As a British Pakistani, who grew up in Dubai, Sacha Haider has experienced multiple cultures firsthand. After studying History and Politics at the University of Warwick, with hopes of becoming a news anchor, an internship at the PE arm of LVMH, L Capital Asia, in her final year of studies was where she became interested in the idea of investing in, and creating value in, companies.
Following this, she moved to Kenya, joining the Abraaj Group’s Sub-Saharan African large-cap PE fund, before working for Colony Capital in Mexico City, working on the firm’s US$550 million, sector-agnostic Pacific Alliance fund. There, she focused on mid-cap deals targeting retail, education and hospitality.
Now, she finds herself at Global Ventures, a UAE-based VC firm that backs global-minded, growth-stage and technology-focused founders in emerging markets and the world.
“While working in PE in Kenya in 2016, my team was regularly approached by Series A and B startups facing difficulty in raising scale-up rounds. They were too small for us, but too big for most early-stage capital allocators focused on the continent. This was the first time I really saw the funding gap, the need for capital depth in Africa’s VC landscape, and the struggles faced by local founders,” Haider told Disrupt Africa.
“When I moved back to the region in 2019, I was connected to Helium Health, a leading healthcare software solution in Africa. At the time, Global Ventures had only made investments in MENA, and Helium Health made a lot of sense as the firm’s first investment in Sub-Saharan Africa. The investment thesis for Helium Health was grounded in a healthcare software solution that we believe truly addresses pain points for and is scalable across emerging markets.”
Haider had joined the Global Ventures team as the sixth employee, just before the pandemic. It has been a busy few years since, with Haider leading the firm’s expansion into Sub-Saharan Africa, and leading its firm’s investments in Helium Health, Ilara Health, TeamApt, and MAX, amongst others.
“Both North and Sub-Saharan Africa have always been core parts of the Global Ventures investment thesis. We believe the African continent is the next frontier of global growth – being home to the world’s youngest and fastest growing population. I know this growth rhetoric has followed the continent for some time, but improving macroeconomic fundamentals, coupled with technological advancements, make it a really exciting time to be active in Africa’s innovation ecosystem,” she said.
Global Ventures was founded in 2018 by Noor Sweid, an entrepreneur and investor who wanted to support regional founders’ solving tough problems via access to capital to grow their businesses.
“Our investors are a diverse mix of international and regional institutions, family offices and high net worth individuals. Our partners are business leaders, entrepreneurs and world class institutions who make up an incredible support network for our founders and the firm,” said Haider.
“Since 2018, Global Ventures has been fortunate to partner with over 56 portfolio companies, led by an amazing set of founders, who are solving important problems through globally-scalable technologies, which have the potential to transform Africa and the Middle East.”
The firm’s core thesis is centered around growth stage businesses – Series A and B companies – that have achieved product market fit and are looking to scale.
“We are a sector-agnostic firm, but we have a sub-focus on a few important sectors that we believe are addressing core infrastructure challenges for the next billion consumers. These include digital health, fintech, agritech, sustainability tech, ed-tech and the future of work,” Haider said.
“After deploying significantly into fintech and health-tech, we are excited by regional technologies driving innovation in agri-tech, supply chain disruption, and energy. We believe that the next 10 years will bring resource efficiency to center stage across sectors and geographies, but specifically in the areas of energy, water, food and supply chains.”
Global Ventures’ core geographic focus is Africa and the Middle East, although the firm looks opportunistically at other emerging markets, including Pakistan and Turkey. Haider said its philosophy is anchored in founder-centricity.
“We believe enabling founders’ success is the most effective way to generate financial returns for our investors. We have focused on building infrastructure designed to empower and support visionary founders through a hands-on approach to value creation. We spend a lot of time speaking to our founders to try to understand how we can be useful to them,” she said.
The company’s value creation framework, PARTNER, is a comprehensive platform for capital, resources and relationships, and geared to support founders as they build sustainable, market-leading businesses. This value creation framework supports founders across seven key verticals – Processes, Ambitions, Reputation, Talent & Recruitment, Network, Expansion, and Raising.
The startup space in Africa, Haider says, is “unbelievably exciting”.
“Entrepreneurs across Africa are bridging the infrastructure gap through technology and innovative products. Whether it’s TeamApt driving financial inclusion through agents and POS terminals, or MAX creating access to productive assets for drivers; founders are taking many sectors and spaces on the continent from zero to one,” she said.
“What continues to impress me is the rate at which the young African population is adopting technology and consuming digitally. For example, the jump from the digitisation of payments neo-banking, credit, savings, investment and even crypto happened so quickly.”
Investor interest on the continent, she said, remains strong, despite the declining investment in startup growth globally.
“While we might have seen some of the international liquidity shying away from regional markets recently, I think there is consensus that there will be significant economic opportunity on a continent that is expected to have 1.68 billion people by 2030,” said Haider.
So what are her plans, and the plans of Global Ventures, for 2023.
“Currently, I am thinking through what the next 10 years across our markets might look like including the growth opportunities and behavioural shifts. As I mentioned, we see sustainability and resource efficiency as a key global theme for the next 5-10 years. What’s interesting is that for African founders, local realities make sustainability an intrinsic part of business models and a pre-requisite for a company’s long-term viability and success. I am excited to continue deploying into stand out businesses across the continent,” she said.
“Additionally, I will be leaning in to value creation, focusing on supporting our portfolio companies as they navigate a period of economic uncertainty and raise subsequent capital rounds. Finally, I will be spending time trying to understand how to address the challenges faced by female founders and how we can increase the funnel of females who reach the Series A/B stage.”