Intel Capital’s annual CEO and investment Summit has begun and apart from being a platform that brings together some of the top CEOs from leading companies around the world, the event is also the perfect opportunity for start-ups and angel investors to discuss the development of tech products for the globe.
ITNewsAfrica spoke to Marcin Hejka, Intel’s EMEA Managing Director, about upcoming trends in technology, investing in Africa and how Africa compares to the rest of the world in terms of risk.
Smart investing includes risk management and in global terms, Hejka acknowledges that, even in technology, investing is as risky as ever. “Investing in any technology is risky and that is why I have the most boring and exciting job. We don’t invest in countries, but we invest in where the talent and innovations are,” he said.
However the investment landscape is slightly different for Intel. “We have more offices than any other venture capital investor, so we have people on the ground in 25 countries and have invested in about 55 countries. Everything we do, needs to be strategic and financially viable.”
“We understand the global technology landscape and not many technology investors have the global reach that we have. Internet security company AVG grew in success after Intel’s investment and now they have over 100-million users,” he added.
Asked whether it was a fair assumption that companies are reluctant to invest in Africa, Hejka said it was partly due to risk. “I strongly believe in the concept of perceived risk. For most countries in Africa, the perceived risk is higher than the real risk. Some people and companies are afraid to invest, which is turning into an opportunity for us. This is to great benefit for us, as we are often an early investor in Africa,” he explained.
Hejka likened the perceptions of Africa to that of early Eastern Europe, where a number of companies were initially cautious about investing. “When looking at investing, Africa can be compared to early Eastern Europe – Africa’s growth is a lot like the growth we saw in that region. When we started investing in Eastern Europe, there was a lot of risk-taking. People doubted that Russia could yield successful exits, and now they are doing billion-dollar deals. Africa is growing at the same pace and it will catch up.”
Hejka is upbeat about Africa’s future. “Just like Russia, Africa will produce billion-dollar companies in the next ten years and I am very confident in the growth in the continent. From what we have seen in terms of investing from Intel, companies in the EMEA region often follow the same model, and that applies to Africa. So it’s almost like having a crystal ball – we can predict what is going to happen.”
As with most things on the continent, broadband plays a major role – “One difference now that is helping with investment is better availability of broadband, where we have seen the prices drop by almost 90%; and almost everyone has a mobile phone. There is an unserved demand, and whoever figures out how to deliver on this demand will be profitable.”
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor