UniVenture, Tunisian incubator launched by business angels, seeks applicants

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UniVenture's first graduating class

In May 2010, ten Tunisians entrepreneurs created the Carthage Business Angel association to fund early stage innovative startups, becoming the first angel investors in the country.

There was one not-so-little problem though: a serious lack of innovative Tunisian projects to invest in. So, by the end of 2010, the investors decided to launch two additional platforms to help startups get off the ground. These are:

  • Wikistartup: a private business incubator that help startups set business plans, raise funds, and develop their businesses.

  • Univenture: an incubator funded by Tunisian public entities – The National Agency for Research and the Deposits and Consignments Fund, the two investment vehicles of the government – and international ones, including GIZ (the German development aid agency).  

UniVenture, the first Tunisian incubator

The incubator supports startups that are still in the idea stage, offering during the first nine months:

  • Training sessions by Wikistartup
  • Seed funding up to TDN 120,000 ($76,000 USD) by business angels
  • Funding at the end of the nine-month incubation (amount depending on sponsors)

The first UniVenture class graduated at the end of 2013. The sponsors rewarded three startups:

  • Vitalight Lab: produces so-called nutraceutical supplements from microalgae through an new process.
  • Cont’able: aims at designing and manufacturing a lighter container with an adaptable volume.
  • Chito-Prod: aims to salvage shrimp waste that has for years littered the Tunisian coastline, turning waste into usable substances.

Entrepreneurs who wish to join UniVenture’s second class have until April 16th to register.

Wikistartup, a coaching agency for startups

The private incubator has now two main activities: individual coaching for startups, and two training sessions for investors and innovation entrepreneurs: a seminar on alternative funding and a session they market as the Business Angel Academy. 

Since the beginning, the group has lobbied the government and attempted to clarify with the banks and the Tunisian Association for Capital Investors (ATIC) that the fund exists to perform a supportive role, rather than a competitive one. Mohnder Khanfir, Wikistartup co-founder and CEO, explained: “Our aim is to help them work better. We help innovative projects to structure, set investment projects coherent with the market, and fund where nobody would bet a dinar.” The seminar on alternative funding is targeted at those institutional actors to prove them the group’s legitimacy and its desire for coordination.

Carthage Business Angels, an active fund

More than 40 people have joined the CBA: 20 individual investors, 10 corporate investors (including SICAR), and 10 experts dealing with due diligence.

The fund also offers an investment vehicle for passive business angels, CapitalEase. Aspiring business angels can invest in this fund and let CBA manage the selection and follow-up with startups.

In three years, CapitalEase and CBA have invested over TND 25 million (nearly $16 million USD) in 12 new technology and biotech startups that have been at early or growing stages. 

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