Dhekra Khelifi leads 216 Capital to disrupt the Tunisian startup ecosystem

Dhekra Khelifi leads 216 Capital to disrupt the Tunisian startup ecosystem

Over the past two and a half years, Tunisian venture capital (VC) firm 216 Capital Ventures has backed the Tunisian entrepreneurial scene, deploying capital into startups across four continents, focusing primarily on Tunisian and African founders. The firm has already backed over 15 startups across various sectors. 

Dhekra Khelifi, a founding partner at 216 Capital, outlines all the details in her statement. 

Tell us about 216 Capital and the vision you have achieved to date.

216 Capital Ventures is a venture capital firm born of encounters, opportunities, and talent.

It's the story of a country on the move, a community of thriving entrepreneurs, and the paths of three partners that crossed at just the right moment. 

This is the first-born of the Tunisian ANAVA fund-of-funds, announced in 2022 with a closing of €10 million to invest in Tunisian and, by extension, African and Middle Eastern startups that want to make Tunisia not only a breeding ground for technical and technological production but also a source of innovation. 

216 Capital Ventures invests in Seed companies with average tickets of around €250,000 in entrepreneurs who are disrupting not only technology but also regional markets. Our mission is to help them conquer the world. 

We have invested €4.3 million and have 15 startups in our portfolio to date. 

Could you elaborate on 216 Capital's approach to investing in international startups?

The choice we made from the very beginning in establishing our investment thesis was to create value for all stakeholders: our investors, our startups, and our regional ecosystem. We are convinced that our region is brimming with talent. As the founders of 216 Capital are themselves from the Tunisian diaspora in Europe, it was important for us to support entrepreneurs from this diaspora in exploring opportunities in Africa and the Middle East. 

Presenting the opportunities to set up an entity in Tunisia, to take advantage of the benefits of a well-established support system and of Tunisia's competitive talent pool, has led some entrepreneurs from the diaspora to set up here. This has given us access to international startups operating in European and Middle Eastern markets, resulting in job creation and interesting synergies and dynamics. 

To date, we have invested in 15 companies that disrupt an emergent sector allowed in a particular industry or economy, such as e-banking, logistics, e-commerce, retail, and more. Our portfolio includes:

My Easy Transfer: an easy-to-use money transfer solution addressing currency shortages and aiming to digitize merchant payments in Francophone Africa.

Winshot: a mobile platform to centralize retail execution, streamline store operations, improve communication, and gain insights. 

Logidoo: a logistic marketplace with a unique and comprehensive solution covering the entire logistics value chain. 

Imaginario IA: an AI-powered API and no-code platform that makes any video in the world searchable without metadata or manual tags.

ProXalys: a neo-bank for auto-entrepreneurs with a modern solution for invoicing, strengthening cash flow, and creating lasting relationships for long-term growth.

Cynoia: all-in-one SaaS solution that simplifies collaboration and communication for teams worldwide.

Drest: an e-commerce hub in cosmetics, and fashion, with a digital alternative to traditional shopping experiences. 

Wattnow: IoT energy management solution that measures real time consumption using Smart meters connected to a cloud-based dashboard and mobile app. 

Beekeepertech: an advanced technology device that provides beehive monitoring and tracking technology.

Avidea: a digital insurance startup specializing in the digitalization of automobile claims management and the fight against fraud.

How do 216 Capital’s cross-continental investments align with its goals?

It's clear that the task of positioning a Tunisian investment fund on the international stage is a challenging one. We carry on our shoulders the mission of proving not only that Tunisian entrepreneurs deserve their chance, but that Tunisia is also becoming an investment destination. In both senses, we feel increasingly legitimate, as we have been able, in a very short space of time, to test our two hypotheses.

The first is that, as a local player with an international outlook, we bring more credibility to the startups in which we invest because we know our market well and we are in the best position to assess, guide, and support the most talented entrepreneurs. To this end, we have co-invested and co-led investment rounds with funds such as Launch Africa, Katapult, Techstars, and others. In addition, we are involved in pre-seed and seed. It's up to us to prepare an interesting pipeline for Serie A investors, and we are confident that in the next rounds, we’ll be able to bring VCs with global reach to the table.

With regard to the second hypothesis, that of positioning Tunisia as an investment destination, we had the opportunity to test this with two pan-African startups initially based in Dakar. The Tunisian market, and North Africa in general, remains inaccessible to sub-Saharan startups, which struggle to find the necessary information and commercial outlets. The link between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa must be strengthened by solid partnerships between the ecosystems if we hope one day to reach the full potential of Africa's entrepreneurs and innovators.

What is 216 Capital’s role in promoting and highlighting Tunisian talent within the startups it finances abroad?

We take this mission very seriously indeed. And while we remain focused on our core business of investing, we are convinced that we need to do more in terms of support at this stage. We have therefore teamed up with partners who provide talent sourcing services to local and foreign startups. We also have access to academic resources, which are generally very attractive for startups in AI or deep tech (PhD level), and for this, we guide our portfolio companies to the best universities and research laboratories in Tunisia. 

Actum, Imaginario AI, and Esteps, for example, have found rare gems and resources that will be decisive for their development in this pool of researchers. 

Looking ahead, what are 216 Capital's plans for further expanding its impact and reach, both locally and internationally?

Investment firms do not usually stop at a single fund, so it is a logical next step for us to continue investing in the current fund and start raising our second fund with a thesis that complements the current one. This will enable us to continue supporting startups with high potential in more advanced phases.

Are there specific sectors or regions you aim to target for your next investment?

We're sector agnostic, so we have an appetite for any innovation that comes along in any field of application. In terms of geography, we're not limited. Our choice is essentially based on the founders. We work closely with the startups in our portfolio in all aspects and choose people who are capable, resilient, open-minded, coachable, and who execute operationally in the field. Our next investment will be like our previous ones, a mark of confidence and a desire to participate in an adventure that is above all human, but also brings value to all stakeholders.

Thank you

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.