In a historic event, the first-ever “Lions Den by blueMoon” held on September 1, raised an astounding 6.6 million birr in equity investment for four newly established share companies at idea stage, incubated at blueMoon, from four “Lions,” top business leaders willing to invest in the blueMoon’s innovative youth agribusiness startups.
blueMoon is Ethiopia’s first youth agribusiness and AgTech incubator and seed investor, supporting youth entrepreneurs between 15 and 29, established as a private company in November 2016 by Dr. Eleni Z. Gabre-Madhin (founder and former CEO, Ethiopia Commodity Exchange).
The well-attended evening program was officiated by Special Guest of Honor Dr. Eng. Getahun Mekuria, Minister of Science and Technology, and other VIPs, including State Minister of Industry Dr. Mebrahtu Meles and the Ambassadors of the Netherlands and Canada, among an audience of more than 100 including members of the business community, entrepreneurs, civil society, and development partners.
The Lions were well-known business personalities, Zemedeneh Negatu, MD, Fairfax Africa Fund (formerly Managing Africa Partner, Ernst&Young), Daniel Gad, CEO Omega Farms (formerly Senior Director, AT&T, New York), Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu (founder and CEO, soleRebels, and founder, Garden of Coffee), and Addis Alemayehou (CEO, 251 Communications and promoter, Kana Television).
The four blueMoon startups that pitched for investment during the program were Nature4Nature, a company aiming to manufacture natural fertilizer from organic municipal and animal waste, GebeyaNet, a company aiming to create a web-enabled mobile platform, integrating trading, transport, and mobile payments for fresh produce such as garlic, onions, peppers, and tomatoes, from farmers to end buyers, Efoyta Pellets, a company aiming to manufacture clean energy pellets made from recycled agricultural waste to replace firewood and charcoal for household and small business use, and NU, a web-enabled mobile platform that enables traceable live animals trading linking all secondary livestock markets across Ethiopia.
In front of the audience, the four blueMoon startups gave a 10-minute investment “pitch” to the Lions starting with their required investment amount and the equity share they intended to give and describing their business, which was followed by intense questions from the Lions and ultimately a decision by each Lion whether they are “in” or “out”. If interested, the Lions then negotiated on the equity share with the startups.
At moments tense, emotional, and humor-filled, the evening was highly entertaining as ultimately, each blueMoon startup successfully obtained investments, with a total equity financing of 6.635 million birr raised during the 2-hour program, with Nature4Nature getting investment of 3.2 million birr for 39% share, GebeyaNet getting 1.5 million birr for 40% share, Efoyta getting 0.44 million birr for 15% share, and NU getting 1.5 million birr for 50% share.
This first-ever and highly successful Lions Den by blueMoon, sponsored by Yazmi and OCP, heralds a new era for Ethiopia’s burgeoning innovation-based startup eco-system, signaling the importance of individual investors making high-risk investments to promote innovative startup businesses.