500 Global is a multi-stage venture capital firm with investments in Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Dubai and Riyadh, which also invests in founders to build fast-growing technology companies.
The fund aims to work closely with key stakeholders and advises governments on how best to support entrepreneurial ecosystems so startups can thrive.
In a recent interview with Inc.Africa, Mareme Dieng, an African Leadership Academy alum from Senegal and Lead, Innovation Strategy at 500 Global, shares what makes the fund different and how African companies can apply to be selected:
Inc.Africa: How many African companies has 500 Global invested in?
Mareme Dieng: 500 Global has been active in Africa since 2012, with investments in 119 companies.
According to Dieng 500 invests across sectors. In Africa, they are mostly excited about the B2B, BNPL and asset financing sectors. There’s also a growing interest in EdTech, AgriTech, HealthTech and other sectors that address some of the continent’s most pressing challenges.
Inc.Africa: What are the selection criteria for African companies?
Dieng: We believe there is a continued need to digitise sectors and services across the continent. For example, the informal economy, a key driver of economic growth in Africa, is underserved. We look for entrepreneurs building fast-growing technology companies that address big markets like these, who understand the problems they are addressing and who are prepared to adapt as local markets evolve.
In addition to investing across stages, 500 runs accelerator programmes that give founders the foundation to grow their companies at scale.
One of the biggest benefits of going through the 500 Startups Seed Program is having access to knowledgeable mentors. Business starters will have access to the 500 team, seasoned entrepreneurs, experienced investors, and individuals with considerable expertise in their field to give feedback and offer guidance.
The team aims to empower some of the continent’s leading startups, by not only investing in African entrepreneurs through 500 Global funds but also by creating the right environment for them to thrive within their local markets and prepare to scale beyond them.
“Africa has seen an increase in investments that I believe will help accelerate growth and drive innovation,” says Dieng.
Growing up in Dakar, Dieng recalls having witnessed first-hand how entrepreneurs and small business owners have advanced an important part of the Senegalese economic activity as key drivers of job creation.
“I believe the African Startup Ecosystem should be built upon this pre-existing entrepreneurial mindset while creating differentiated support systems for both tech-enabled and scalable startups, as well as SMEs.”
500 Global will partner with local and international stakeholders in order to co-create interventions targeted at empowering founders and other ecosystem stakeholders to build more supportive communities for entrepreneurs.
Prior to 500, she was the head of international partnerships and relations at Draper University and an investor associate at Draper University Ventures. She has nearly 5 years of experience in innovation and investment, working previously as an accelerator program manager, a corporate innovation lead consultant, and an advisor to several startups.
Mareme has worked for research centers in Paris (CNRS) and Senegal (ISM). After having lived and worked in Senegal, South Africa, France and the United States, she devoted her work to human development and structuring systems that maximize individuals’ potential. She has worked with several educational organizations such as ISM Senegal and the Global Scholar Programs in Johannesburg, and has developed with them different educational models in order to promote entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation within the African education system.