«There is no shortage of blockchain startups in Africa»
Gideon Greaves is the first Managing Director of CV VC Africa, based in Cape Town. In the following interview, he reveals why startups and blockchain fascinate him, his plans for CV VC and what Africa and Switzerland can learn from each other.
You are the new CV VC’s new Managing Director Africa. Tell us who you are and what you have done before?
I am a proud South African with a deep passion for innovative startups. My career started in the sales and marketing space which eventually led me to launch my venture. When I was looking for venture capital to fund my startup, I fell in love with the early-stage investment space. To have the power and ability to add value and help launch something disruptive that can alter an entire market intrigued me. At the same time, I came to understand Blockchain technology and how it can change our future. Since then, I have exited my startup and worked with various ventures specifically on funding growth strategies.
You work for a Swiss investment company. When did you first hear of CV VC and why have you decided to join them?
I had read about CV VC that it is a prominent investor in the blockchain space after the company made some African investments. I believe blockchain has the potential to change almost every industry out there. To be involved in a business that only focuses on investments in this disruptive technology is like being at the forefront of the dot com boom in the 90’s. What makes this opportunity even more exciting is the aim that CV VC has to invest and empower the African continent.
Your offices are in Cape Town. Why this city and not Johannesburg or Durban?
The Cape Town-Stellenbosch corridor is regarded as the most robust technology ecosystem on the continent. Cape Town is also home to some of South Africa’s largest financial institutions, which explains the emergence of several innovative fintech solutions. It’s also home to some of the decade’s biggest tech companies, including tech giant Naspers and e-commerce success story Take-A-Lot. Being integrated into this type of ecosystem will allow CV VC to leverage the access to talent and innovative startups to catapult into the rest of Africa.
“Being integrated into this type of ecosystem will allow CV VC to leverage the access to talent and innovative startups to catapult into the rest of Africa.”
Your goal is to build up a blockchain ecosystem in Africa. How technology-savvy is the continent?
About a quarter of the continent has access to the internet, so we still have a way to, but as we are a leapfrog population, there is tremendous growth in adopting new technologies. We have a ton of startups entering the space, which is attracting substantial investment. Here’s a great example; Boston Consulting Group did a study of African tech startups accomplishing venture capital funding between 2015 and 2020. Over that period, growth in the volume of African tech startups receiving financial backing was nearly six times faster than the global average. That says something. While Africa might not be at the same level as other tech powerhouses, we are catching up fast!
Where do you see the advantage of blockchain technology?
In Africa, there are a lot of issues that blockchain can help solve. The technology has uses in banking, financial services, supply chains, agriculture, and managing records, to name a few. I think the advantages are vast, but its ability to keep data secure and enhance trust and transparency on the African continent will be a big one.
Are there already some known African projects and applications based on blockchain?
More and more are popping up every day! From startups like Twiga Foods: a blockchain-enabled lending platform that can determine the creditworthiness of the food vendors, to established enterprises like De Beers who use blockchain to ensure their diamonds are authentic, conflict-free and natural.
CV VC has signed an agreement with the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The joint project aims to support the development of an independent ecosystem in South Africa by transferring know-how and experience from Swiss Crypto Valley to serve as a hub for Africa. How do you want to achieve this?
The first step is to get African startups to apply to the program. Giving these startups access to the experience and network that CV VC has integrated into will accelerate the process. From there, we’d like to develop an Africa-specific incubation program as well as launching co-working spaces for blockchain startups. Simultaneously, we will be engaging with large corporations on the continent to see how we can promote growth in this space.
For creating an ecosystem, CV VC needs African startups. How would you describe the scene?
There is no shortage of startups in Africa. What’s missing is an ecosystem that is conducive for blockchain startups to thrive. Currently, the blockchain startups do not have their ecosystem to slot into, and they have to fit into the general startup ecosystem.
How do you want to bridge South Africa and Switzerland?
Through the incubations programs, African startups can learn from the Swiss ecosystem. Going a little deeper, I think there is an opportunity for Switzerland to have some of its focus in Africa on impact investing. This will get the attention and buy-in of the South Africa government, which will allow us to get to our overarching goal of creating a sustainable and robust ecosystem on the African continent.
What are your three biggest wishes?
- For Africa to have the best startup talent in the world
- For CV VC to be regarded as the number one investor in this space
- For blockchain startups in Africa to make a real impact and help solve some of Africa’s problems.
Thank you, Gideon.