February 16, 2021

Japan’s Uncovered Fund launches $15M fund to back early-stage startups in Africa – TechCrunch

Uncovered Fund, a VC firm targeting early-stage startups in Africa, announced today that it has launched its $15 million fund which is expected to close at the end of June this year. The Tokyo-based outfit founded by Takuma Terakubo in 2019 will invest $50,000 to $500,000 in African startups in seed and Series A stages.

Before Uncovered Fund, Terakubo was the CEO of Leapfrog Ventures. Together with Japanese startup incubator, Samurai Incubate, they launched Samurai Incubate Fund; a fund focused on early-stage African startups. During his time there, the firm raised more than $4.5 million targeted at startups in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria. It also financed over 10 startups with checks similar to Uncovered Fund’s ($50,000 to $500,000).

Terakubo doesn’t say why he left Samurai Incubate Fund. But according to him, Uncovered Fund’s investment methodology is different from his previous firm because it doesn’t bring only money to the table.

“We do not make scattered, one-shot, small investments, but rather we provide long-term growth support, including follow-on investment. In addition, we not only invest, but we also multiply the huge assets of Japanese companies to grow the business and provide technical support and finance as well,” he said.

As per who these corporations are, Terakubo isn’t disclosing names just yet but says he hopes to do so in the coming months.

Uncovered Fund focuses on startups based in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa playing in retail, fintech, healthtech, logistics, MaaS, agritech, and smart city sectors. The general partner says the firm invests in these sectors because “they are basic behaviors in people’s lives, and we believe it is important to improve convenience as quickly as possible.”

So far, it has backed five startups across these sectors and markets. They include Kenyan e-commerce platform, Sky Garden; US-based and Africa-focused healthtech startup RxAll; Francophone Africa mobility startup, Gozem; Kenyan fintech company LipaLater; and YC-backed Nigerian digital freight startup, SEND Technologies.

Some of these companies are doing business in other countries, and Terakubo says that the firm is willing to fund startups in other African countries as well.

“We are looking for African startups to expand their business across multiple countries. So, we welcome startups from any country as long as the business can scale.”

Uncovered Fund joins other Asian early-stage VC firms like Future Hub, Kepple Africa, and recently launched Sherpa Ventures who have launched within the past four years and funded over 50 African startups during that period. Terakubo says his VC firm hopes to increase this number by backing 15 startups this year and further the synergy between African founders and Asian investors.

“We are looking into joint development from Africa to Asian markets, and that is the big vision we have for the future,” he said. “As a VC and also an entrepreneur, I’m looking forward to the challenge of working with African entrepreneurs to create that future.”

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