In 2017, entrepreneur and angel investor Yemi Keri set out to fill a gap in Nigeria’s entrepreneurship ecosystem: helping women founders secure investments. She co-founded Rising Tide Africa (RTA), a unique, trans-border women-oriented investment network – with six investors. Four years later, with 64 members and 15 portfolio companies, RTA has grown to be one of the largest female-led investment networks on the continent.
Keri shared her experiences growing RTA in a recent call with the Global Business Angels Network (GBAN), an inclusive global community of early-stage national investor networks that meets regularly to share mentorship and training, address policy barriers to investing and facilitate cross-border investing opportunities.
It was Keri’s experience attending entrepreneur pitch competitions that motivated her to launch a niche investing network focused on female-funded, female-led and gender-diverse companies. Women were under-represented onstage, she shared, and when they did pitch they were less successful than their male counterparts in securing investment.
“I used to root for women when they came onstage, but they didn’t meet my expectations,” she said. “Some had fantastic products, but they just couldn’t pitch.”
With mentorship and support, she knew that could change. Through RTA, female angel investors come together under four pillars: investment, education, networking and mentorship, to increase the investment potential of women-led companies across Africa.
While RTA launched in Nigeria and initially invested in its national currency (Naira), the network has since expanded to include investors and portfolio companies in countries including Ghana, Kenya and Senegal and is now investing in U.S. dollars.
“We are galvanizing women to become angel investors and to see this as another asset class beyond real estate and financial markets,” said Keri. “We are looking for investors who are bold enough to follow us on the journey of transborder, women-oriented investments.”
RTA’s investment strategy is sector agnostic, with a focus on high-impact sectors including health, education, agriculture and financial inclusion. All portfolio companies are tech-focused or tech-enabled.
“We’re looking for companies that will make an impact,” she said. “Impactful solutions will ultimately bring scalability, be able to address large markets, and solve major problems that cut across demographics.”
Thanks to Rising Tide Africa, the outlook for female-led companies on the continent is positive. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, 36 investors have supported three deals and by the end of the year Keri expects to surpass the eight deals made in 2020.
“Our members are becoming more comfortable investing,” concluded Keri. “And we are proud to influence women to become angel investors, provide business support to female entrepreneurs and build an ecosystem where we share deals and partnerships across the continent.”