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Disrupt 2024 call for speakers closes Friday | TechCrunch


Get prepared to set the tech world on fire with your passion and expertise! TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is poised to electrify San Francisco from October 28–30, and we’re on the lookout for dynamic speakers like you to elevate our event with your insights. Don’t miss out—applications close Friday, April 26 at 11:59pm PT!

Here’s your roadmap to becoming a speaker at TechCrunch Disrupt:

Are you a pioneering startup founder, a perceptive venture capitalist, or a renowned figure in your industry? We want to hear from you. Inspire fellow founders, innovators, and entrepreneurs by sharing your expertise across the startup ecosystem.

Craft your application with a captivating topic title and an irresistible description. Then select your preferred presentation format:

Breakout Session: Command the stage alongside up to four speakers, facilitated by a moderator. Deliver a compelling 30-minute presentation, followed by a stimulating 20-minute Q&A session with a live audience of up to 100 attendees. Showcase your insights with a presentation and utilize limited AV capabilities. Each speaker will lead one breakout session during Disrupt.

Roundtable Discussion: Lead an interactive 30-minute discussion with a smaller, intimate audience of up to 40 attendees. Dive deep into conversation without the need for presentations or AV equipment — just authentic, organic dialogue. You’ll host your roundtable discussion twice during Disrupt.

Call for speakers timeline:

Submit your Audience Choice application by April 26, and we’ll announce the finalists no later than May 3. Audience Choice voting opens from May 13 to May 24. Selected topics, descriptions, and speakers will be published online for TechCrunch readers — and your followers — to vote for their favorite sessions.

Ready to claim the spotlight at Disrupt? Don’t hesitate — apply here by April 26 and demonstrate your expertise!

Is your company eager to be part of the Disrupt excitement as a sponsor or exhibitor? Reach out to our sponsorship sales team by completing this form.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

TLcom Capital closes second fund at $154M to back early-stage startups across Africa | TechCrunch


Venture capital activity in Africa has shown resilience over the past six months, with major firms backing startups on the continent closing their funds despite the ongoing funding winter. 

In the latest development, TLcom Capital, an African VC firm with offices in Lagos and Nairobi and a focus on early-stage startups, has concluded fundraising for its second fund, TIDE Africa Fund II, totaling $154 million. The final close positions the firm as Africa’s largest investor across seed and Series A.

The oversubscribed fund, initially targeted to close at $150 million, attracted participation from over 20 limited partners. Notable investors include the European Investment Bank (EIB), Visa Foundation, Bertelsmann, and AfricaGrow, a joint venture between Allianz and DEG Impact.

This news comes two years and a few months after TLcom Capital announced the first close of the second fund at $70 million, matching the size of its first fund, TIDE Africa Fund I. While the broader slowdown affecting venture capital and startups globally contributed to the prolonged fundraising period, the VC firm can count a few positives, managing partner Maurizio Caio told TechCrunch in an interview. 

Notably, TLcom Capital closed the second fund in a shorter timeframe than its preceding fund despite being twice its size. Caio attributes this success to an improved understanding and acceptance of venture capital in Africa among limited partners as a legitimate asset class. Additionally, a portfolio of companies exemplifying the firm’s investment strategy played a pivotal role in garnering investor confidence and support.

Unlike many VC firms that progress from backing startups in pre-seed and seed stages to later-stage investments with subsequent funds, TLcom Capital maintains a consistent strategy. The London-based firm continues to prioritize early-stage opportunities, particularly at the seed and Series A stages, while also considering opportunistic deals at growth and later stages. For example, the investor backed 10 out of the 11 companies from its first fund at seed or Series A. Yet, it has deployed capital in follow-on rounds at later stages across both funds (a Series C investment in Andela, a unicorn provider of global job placement for software developers, and a Series B round in FairMoney, a Nigerian digital bank.)

“We like to start early when the entrepreneur is raising seed or Series A and then to be with the entrepreneur along the journey and continue to invest if we think that the company deserves more capital deployed,” remarked Caio. “The reason is that we build our portfolio such that we back 20 to 25 companies that ‘if everything works out’ can return the fund individually.”

