Purple Elephant Ventures to pump Sh120m in Africa’s green tourism push

PEV’s seeks to build three or four start-ups every year, designed to drive region's tourism towards a cleaner future.

To date, PEV has launched two start-ups: Nomad Africa, a content-to-commerce business and Elephant Bookings,a SaaS business. Photo/ PEV

Purple Elephant Ventures (PEV), the world’s first tourism-focused venture studio, announced today that it has closed a pre-seed round of Sh120 million from some global investors.

Tourism, Africa’s third-largest industry and employer of tens of millions across the continent, suffered tremendously during the Covid pandemic and is highly vulnerable to the effects of the changing climate.

“We’re sitting on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to modernize a major continental industry while driving real climate-action victories,” says CEO Ben Peterson, who set up the venture studio in partnership with co-founders Jan Van der de Willebois, a former investment banker at Dyer & Blair where he led the Safaricom IPO, and serial entrepreneur Mikul Shah who is best known for his work in the hospitality industry with EatOut Africa.

In his previous role as Senior Partner at AHL Venture Partners, one of Africa’s leading early stage investment firms, Peterson saw a big opportunity.

“Tourism is a significant driver of Africa’s economy, but sadly there have been only a small handful of start-ups that have tried to modernize the largely offline industry. We decided that the industry could benefit from dozens of start-ups each addressing different major challenges – so we built PEV.”

PEV’s goal is to build three or four start-ups every year, designed to lead Africa’s tourism industry towards a greener future. PEV start-ups are typically scalable, tech-first solutions that supercharge urgent efforts to make Africa’s tourism industry more resilient and more sustainable in the face of climate change.

Investors in PEV’s Pre-Seed round include: Klister Credit Corp., a Canadian investment firm and early backer of Shopify; Fede Pirzio-Biroli, founder of Playfair Capital; Ian McCaig, former CEO of lastminute.com and M-Kopa board member; Anthony Rock, President of Rock Impact Capital; The Untours Foundation; Rich Hoops, Executive Director at Impact Capital; Jim Villanueava, Managing Director of Global Partnerships Social Venture Fund; and Helena Riese Harstad, Co-founder and Chair of the Optimizer Foundation.

To date, PEV has launched two start-ups. One is Nomad Africa, a content-to-commerce business that informs Africa’s domestic tourism market about sustainable and local travel experiences. The other is Elephant Bookings, a SaaS business that helps African hospitality providers become
more efficient by getting online.

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