AI-focused VC reaches first close on $50m software fund

P1 Ventures says it is betting on Africa using AI to leapfrog legacy infrastructure as it completes the first close of its second fund.


Image : P1 Ventures

Venture capital firm P1 Ventures has completed the first $25m close of its $50m second fund, which will focus on building African software businesses with “regional and global potential”.

Co-founded in 2020 by Mauritanian Mikael Hajjar, who previously held roles at Areva, Google and Zum, and Hisham Halbouny, previously of Man Capital and EFG Hermes, the firm invests across sectors including fintech, e-commerce, healthtech, software as a service (Saas) and artificial intelligence (AI). 

“As far I know, I’m the first Mauritanian who’s ever launched a fund. Coming from a relatively small economy inspires us at P1 Ventures to go off the beaten path and back the underdogs. We love ambitious African founders that build products and services addressing a regional, if not global, customer base,” Hajjar said. 

Since launch, P1 Ventures says it has invested in 29 early-stage companies across 10 countries, including Money Fellows in Egypt and Reliance Health in Nigeria. 

The firm’s inaugural investment was in “super-app” Yassir in Algeria, which offers ride-hailing and last-mile delivery and which recently announced the closing of a $150m Series B funding round. More recently, P1 Ventures led a seed round for Gameball, a software company “gamifying” loyalty and customer retention.

P1’s advisory committee includes Bernard Dalle, a founding team member of Index Ventures, and Emil Michael, former chief business officer at Uber.

AI focus

The firm says it is betting on Africa adopting AI to leapfrog legacy infrastructure, particularly in sectors such as agriculture and FMCG retail. 

“Just as mobile money in Africa leapfrogged debit and credit card infrastructure, AI can build high-fidelity data and enhance the time-to-value proposition to transform sectors,” the firm said. 

One of its investments, Nkoloso, gathers data and keeps track of agricultural land using satellite imagery and AI. The company provides a wide range of applications, including tracking crop acreage and yields for credit and insurance underwriting, as well as calculating the value of timber and carbon credits. 

In FMGC, the firm has invested in a Senegalese startup which uses computer vision, geolocation and conversational AI technologies to gather and analyse data for brands and distributors. 

The investor says it could be expanded to other industries such as healthcare, consumer electronics distribution and the creative economy.

P1 also says it is using AI to source deals and support its investing team.

“While AI is a huge opportunity for the continent, it can also accelerate the distribution and potential of venture capital, if used strategically by investors with deep knowledge, helping the firm have even greater reach in a region where information and data are notoriously scarce.” 

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David Thomas

Editor of African Business.