The managing partner emphasizes that when TLcom evaluates early-stage opportunities, it assesses the potential of its portfolio companies to generate 10-20x returns. The approach, he says, is to ensure that successful companies compensate for losses and allow the firm to achieve 3-4x return on an aggregate basis.

One way the firm is bettering its risk in this regard is by backing repeat founders. Sim Shagaya (of uLesson and Konga), Etop Ikpe (Autochek and Cars45), and Grant Brooke (Shara and Twiga) are a few examples. Despite past ventures not achieving desired success, Caio says these founders gained valuable insights to avoid repeating past mistakes in their new ventures. “When things don’t go as planned, it’s important to act swiftly, pivot, and move on to the next venture, knowing that lessons learned will pave the way for future success,” he noted. 

Another is by investing earlier in deals, at the pre-seed stage. In 2020, TLcom Capital invested in Autochek and Okra at the pre-seed stage and has since followed up in subsequent rounds. Two years later, the firm launched a pre-seed strategy that involved allocating $5 million to be disbursed in small check sizes and a low-touch approach to create a pipeline to its primary strategy at seed and Series A (Upskilling platform Talstack is its first recipient). A portion of this fund, $2 million, was dedicated to co-investing in female-led startups through FirstCheck Africa, a female-focused pre-seed fund. The firm says its commitment to gender balance is evident in its majority-female partnership and investment committee, where three out of five partners are women.

TLcom Capital, which focuses on traditional sectors like fintech, mobility, agriculture, healthcare, education, and commerce, has already backed six companies from its new fund, making initial investments ranging from $1 million to $3 million. They include SeamlessHR, FairMoney, Zone, and Vendease. Additionally, the firm has expanded its portfolio to include ILLA, a middle-mile logistics platform, and Littlefish, which enable payments and banking products for SMEs, marking its first investments in Egypt and South Africa, respectively.

“For us, the Big Four markets always continue to produce the most valuable companies, so it was important to add Egypt and South Africa as destinations of our capital,” said Caio, noting that TLcom’s portfolio before now has primarily been startups based in Nigeria and Kenya, countries where the firm has since expanded its operational capacity and expertise. 

The multi-sector-focused firm and other notable venture capital firms like Norrsken22, Al Mada, Novastar’s Africa People + Planet, and Partech Africa have raised significant funds to back African startups from pre-seed to Series C. However, as these funds are deployed across various stages of startup growth, attention will turn to the exit opportunities they facilitate and the tangible returns they deliver to their LPs, as these outcomes play a crucial role in driving the overall growth of the African tech ecosystem.

“Africa shouldn’t just be about how much money is going in but also about returns,” emphasizes Caio. “We need global capital to look at Africa and think of a place where good investments can be made and technology can generate much value. That’s still to be achieved at scale, so that’s our primary target.”


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Pan-African VC Verod-Kepple closes its first fund at $60M | TechCrunch


Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures (VKAV) plans to back up to 21 growth-stage companies across the continent after closing its first fund at $60 million. The pan-African VC hit the milestone following fresh backing from new investors including Nigeria’s SCM Capital (formerly Sterling Capital Markets Limited), Taiyo Holdings and C2C Global Education Japan.

The latest capital injection follows the fund’s first and second close in 2022 and last year, respectively, backed by several investors, among them Japanese institutional investors including SBI Holdings, Toyota Tsusho Corporation, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, Japan International Corporation Agency and the Japan ICT Fund.

Verod-Kepple is the latest African VC to get capitalized, amid an ongoing investment downturn, allowing it to provide much-needed capital to Series A and B startups even as local capital pools for growth-stage companies remain limited.

“Over the last few years, we have seen a growth in pre-seed and seed funds, and we felt there are not enough funds at the growth stage of investing to get these companies to the next level in terms of scale, exits or even being around as sustainable profitable businesses,” VKAV partner Ory Okolloh told TechCrunch.

“Our focus is Series A and B but we have the ability to go earlier to pre-Series A if we think it is a good opportunity. We think there’s still a need for more growth-stage capital with locally based investors,” she said.

