CRE Venture Capital Targets Africa From Downtown Durham (And Elsewhere)

In 2017, CRE Venture Capital was the lead investor for Andela, which builds distributed engineering teams, with a $40 million round of venture funding that lifted the total amount the company has raised to $80 million. (Photo provided by Andela)

Pule Taukobong spends most of his time traveling globally, from Africa to Asia with the occasional stop in the United States. When Taukobong is in the U.S., he’s based in his downtown Durham office. But wherever he is, his day job is serving as a founding partner for the Africa-focused CRE Venture Capital.

Although 75 percent of venture capital funding in the U.S. goes to just three States—California, New York and Massachusetts—Taukobong believes that investors need to recognize that high-quality investment opportunities exist elsewhere too.

Taukobong previously founded Africa Angels Network, the first angel investment group to focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Founders who are outside those regions need to be willing to travel extensively to raise money as well,” Taukobong said. “The challenge here is to show the investors in those regions that great startups exist where we are.”

What’s true in the U.S. is also true around the globe, as capital has tended to flow to a few select regions. CRE Venture Capital focuses on companies that have a technology aspect and impact countries in Africa, which has not seen the investment dollars that have gone to areas like Asia and Western Europe.

After launching six years ago, the venture firm has made nearly 40 investments across several African countries, some of which are domiciled in the U.S.

“We consider many startups as long as they have tech, a strong team and product, and identified a significant market size to target,” Taukobong said. “We have to believe the market opportunity is over $5 billion. So we look at the market size and the founder’s skill sets and ability to address the problem they’re trying to address very deeply.”

CRE focuses on early-stage companies that are pre-Series A. When it comes to the African tech ecosystem, a lot of VCs target companies going into later stages, while Taukobong looks for companies that he can help grow from an early stage.

The firm’s investments range from $250K to multi-million dollars. CRE’s portfolio companies have gone on to raise more than $250M, created 13,000 jobs in Africa and currently make combined annual revenues of around $100M. Co-investors include Google, Tencent, Y Combinator, Mark Zuckerberg and Serena Williams.

As 41 percent of their capital has backed teams with female CEOs or Co-Founders, CRE VC focuses on having at least 30 percent of capital behind woman leaders because they believe in the power of diversity, Taukobong said.

With one other Co-Founder, a senior associate and two venture partners across the US, Kenya and South Africa, the CRE team hopes to become the leading VC fund targeting Africa.

Says Taukobong, “We want to do it by leading from a return on investment perspective and highlight that investing in Africa can be done in both a very profitable and impactful manner.”

Note: CRE is looking for a part-time executive assistant in its Durham office. Please contact pule@cre.vc if interested.

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