WeChat Africa to invest R50 million in tech startups

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Instant messaging service WeChat Africa has announced it intends to invest R50 million in African tech startups. The company will take applications from startups in January, and those that take its fancy will get support from it for a “speedy entrance into the market using the WeChat platform”, according to a release from the company announcing the initiative.

WeChat has roped in Batstone, a Cape Town-based tech strategy firm, to help it source the right startups and coordinate the early stages of the investment initiative. Interested parties can apply here from 18 January 2016.

“Our fund aims to provide financial support to businesses so that they can effectively get on the WeChat platform,” says head of WeChat Africa, Brett Loubser. “This will include technical integration and communications tactics across the Naspers’ stable and other suited channels.”

Naturally, WeChat is on the hunt for tech businesses that will benefit from its platform. So your online lemonade stand probably isn’t going to get the nod. But your lift-club-with-puppies coordination service just might.

WeChat Africa head, Brett Loubser

WeChat’s no stranger to partnerships with tech companies, from investments in “micro-jobbing” service Money4Jam and takeaway order service Order In to being one of the original partners of Gareth Cliff’s CliffCentral internet radio station.

The instant messaging service also launched a wallet service last week which allows users to send money to or receive money from one another, withdraw it at Standard Bank ATMs or use it to make purchases using payments service SnapScan.

In its early days we at Stuff Towers loathed WeChat with its incessant notifications about people in our contacts joining the service, its constant reminders about new sticker packs and its general clutter in what appeared to be an attempt to be everything to everyone. But, we must confess, since we last reinstalled it (for the umpteenth time) we’ve found it sufficiently slicker and nonintrusive that we haven’t felt the urge to delete it again.

If WeChat can help get startups off the ground and noticed we’re all for it. Especially if one of those startups can bring us puppies.

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