Into Africa: VisionTech’s Leaders Head to Rwanda on Entrepreneurial Venture
INDIANAPOLIS, October 27, 2015 – Indianapolis-based VisionTech Partners are no strangers to looking at early stage companies. Their investment arm, VisionTech Angels, is among Indiana’s most active angel investing groups, with 14 early-stage growth companies in its portfolio. Now, VisionTech is expanding its sights to possibly include early stage growth countries.
In early November, Oscar Moralez, VisionTech’s managing partner and co-founder of BioStorage Technologies, will travel with David Helmer, a VisionTech general partner and owner of Helmer Scientific, to the African nation of Rwanda for a week of entrepreneurial activities, including high level consulting and scouting for investment opportunities. Helmer, who also co-founded a strategic coaching and investment company in Rwanda five years ago, has traveled to Rwanda 15 times over the last eight years and has existing investments in East African companies.
While many people in the West don’t yet equate Rwanda with economic vibrancy (the country was embroiled in a devastating genocide two decades ago) in June 2015 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) commended the country for its economic reforms, and a strong and stable economic outlook. The website AfricaEconomicOutlook.org reports that Rwanda’s real GDP grew by seven percent in 2014, with seven percent annual growth forecasted for the upcoming years.
Helmer says some may be surprised to know that six of the ten fastest growing economies are located in sub-Saharan Africa. “Rwanda and the other countries that make the East African Community represent more than 300 million people in a common market of economies that includes Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwanda is also part of the African Free Trade Zone, which has a combined GDP of $624 billion (USD). This region has a very dynamic business climate,” Helmer explains.
“Rwanda is consistently ranked among the best places in Africa to do business, due to the significant progress made by government initiatives. It has a stable financial structure, property rights and a continually improving infrastructure. I have experienced Rwanda as the cleanest country in Africa, and a recent Gallup survey listed it as the safest country on the continent,” Helmer continued.
Although schedules are still being finalized, Moralez and Helmer plan to meet with the country’s science and technology leadership, as well as officials in finance and education. An address to the Private Sector Federation, Rwanda’s version of a chamber of commerce, is in the works. The two also have a full schedule of consulting engagements with established companies to foster relationships and provide coaching on company growth and future investment. Additionally, they plan to have discussions regarding opportunities for the City of Indianapolis and other Hoosier enterprises in the areas of sports and life science. Another scheduled meeting with the Ministry of Sport and Culture is a result of Helmer’s previous trips. It will be the final discussion toward a pending agreement that would create a unique sports development partnership.
Moralez will be leading entrepreneurial workshops for groups in the capital city of Kigali. The plan is to share best practices and ideas from VisionTech’s proven approach to company formation and technology commercialization. Fortunately, English is among Rwanda’s three languages with French and Kinyarwanda being the other two. “We’re meeting with early-stage companies in distribution, manufacturing and technology that are interested in capital formation, investment strategies and supporting rapid growth,” Moralez said. “Some experts say that East Africa is where China was 20 years ago. Sure, it’s early, but early growth is where VisionTech Partners and VisionTech Angels have been most successful. This will keep us open to the dynamics and opportunities in this constantly changing world.”