Silicon Valley VC Fund Kicks Off Inaugural African Geeks On A Plane Tour

Written by Dana Sanchez

Silicon Valley venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator 500 Startups is playing host to the inaugural African edition of its Geeks on a Plane program.

Starting March 20 in Lagos, Nigeria, the two-week tour will include stops in Accra, Ghana; Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The tour is a way for startups, investors, and executives to learn about high-growth technology markets worldwide, according to the Geeks website:

We travel by planes, trains, and automobiles to the most exciting international startup scenes with the sole mission of uniting geeks and exploring cross-border opportunities. The result: a lifelong bond with fellow travelers, a wealth of new friends and business contacts in exploding technology markets, and a stronger appreciation for the cultural and economic ties that bind us globally.

500 Startups partnered with the Silicon Valley-based African Technology Foundation and Ingressive for the first African Geeks edition.

Since 2009, Geeks on a Plane has hosted 17 tours around the world for startups, investors, and executives to learn about high-growth technology markets.

On the Lagos leg of the tour, attendees will engage local thought leaders and ecosystem drivers in a series of curated events and activities that celebrate Nigeria’s entrepreneurial talent, highlight disruptive technologies, and showcase investment opportunities.

“The African region is definitely of interest to 500 as we continue to look for and source deals from traditionally underrepresented ecosystems,” said Dave McClure, founding partner at 500 Startups, in a prepared statement. “While we invest 70 percent in the U.S., 30 percent of our deals are spread across 60 different countries currently. Through Geeks on a Plane we are looking to build stronger relationships with investors on the ground, maybe even find a few startups to invest in, and have a lotT of fun with local nerds.”

In Lagos, Geeks tourists will be able to attend Taste of Nigeria, a culinary event;
Seedstars World, a pitch event showcasing Nigerian startups; Geeks Meet Nollywood, an event that explores the intersection between African media and technology solutions;
Space Apps Nigeria showcasing the next generation of youthful African innovators; and
VC Unlocked, which will unlock some of the secrets of Silicon Valley Investing.

“Much has been said about Nigeria’s potential to consistently create Africa’s leading technology ventures that have the potential to scale globally,” said Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, regional partner at African Technology Foundation in a statement. “This tour will expose the Silicon Valley Geeks to the depth of innovation activities in Lagos, and showcase the diversity of entrepreneurial activities across the continent.”

“Trips like these open doors and change businesses,” said Maya Horgan-Famodu, founder of Ingressive.

After Lagos, the Geeks will travel to Accra to meet business leaders, attend conferences, visit co-working spaces, and share venture creation ideas with investors. The tour will move on to South Africa, where they will learn how innovators in Johannesburg and Capetown have blazed the trail and led entrepreneurial activities in Southern Africa.

“The Cape has become Africa’s largest start-up scene‚” said Tim Harris, CEO of tourism, trade and investment promotion for Cape Town and the Western Cape, Times Live reported.

The city has several co-working spaces including the Bandwidth Barn‚ Spin Street House‚ Workshop 17‚ and a Wi-Fi lounge on top of Table Mountain where entrepreneurs can meet and work for free on Tuesdays.

Bandwidth Barn has 53 business tenants. The nonprofit Silicon Cape will play host to the final leg of the African Geeks on a Plane tour.

With $250 million-plus under management, 500 Startups has invested in more than 1,700 companies. These include Credit Karma, Twilio, GrabTaxi, Ipsy, Udemy, TalkDesk, Intercom, ToutApp, and Mayvenn. Its largest exits have been MakerBot ($400 million by Stratasys), Wildfire ($350 million by Google), and Viki ($200 million by Rakuten).

Also based in Silicon Valley, African Technology Foundation works on globalizing African technologies and introducing global technologies to Africans.