The shuttering of Naspers Foundry—which until its abrupt termination last week was not only South Africa’s largest venture capital (VC) fund but also one of the deepest pockets in African tech—has left question marks in its wake. It’s drawn critical appraisal from industry insiders, some of whom say it didn’t quite live up to expectations.
“Whether it is due to a lack of relevant deals, not understanding the local market, or just a lack of interest remains to be seen. But compared to other funds, they were the last one any entrepreneur thought of going to — I know, I work with startups and scale-ups every day,” quipped André de Wet, former CEO of South African e-commerce platform Pricecheck, which was acquired by Naspers in 2010.
Naspers, Africa’s most valuable company, made its name as a prolific global tech investor, racking up wins from successful early bets in foreign tech companies such as China’s Tencent, India’s Flipkart, and several others.
Efforts to replicate some of that success on home soil have been challenging, however, and South Africa’s deteriorating economic climate—evident in power cuts, soaring inflation and unemployment which triggered a recent protest—hasn’t helped. Difficult encounters with South African regulators of late that highlighted perceived diversity gaps at Naspers and killed at least one high-profile acquisition deal may have also put off the company.
“Since 2019, the global investment environment, as well as the local South African one, has changed and we have made clear the need for our business to adapt,” a Naspers spokesperson told WT, commenting on the company’s decision to pull the plug on Foundry.
It’s fair to assume that Naspers has lost some appetite for the local market, reckons Johann Van Tonder, CEO of AWA Digital, a specialist CRO agency.