Startup Investment in Tunisia: A mini guide

You are a “young” Tunisian who decided to take on the crazy journey of entrepreneurship? Congratulations and welcome to the club! This article may help you.

Since I joined IntilaQ as a CEO, I received a lot of emails from young entrepreneurs with great ideas asking for funding. I tried to answer to all of them until I ran out of time and energy as the pile of requests kept on growing... So I decided to write a post that will hopefully encapsulate all the funding options for Tunisian entrepreneurs, with the plan of keeping it up to date as the information changes. Let’s get into the subject and list all the available options

Seed Investment

Self Funding

This is my favorite option for startups in their early stage and need cash to bootstrap their first product version. One option is to hire a team of engineers to work on Software projects for clients and inject the profits into the product development team. I know 2 startups that followed this model: Tunpixel offered Software Development for clients in Tunisia and abroad to fund the bootstrapping of its product Jobi.tn. There is also coderscloud.com that used the cash generated from its Software Development services to fund the development of the first version of simple.expert.

This option is great for 2 main reasons: The first one is that you will be buying your freedom and independence where you can go crazy with product features and you don’t have to get anybody’s approval for pivots. This option also shows investors that you are a proof-tested entrepreneur that can manage a team and can sell, therefore, they will have some sort of assurance in investing in you.

FFF — Friends, Family and Fools

If you are a lucky person with friends and family having extra cash laying around and they believe in you as person. Then this option is for you. Although, you might want to make sure that:

Ask for a specific amount to meet a specific milestone.
Offer a formal agreement as well as a handshake
Don’t ask for more than your friends or family can afford to lose.
Communicate the plan and the risks up front.
Focus on well-connected friends with relevant business experience.
Tie re-payments to revenue growth in the startup.

I know many startups in Tunisia that started with friends & family money. Some of them are the game studio Digitalmania and Vynd.

Angel Investors

A little background story: The Tunisian legislation offers a LOT of perks to banks to encourage them to invest. For example, The Tunisian Guarantee Company (SOTUGAR) offers Banks a 90% insurance on their investment in developing zones. Yet, they still ask for a physical guarantee with a value up to 150% of the asked investment!! Sotugar also offers a 60% insurance to investment funds but they don’t offer any insurance to Angel Investors!!

This is one of the reasons why we don’t have many Angel Investors in Tunisia.

There were some initiatives by “Angel Investors” in Tunisia such as Carthage Business Angel... Yet, I haven’t seen them making investments in the last few years.. ( I kindly invite CBA members to correct me if I am wrong here ).

Below is a list of Tunisian Angel Investors who invested in at least one Tunisian startup:

Accelerators/Incubators

If you google Tunisian incubator on Google, you will find a lot of incubators. Yet 90% of these incubators are either closed or inactive. As of today, the only 2 incubators that have the cash to directly invest in startups without taking you to other investors are the incubator B@Labs and the accelerator Flat6Labs.

B@Labs

Bi@Labs has an interesting program of acceleration/incubation that rewards successful entrepreneurs with 40k DTN to be spent as follow:

15k spend by Bi@Labs on startups through support programs.

10k to be spent by the startup but with the approval of B@Labs.

If B@Labs decides to go further with the startups, they will invest another 15k in cash. So that’s a total of 40k for an exchange of 5% equity.

Flat6Labs

For startups that are a little more developed, i.e. those who are beyond the idea and prototype stage and have already tested or sold their products on the market, there is Flat6Labs, a regional accelerator and VC Fund that provides entrepreneurs with seed funding, strategic mentorship, office space and entrepreneurship-focused business training and development workshops, all engineered to prepare companies to be investment-ready within four months.

Twice a year, Flat6Labs offers 6–8 startups an investment of 110,000 DT in seed funding and services in exchange for 10–15% equity in the company. For companies who graduate from its program and companies that are more developed, Flat6Labs also offers follow-on and pre-series A funding that can go up to 600,000 DT.

They also provide startups with a regional network and over $300K in perks and benefits, providing entrepreneurs with some of the best global resources available to build their companies.

wikistartup

There are other incubators such as wikistartup. WikiStartup helps entrepreneurs with their business plan then they introduce them to investors in exchange of a flat fee of 5k and 3% of the amount that the startup raises during one year.

Seed Investors

As of today, the only seed fund I know of is CapitalEase managed by UGFS. UGFS invests at an early stage in exchange of equity and convertible bonds. They have a great portfolio of startups so they will be bringing in a lot more than just money. I believe they have few million dinars to be invested, so they are actively looking for opportunities.

There is also Yunus Social Business who has different phases of selection for the investment process leading to an offer of 150K tnd (equity based offer). Statups in prototyping phase can get a 20K loan. YSB now invests in specific social businesses, the ones creating jobs indirectly (Uber like business models) or developing skills for employability.

Mid Stage

IntilaQ used to be in the early stage investors list and it is the leader today with a portfolio of over 26 startups! We are now investing in startups looking for growth and need an investment of 1–2 Million dinars.

We plan on investing at least 3 Million dinars in 2017.

There is also Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations CDC that just invested 1.5 Million dinars in the gaming startup Polysmart. They are actively looking for opportunities!

Growth Stage

Conclusion:

I hope you find this article informative and can help you save a lot of time and energy in your journey as an aspiring entrepreneur. And if there is one advice I can leave you with is to stay away from Banks and Sicars as they don’t like Startups.