Okolloh, Ryosuke Yamawaki and Satoshi Shinada launched the VC firm in 2022, as a joint venture between Verod Capital, a private equity firm and Kepple Africa, a Tokyo-based venture capital firm.

The VC firm says the collaboration was needed for the fund to offer meaningful hands-on support, including bringing operational best practices, improving the governance structures and navigating the complex macroeconomic environment in Africa, to portfolio companies in their scale-up phase. Verod-Kepple made this case after noticing that as more startups moved from pre-seed and seed stage to Series A and B and later stages, the success of their transition and scaling required a more institutional approach.

How VKAV makes investments

The VKAV fund backs startups that are building infrastructure for the digital economy, solving inefficiencies encountered by businesses and market creators for the emerging consumer population. Okolloh says their focus on the latter is about backing companies targeting shifts in consumer trends.

The VC fund invests between $1 million and $3 million, with the ability to follow on, having already deployed $17.5 million, and investing an average of $1.5 million in 12 companies from Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Ivory Coast and South Africa. The investees span the fintech, mobility, e-commerce, proptech, deep tech, insurtech, energy and healthcare sectors, and include Uber-backed Moove, climate tech scale-up KOKO Networks, Nigerian shared mobility startup Shuttlers, aerospace startup Cloudline, Morocco’s B2B e-commerce and retail startup Chari, and insurtech mTek-Services.

And while the fund is sector-agnostic, it is paying attention to vertical ERP startups and those offering embedded financial services and players in the future of work space. They are also “increasingly applying the AI lens to understand how GenAI as a fundamental infrastructure is going to change the production and distribution of tech-enabled businesses.”

Okolloh said the fund plans to continue exploring other ecosystems, including Angola, Zambia, DRC and Tunisia, through its team or partner investors, in search of new investment opportunities especially in underserved markets, and as it continues its push to be pan-African.

“Given the diversity of markets, shifting macros, markets that are underserved in terms of investors, we think taking a pan-African and a sector-agnostic approach is important,” said Okolloh, who has experience in tech and investment after previously serving as an executive at Omidyar Network and Google Africa.

“We definitely look out for a diversity of portfolio, not just in terms of gender and founders, but sector and market as well.”

The Verod-Kepple fund joins the growing number of African VC funds that are receiving backing from Japanese institutional investors looking to diversify their risks. Recently, Novastar Ventures also got capital commitments from the MOL Group and SBI Holdings.

“As an investor, the Japan connection is important and we hope to expand that later on to even a more broader Asia connection. I think, being immersed in stories and experiences and collaborating with investors and other partners from a market where you can see economic transformation in your lifetime is critical,” said Okolloh.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to learn, partner, share and even exchange with a different part of the world where their experiences are much more relatable. And most important of all, backing exceptional founders in a meaningful way that allows them to thrive.”


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

SOSV founder says climate investing is a 'war effort' as firm closes $306M fund | TechCrunch


For the firm that calls itself “the first check in deep tech,” the last check for SOSV’s latest $306 million fund took a bit longer than founder Sean O’Sullivan would have liked. That’s probably less a reflection on the firm than an indictment of the macroeconomic environment: Ask any VC, and they’ll tell you the last couple years haven’t been the best time to fundraise.

“Given our track record, our rates of return, the proven successes, all the unicorns that have come out of SOSV in the past, you’d imagine we’d have closed it in three months,” O’Sullivan told TechCrunch in a recent interview. Instead, it took about a year and a half, with the most concerted effort occurring in the last six months, according to O’Sullivan.

“The caution that’s out there in the marketplace is the highest we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Despite the arduous and lengthy process, SOSV still managed to hit a new milestone:

At $306 million, the new fund makes it one of the largest pools of early stage deep tech venture capital to be raised in recent years.

“We’re concentrating and double doubling down on deep tech,” O’Sullivan said. “That concentration allows us to deal with an ever-expanding opportunity set inside of climate because there are so many industries in climate.”

