Zephyr Acorn

Nairobi city center

Zephyr Acorn provides equity financing and business support to innovative early-stage companies in East Africa.

SafeMotos drivers on duty in Kigali

THE OPPORTUNITY

Zephyr Acorn invests in and actively supports innovative early-stage companies across sectors in East Africa that have the potential to scale across the continent and beyond.

“We are very fortunate to partner with investors who are aligned with our vision of achieving financial inclusion of informal businesses across Africa and who actively support the growth of the business in areas including international expansion, capital raising and governance. Through their support, Zephyr Acorn has helped change the trajectory of our business.”

—Wayne Hennessy-Barrett, CEO, 4G Capital

Fund Overview & Strategy

4G sales officer meeting with a customer in a produce market

We are typically a company’s first institutional capital and seek to invest across the following themes: (i) digitization of traditional business models, (ii) use of technology to enhance productivity and deliver cost-effective products and services, (iii) innovation in the distribution or delivery of products and services, and (iv) inclusion of new customer segments with new products and services.

We seek to partner with entrepreneurs who are passionate about a big idea, committed, adaptable, and coachable with strong execution skills and high integrity.

Post-investment, we actively support portfolio companies in areas such as finance, strategy, new market entry, and governance to help build the foundation for future growth.

Investments

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4G Capital

Based in Nairobi, 4G Capital provides micro working capital loans and tech-enabled business training to informal market retailers. 4G is solving the severe lack of access to credit in this large segment of the market by providing unsecured loans disbursed within 24 hours via mobile money through its proprietary scoring algorithm and network of mobile field officers. With its scalable technology platform, 4G seeks to serve microenterprises across the African continent.

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BitPesa

BitPesa is a digital currency payments and trading company providing an international money transfer service to/from the US, Europe and China from/to African countries. BitPesa is currently operating in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda and is expanding to several additional African countries. BitPesa provides international money transfer that is faster, cheaper and more secure than traditional options in the currency corridors in which the company operates.

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GET IT

Based in Kigali, GET IT is providing produce and dry goods delivery services, including cold storage, beginning with hotels and restaurants. Through its focus on systems, training and superior execution, GET IT seeks to solve the deficiency of cold storage and logistics services in Rwanda and beyond. The company sources produce directly from farmers, cutting out several middlemen who add little value, providing higher quality products at lower cost. GET IT is also introducing new, high demand products to the East African market.

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SafeMotos

Based in Kigali, SafeMotos is an online motorcycle taxi platform that connects riders and drivers over the company’s mobile application. From data collected on drivers’ smartphones, SafeMotos provides drivers with safety scores and drivers must maintain a certain score to remain on the platform. SafeMotos is providing rides that are cheaper, safer and more convenient than the status quo.

Investment Team

Sean R. Nowak

Managing Partner
Nairobi, Kenya

Sean is a co-founder and Managing Partner of Zephyr Acorn. Previously, Sean was a Principal at Kaizen Venture Partners, where he invested in and actively supported businesses in East and West Africa. During business school, he worked as a teaching assistant for the Private Equity in Emerging Markets and Business Strategy & Corporate Law courses. Prior to business school, Sean was a lawyer at Latham & Watkins in New York, where he practiced patent litigation. During law school, he won Notre Dame’s Bengal Bouts boxing tournament and his interests include plant-based nutrition and ultramarathons. Sean currently mentors entrepreneurs in Nairobi and the US through Nest, a global venture capital firm. He has a BA from Wake Forest University, JD from the University of Notre Dame and MBA from the Wharton School.

Thomas C. Barry

Managing Partner
New York, New York

Tom is a co-founder and Managing Partner of Zephyr Acorn. He is CEO of Zephyr Management which he founded in 1994. Zephyr has been a pioneer in private equity in Africa, as a co-founder of the first offshore private equity fund in South Africa, South Africa Capital Growth Fund in 1994; co-founder of the first private equity fund in Nigeria, Capital Alliance Private Equity in 1998; and founder of the first pan-African private equity fund, Pan-African Investment Partners in 2003. Zephyr also co-founded private equity funds in Mexico, Korea, India and Sri Lanka. Previous to Zephyr Management, Tom was CEO of Rockefeller and Company. Prior to that position, Tom was employed by T. Rowe Price Associates, where he was President of The New Horizon Fund and Director of Research. Tom has a BA from Yale University and MBA from Harvard Business School. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Contact Zephyr Acorn

Please contact us via email or
submission form for more information:

Contact Us

Thomas C. Barry
Managing Partner
Email: tcb@zmlp.com
Sean R. Nowak
Managing Partner
Email: srn@zmlp.com

Zephyr Acorn LLC.

M2, Mirage Towers
Chiromo Road
Nairobi, Kenya

Zephyr Management, L.P.

320 Park Avenue, 22nd Floor,
New York, NY 10022

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Zephyr Acorn

Email Sean: srn@zmlp.com
Email Thomas: tcb@zmlp.com