desmore from University of Cape Town (UCT), Luri Fumane of BoxPlexus, Sly Khumalo who was the event MC, all based in Cape Town, Kell Barkorkor from Ghana and the multi-talented super human – Pilot Joel Mureithi from Kenya who brought our dreams to life with such beautiful artwork for all our event materials and relentless support. We couldn’t do it without you colleagues. We are forever indebted. Thank you.

I wouldn’t end without giving Eric Osiakwan his flowers. Eric is a natural leader who knows how to make people around him comfortable, inspire the best out of them and help people rise to their greatness. He did the same with me. More than that, I’ve been amazed by his resilience, hard work and vision into making AFA possible. The lengths he goes in making sure the portfolio companies in his care are advancing in the best light with no bounds. This is obviously the first of many endeavors we’ll do together, and I stand to benefit from his wealth of knowledge, valuable connections and zeal for life! Thank you, Eric.  As we close the year, I look forward to what 2024 presents and the endeavors we’ll undertake. What do they say…the world is just but our oyster! 😀

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