The market’s caution is a reality of high interest rates, but to O’Sullivan, it’s also a sign that deep tech investing isn’t moving fast enough. Many investors have realized that the economy-wide effects of climate change present a range of opportunities. For O’Sullivan, investing in the sector is an imperative as well.

“This is really a war effort. We have to stop pretending this is just another investment theme of the day. This is an existential crisis for the planet,” he said. “So we’re treating it with that intensity, and with that velocity, that we think the rest of the industry needs.”

Velocity and intensity could mean placing more bets than before, as some firms and accelerators are doing. O’Sullivan is taking the “less is more” approach.

“We see other people heading in a different direction, where they try to cover all the landscape with like 200 companies in a cohort,” he said. “Instead of the accelerator origin point, we’re more like a studio these days. We’re doing a fewer number of companies, more like 80 deep tech companies per year. And we’re concentrating more capital and more attention and more service on them.”

Continued focus on biology

O’Sullivan said that over a decade ago, during the days in which SOSV was more like an accelerator, only about 20% to 30% of the startups in its programs were able to find follow-on funding. That bothered him, and over the years he’s changed the firm’s approach, including opening the Hax and IndieBio programs, two SOSV programs that nurture deep tech startups by providing them space to build and experiment in addition to operational support.

The result, O’Sullivan said, is that 60% to 70% of companies now find funding after SOSV’s initial pre-seed checks, which range from $250,000 to $500,000. In general, every $100 million the firm invests in startups attracts around $2 billion in follow-on capital, he added.

SOSV’s new fund will continue the firm’s focus on human and planetary health, an emerging trend among deep tech investors who have recognized that the two areas are closely intertwined. O’Sullivan said that SOSV intends to invest about 70% of the funds in climate tech companies, 25% in health tech, and the remaining 5% will be reserved for opportunistic investments.

The limited partners who are involved in the new fund include a mix of family offices, institutional investors and corporate venture capital, the latter of which contributed 25% of the total capital.

“The reason it’s so high is because so many corporations are the ones that need these decarbonization technologies,” O’Sullivan said.

The firm will continue to search for startups with a range of technologies, from robotics to minerals and biomaterials to biomanufacturing. SOSV will still put a focus on those that are using biology to tackle climate change. O’Sullivan believes that, in many cases, biological processes will win out. “Biology can be 30 to 300 times — even 3,000 times — more efficient than chemistry in terms of reducing the greenhouse gas production of these systems.”

Climate “is really a physical world problem. To tackle that, you need a greater level of efficiency in your means of production,” O’Sullivan said. “We have a special place to serve because we do deep tech, because we do get into the biology, we do get into the chemistry, the physics and the electronics. And that is all necessary to change the means of production.”


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Disrupt 2024 call for speakers closes in 3 weeks | TechCrunch


Get ready to ignite the tech world with your passion and expertise! TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is set to electrify San Francisco from October 28–30, and we’re searching for vibrant speakers like you to elevate our event with your insights. Seize the opportunity to apply and share your knowledge by April 26.

Here’s your pathway to becoming a speaker at TechCrunch Disrupt

Are you a pioneering startup founder, a perceptive venture capitalist, or a renowned figure in your industry? We want to hear from you. Inspire fellow founders, innovators, and entrepreneurs by sharing your expertise across the startup ecosystem.

Craft your application with a captivating topic title and an irresistible description. Then select your preferred presentation format:

Breakout Session: Command the stage alongside up to four speakers, facilitated by a moderator. Deliver a compelling 30-minute presentation, followed by a stimulating 20-minute Q&A session with a live audience of up to 100 attendees. Showcase your insights with a presentation and utilize limited AV capabilities. Each speaker will lead one breakout session during Disrupt.

Roundtable Discussion: Lead an interactive 30-minute discussion with a smaller, intimate audience of up to 40 attendees. Dive deep into conversation without the need for presentations or AV equipment — just authentic, organic dialogue. You’ll host your roundtable discussion twice during Disrupt.

Call for speakers timeline

Submit your Audience Choice application by April 26, and we’ll announce the finalists no later than May 3. Audience Choice voting opens from May 13 to May 24. Selected topics, descriptions, and speakers will be published online for TechCrunch readers — and your followers — to vote for their favorite sessions.

