Manuel Koser is a renowned entrepreneur based in South Africa. He is the co-founder and MD of Silvertree Holdings, which is a VC company specializing in African Startups. Before establishing Silvertree Holdings, Manuel co-founded Zando, where he also worked as a co-chief executive officer. Zando is among the top five consumer e-commerce platforms in South Africa. Koser was also part of the team that assisted with the establishment of Jumia in Nigeria. Today, Jumia has expanded to become one of the largest online sites in Africa.
Before moving to South Africa, Koser served as the VP for Corporate Development and Investments. Notably, he commenced his career working as a management consultant at Boston Consulting Group, focusing on industrial goods projects and corporate finance in South Africa, UK, UAE, Germany, and India. Kosel earned a B.Sc. from Universita Luigi Bocconi and the University of Maastricht.
In an exclusive interview with Business Insider Africa, Manuel explains the company’s investment policy principles. He also discusses his perception of what defines a successful founder and failure indicators. Koser told the Business Insider Africa that he became interested in startup investment after relocating to South Africa to create Zando, which later rebranded to Jumia. The platform has been named on the New York Stock Exchange and has become a leading consumer internet space. They further moved to develop Silvertree Holdings with the aim to support entrepreneurs and innovators of all levels throughout South Africa.
Manuel noted that Silvertree Holdings is the first and outstanding African brand builder. He says that the firm focuses on mission-driven, digital-first brands in areas fit for the businesses and the world, artisanal, and planet. The firm is located in Cape Town, with about 450 employees. He also said that their power brands include organic outlets such as craft food brands, natural skincare brand, and Faithful to Nature. When asked about the type of businesses they invest in and what they look for, Manuel said that they mainly focus on consumer internet and consumer brands in Africa.
First off, they consider good margins, usually above 50 percent, strong revenue growth, and above-average operating cycle. Additionally, these companies should also have a well-incentivized and robust founding and management team. When it comes to differentiating Silvertree Holdings from competitors, Manuel said they have a committed team of 25 individuals to support their business and brands in all areas, from marketing, finance, legal, and others. He also added that they offer patient capital and plan to continue raising money. Kosel also said that they are in the business on a long term basis and have vast experience in Africa to build robust brands.
Manuel told BI Africa that a good founder should be passionate, tenacious, and driven by cause instead of pursuing status profits. He says that when founders increase their prices, it will define if they have a superior product that stands out from the competition. Additionally, he points out some of the biggest failure indicators are lack of customer support and poor customer feedback. When it comes to funding startups, Manuel says that ideas are not of much importance to him. The most important thing is the execution of ideas, which can reflect the number and nature of customer feedback. He says that they have an entrepreneur’s experience and CV might not be helpful if they don’t have passion and dedication.
Subsequently, when Manuel was asked about the trends that he thinks might impact the venture capital investment sector after COVID-19, he responded that since many people will be home-based, meaning there will be a high demand for e-commerce. He said that COVID-19 came as a catalyst for progressing trends and seemed to accelerate them. This means that e-commerce solutions and video content will receive a massive boost during this period. Furthermore working from home will also change people’s lives, especially in terms of dressing and eating. Typically, Manuel says that COVID-19 brings a complete shift that will affect consumer behavior and decision making.