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All posts by Keet Van Zyl

Keet Van Zyl
Keet is a ‘Venture Catalyst’ with extensive high-growth investment experience. He structured various private equity funds in Southern Africa for a US fund-of-funds investor and worked at industry-leading companies such as Procter & Gamble, Investec Bank and Mark Shuttleworth’s ‘Here Be Dragons’ (HBD) Venture Capital. In 2010 he co-founded growth equity investor: Knife Capital to continue funding and building scalable innovation-driven businesses. Keet is passionate about building the early-stage entrepreneurship ecosystem in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • #RhodesHasFallen: 10 startup mistakes South African statues made

    #RhodesHasFallen at University of Cape Town and the graffiti is on the wall for many other South African statues as we struggle to contextualise the past and define a shared future as a nation. Other recently defaced statues include Paul Kruger in Pretoria, King George in Durban, Louis Botha in Cape Town, Mahatma Gandhi in Johannesburg and Queen Victoria in Port Elizabeth. If some local statues were startup entrepreneurs, here are the 10 mistakes they made that could have prompted their downfall… 1. Single Founder As a single founder you walk a lonely road without a constant sounding board to test...

  • The value of building a business with an exit in mind

    It is easier to invest in private companies than it is to unlock value from these investments. While the venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) investment space is gaining more and more momentum in Africa, the process of exiting these investments remains a challenge. What many investors and entrepreneurs don’t realise is that positioning a business for a successful exit already starts in the due diligence process -- even before investment. Exit strategies will most likely influence the investment term sheet and govern the relationship between the entrepreneur and investor. It is therefore critical to align interests between them. Exit...

  • Unwrapping the mysteries of SA’s venture metrics landscape [Infographic]

    With additional reporting by Mich Atagana South Africa's startup landscape is an industry wrapped in mysteries and enigmas. It's a world of near facts and almost could be truths, especially when it comes to funding. The average entrepreneur is not a 21-year-old University dropout. Also not all of them are men, yes women start companies too. In a survey conducted by Knife Capital, around 337 entrepreneurs shed some light on this cloak and dagger industry and provided some interesting insights about venture seeking entrepreneurs and what they think their business is worth, how the founders met as well their risk...

  • The startup curve South Africa: wiggles of realism

    It is sometimes too easy to dish out titbits of startup advice from a venture capital ivory tower without going through the practical realities of executing a business plan, but pattern recognition could close some expectation gaps. As Paul Graham pointed out in his version of the Startup Curve, while many people think startups are smoothly up and to the right all the time, the path to success is more of a roller coaster ride. Because of a fragile startup ecosystem in South Africa, startups here have additional challenges to overcome. An adaptation of the Startup Curve reflects the typical path of a local startup’s wild ride...

  • Why your email pitch did not even make the VC’s ‘maybe pile’

    Here’s the thing: if you do a cold-call pitch to a Venture Capital (VC) investor using email, your proposal is already at the bottom of the pile before anyone has even read the subject line. The reason: VCs mostly rely on warm referrals from within their trusted networks to generate dealflow, as this acts as an automatic filter and increases the quality of proposals. It also says a lot about an entrepreneur that goes through the trouble to "stalk" a VC and infiltrate his or her networks to ultimately get introduced, or introduce themselves face-to-face in the right forum. I...

  • 8 Red Hot Chili startup lessons

    The Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) may be one of the most celebrated rock groups of the '90s and early 21st century, but their journey to success shares a Parallel Universe with that of a typical startup company. Initial enthusiasm was followed by a lack of traction as they struggled through the late ‘80s confronting tragedy, personnel changes and false starts. But through experimentation they fostered creativity and progress because they don’t fear failure. This energy lead to a uniquely recognizable brand of funk, pop and rock that turned into commercial success. Some valuable startup lessons are woven into the...

  • Will the real African startups please stand up?

    With so much focus on advancing the entrepreneurial ecosystems around African startup hubs at the moment, more and more Africans are starting their own businesses by choice as opposed to necessity. But, not all interesting ventures that launch can automatically claim ‘startup’ status. While the essence of successful innovation-driven Silicon Valley startups can be found in the African spirit of Ubuntu, African ventures are still mostly backed by efficiency-driven entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, game-changing startups from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana have led the technology revolution on the continent with homegrown innovations, highlighting the contribution Africa can make as an emerging market...

  • What happens after Venture Capital funding is secured?

    Many Venture Capital (VC) articles, blogs and the like focus on how to secure VC. But not many disclose that the real work starts post-investment. While the investment decision is critical to portfolio performance, VCs spend more than 60% of their time on post-investment activities in order to grow investments for lucrative exits. These activities can be separated into monitoring (protecting the interests of the investor) and value-adding activities (strategic influence, mentorship and access to networks). It should be noted that because of the many different VC management styles, VC involvement post-investment vary greatly -- ranging from informal interaction to...

  • Gone in 30 seconds: How Venture Capitalists screen your business plan

    "The average time that a Venture Capitalist spends analysing a business plan is 22 seconds" – Speaker at the 26th Venture Capital Institute, Atlanta, 2000. Since this realisation more than 10 years ago I've often wondered whether it was entirely fair towards entrepreneurs who spend significant time and resources to develop a comprehensive business plan. But top tier venture capitalists (VC's) deal with hundreds of business plans a year, and a decision on whether to take the proposal to the next level or to reject it is often made in less than 30 seconds. This is how: Consider the 'Flight-Path' of...

  • Why Silicon Valley can be bad for emerging market startups

    Launching a startup anywhere in the world is challenging, but launching one in an emerging market territory where there is often limited access to funding and a fragmented entrepreneurial ecosystem it is so much harder. One sure way to fail is to try and duplicate first world solutions for emerging market problems without tweaking them for the unique local conditions. The Silicon Valley story is inspirational. Its ability to launch globally competitive, world-changing internet startups is unsurpassed. It continues to be the leading hub for high-tech innovation and development and accounts for one-third of all of the venture capital investment...