Ready to claim the spotlight at Disrupt? Don’t hesitate — apply here by April 26 and demonstrate your expertise!

Is your company eager to be part of the Disrupt excitement as a sponsor or exhibitor? Reach out to our sponsorship sales team by completing this form.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Climate tech VC Satgana closes first fund that targets early-stage startups in Africa, Europe | TechCrunch


Climate tech VC Satgana has reached a final close of its first fund, which aims to back up to 30 early-stage startups in Africa and Europe.

The VC firm reached a final close of €8 million ($8.6 million) following commitments from family offices and high-net-worth individuals, including Maurice Lévy of the Publicis Groupe, and Back Market co-founder Thibaud Hug de Larauze.

Satgana founder and general partner, Romain Diaz, told TechCrunch that the firm decided to close the fund early, missing initial targets owing to the difficult fundraising environment, which is worse for first-time fund managers, to focus on investing and supporting portfolio companies.

“We launched the fund mid-2022, and we have raised in the most challenging time since 2015. We have managed to make 13 investments and we know that with the current capital commitments, we can execute upon our strategy of investing in 30 companies in this first fund, including follow-on investments,” said Diaz.

“This also paves the way for a new fund in a few years, and it’s likely that we launch different funds with different strategies, maybe one for Europe and another for Africa — but that will come in later; for now, we are really focused on getting this fund right,” he said.

The VC firm invests up to €300,000 ($325,000) in early-stage startups working on mitigating and building resilience to climate change, with a bias for mobility, food and agriculture, energy, industry, buildings and the circular economy subsectors.

Its investees in Africa include Amini, a startup bridging the environmental data gap in Africa; Mazi Mobility, a Kenyan mobility-as-a-service startup working to develop a network of battery-swapping infrastructure; Kubik, which upcycles plastic and has operations in Ethiopia; and Revivo, a B2B marketplace selling electronic spare parts giving products like phones a new lease on life. In Europe, Satgana has invested in Orbio Earth, Yeasty, Loewi, Arda, Fullsoon and Fermify.

Diaz founded the VC firm after a decade of experience in the venture space in several African countries, including Morocco and South Africa, where he co-founded and ran a venture studio.

“I ran it for like five years, and about six years ago I started to really have the awakening to the extent of climate change. That’s where I decided to channel all the knowledge from my previous experience, but on a bigger scale, while focusing solely on investing in climate tech founders,” he said.

Diaz launched the VC firm upon moving to Europe, where he said there are adequate investment networks, especially those focused on investments targeting founders at the pre-seed stage.

Satgana’s focus on Africa was also driven by the fact that it is the most vulnerable continent despite contributing the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions. They recently appointed Anil Maguru as partner to drive their Africa strategy.

“We are entering the continent to pursue green growth objectives; so deploying renewable energy, low carbon buildings, mobility solutions and so on. But we are also keen on investments driving adaptation to climate change, because unfortunately, the reality is that climate change is upon us, and we require solutions already. This is especially for people on the frontline, who are often vulnerable communities, mainly women, people of color and low-income communities that are more exposed to the effects of climate change,” said Diaz.

“From an impact perspective, it’s important for us to invest in solutions, which [traditionally] receive only a tiny fraction of VC money,” he said.

Satgana is among the new funds that are dedicated to the African climate tech sector. These funds include Africa People + Planet Fund by Novastar Ventures, Equator’s fund and the Catalyst Fund.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Autism Impact Fund closes $60M first fund and broadens its scope | TechCrunch


Millions of people around the world are affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Both as kids and later in life, these individuals and their families need better detection, treatment and support solutions that will help them live with autism. But until recently, that wasn’t a space that startups and investors ventured into.

Autism Impact Fund (AIF) was a pioneer when it emerged in 2021, three years after the son of its co-founder and managing partner, Chris Male, was diagnosed with ASD. A joint effort of Male and others, AIF strove to become “the investment and innovation arm of the autism community,” Male told TechCrunch.

