SOUTH AFRICA – Imperial, a logistics company has partnered with Silicon Valley based SA entrepreneur Vinny Lingham’s venture capital (VC) firm Newtown Partners to launch a corporate VC fund.

Select startups across Africa and Europe have been identified, according to a PR representative for Newtown Partners, who said the fund’s first investment having recently been concluded in a Nigerian startup and will be announced shortly.

The fund will have an initial capitalisation of US$20 million and will invest in startups in the logistics industry,

Imperial Logistics is ranked among the top 30 global logistics providers and the group employs over 27 000 people in 32 countries.

Newtown Partners said in a statement today that the fund will identify, invest in, and nurture disruptive, innovative tech startups that present high-growth potential in the global supply chain and logistics technology stack.

Through the US$20m fund, Newtown Partners will help Imperial invest in key areas set to disrupt its business

Imperial CEO Mohammed Akoojee said in the statement that the company operates in an environment that is constantly exposed to disruptors and one where innovation is critical.

“Partnering with Newtown Partners on this innovation fund helps position us ahead of future competitors, enabling a strategic response to emerging technologies and business models,” he said.

As an early-stage VC firm, Newtown Partners will support Imperial’s strategic investment in the key areas set to disrupt its business in the next five to 10 years.

“This programme will contribute to the long-term success of the organisation by identifying and leveraging startups deploying emerging technologies and business models in key geographical and logistics service areas,” Vinny Lingham, co-founder and general partner of Newtown Partners, said in the statement.

Newtown Partners said it would work closely with startups that the fund invests in. The VC noted that the fund is operationally separate from Imperial, ensuring portfolio startups are not hamstrung by corporate red tape, while still being able to unlock the synergistic benefits of having Imperial as an investor and market access provider.

As is typical in corporate venture capital, the fund has the objective of generating attractive financial returns together with a strategic underpinning relevant to the core business of Imperial, said Newtown Partners.

“By adopting a pragmatic approach to disruptive innovation, we are well-positioned to identify how Imperial’s business will change over the next few years, and enable them to not just weather the inevitable disruption to their industry, but to leverage this change for competitive advantage,” noted Llew Claasen, Newtown Partners co-founder and managing partner.

To maintain its position as a major industry player, the VC noted that Imperial required an entrepreneurial partner that not only specialises in investing in early-stage startups, but one that also has strong emerging market knowledge, access to the Silicon Valley network and a deep understanding of what is required for a startup to succeed.

“With this fund, we are embracing the disruption taking place in the market by safe-guarding the organisation against future risk. It is about leveraging innovation so that we — alongside our clients — can not only survive but thrive well into the future,” Akoojee pointed out.