Since then, startups in the neurodiversity space gathered momentum, and so did AIF, which recently closed its first fund at $60 million. As a first-of-its-kind fund, exceeding its target is no small feat, especially in an incredibly difficult environment. (The original target was $50 million.)

AIF is a VC fund, not a charity, and Male is also vocal about it. “We’ve got great collaborations with the nonprofits, with the foundations, and we are very intentional in our regard to drive returns. … We aim to deliver really strong returns while revolutionizing the status quo for autism and everything in the space through the venture capital model.”

AIF’s limited partners include Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi; Brian Jacobs from Emergence Capital Partners; and Bob Nelsen, a co-founder and managing director of Arch Venture Partners, who also sit on its advisory board. Male didn’t want to tell their personal stories for them, but AIF’s individual backers often have personal connections to autism.

However, institutional LPs such as investment firms Fairfield-Maxwell and Ferd also support AIF, “which obviously was very helpful to get us to that scale,” Male said. It is also one more sign of change. “The operators that are entering the space are no longer just family members wanting to help; it’s really sophisticated business operators that are seeing an opportunity to affect wholesale change, and it’s really cool.”

A broad portfolio

Some VC funds wait for a full close to start deploying capital, but not AIF. Because it needed to prove itself and its thesis, it started investing since its first close. With 12 startups in its portfolio, it will start raising its second fund in the next six to nine months, and Male already reports inbound interest.

That companies in AIF’s portfolio raised follow-on rounds from other investors is a strong validation signal. For instance, CVS Health Ventures led a $40 million Series D extension round of investment into healthcare startup Cortica in October. Other signals are harder to measure but are still important. Male told TechCrunch that AIF has strong access even to oversubscribed deals, and even when its check is not the largest, there’s a sense that it’s “a stamp of approval to the market and to the community that this is a validated, well-run entity.”

AIF still has resources in its first fund to do a “handful” more deals as well as follow-on investments. After several “strong bets,” its portfolio is giving it motive to double down. And, Male added, “there is a very high likelihood of us having exits within the next six months; so, soon, because we [starting deploying] in 2021.”

AIF’s portfolio is already quite diverse, although its website groups companies in two categories: life sciences and data- and tech-enabled services. It also goes beyond the U.S. with Germany-based consulting firm Auticon, which describes itself as an “autism-majority company,” and British telehealth platform Healios. But it will now diversify it further, and not because there isn’t enough deal flow or issues to address with autism alone.

AIF’s decision to broaden its scope has to do with autism itself, Male said.

The definition of autism is so vague and so broad that there’s really no [biologically precise] understanding of exactly what’s happening, so in order for us to help the individuals as well as the families, we have to broaden that aperture. And it’s behavioral and mental health, it’s all of those but it’s also a broader healthcare issue at lens. The societal cost is in the trillions of dollars right now, and if the rise of incidence increases at the rate it is, it’s $15 trillion societal costs. Lack of employment and being [un]able to work is factored into that. But it’s as if society is sleepwalking into this incredible crisis, for which there is no current plan.

Rising awareness

The fund will now allow itself to invest in “behavioral health data-driven platforms, innovative healthcare solutions, as well as value-based care frameworks,” and AI is “impossible to ignore,” Male said. It will also keep on investing in addressing autism comorbidities, for instance gastrointestinal issues. And then there’s the “independence bucket,” whether that’s employment, financial independence or housing.

That independence is on the list is a reminder that autism is a spectrum that needs to be addressed as such and that there is a business opportunity for startups that don’t solely focus on kids.

One startup focusing on adults, neurodiversity employment network Mentra, is backed by Sam Altman and others but not by AIF. No beef there: Mentra partnered with AIF-backed Auticon, and Male called the work they are doing “incredible.”

It’s arguably a good sign that AIF isn’t one of Mentra’s investors: The space is getting too big to find the same VC on all cap tables. It’s also global, with health tech Genial Care raising $10 million to help kids with autism and their families in Brazil.

When asked if there wasn’t some momentum about company creation in this space recently, Male laughed. Compared to five years ago, he explained, “it’s just fun to see the momentum and the shift.” As the investment side gets busier, too, there will likely be more to come.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

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