Purple Elephant Ventures: The team growing Africa’s natural capital


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Purple Elephant Ventures Team (Photo: PEV)

Purple Elephant Ventures is one of Africa’s first venture studios, designed to build and eventually spin-off three or four start-ups per year focused on improving sustainable travel and tourism in Africa. Founded on the thesis that there is tremendous opportunity to modernize Africa’s large ($200B) but somewhat out-of-date (only 30% booked online) travel sector. The Purple Elephant Ventures team are a collection of travel-loving, entrepreneurial-minded, impact-spirited entrepreneurs, humble enough to know their shortcomings but confident enough to know they can change the world.

Ben PetersonCEO & Co-Founder

Ben Peterson

Ben fell in love with Africa in 2001, when he moved to Ghana to work at the Ghanaian Ministry of Justice. Since then, Ben has accumulated eighteen years of experience investing in, founding, growing and managing companies and non-profits across Africa. Ben founded and led Journalists for Human Rights (now Canada’s largest media development NGO) and Newsana Incorporated (a news aggregation platform); more recently spent nearly four years as Senior Partner at AHL Venture Partners, one of Africa’s largest early stage investors. In this role Ben ran AHL’s Nairobi office and oversaw AHL’s East and Southern African portfolio; notably, Ben led an investment and subsequent exit in Twiga Foods that won the 2019 ‘Exit of the Year’ award from the East Africa Private Equity and Venture Capital Association. Ben is also the Recipient of Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) one of Canada’s highest civilian honours, winner of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Award and the Queen’s University Alumni Humanitarian Award. Ben has a MSc from the London School of Economics.

Also Read: Navvi Arudem is redefining the African gaming culture

Jan van der Does de Willebois, CFO & Co-Founder

Jan

Jan has spent most of the last 20 years working as an investment banker with Credit Suisse, Standard Bank (UK and Nigeria) and Dyer and Blair (Kenya). He went on to start Simbi Capital which raised over $100M for Africa based projects.

Over the last four years Jan has co-founded and invested in a string of companies across Africa focused on the growing lower middle mass market, including a digital lending platform in Kenya, a gym and laundromat chain in Nigeria, mass housing in Sierra Leone and agriculture in Ghana. His exits to date have had an average multiple of 3.2x. The nature of these companies all require heavy operational nitty gritty, human insight and quick thinking.

Clinton Obura., Venture Builder

Clinton Obura

Clinton is an experienced operator having spent his career cutting his teeth at companies like Google, Uber to Elephant Healthcare. Expertise spanning multiple functions including GTM, Operations, Growth, Sales & Marketing. He believes in technology as the great equalizer and is quite excited to build ventures that create opportunities for Africans to thrive and prosper.

Doris Mutungi, Associate Venture Builders

Doris Mutungi

Doris never shies away from making bold decisions. Her passion and deep desire to make travel affordable and accessible to everyone saw her switch careers from actuarial science & finance to travel & tourism seven years ago. She founded Afro Haven Vacations in 2015 to provide affordable travel solutions by connecting travelers to holiday homes, cottages, and apartments. Through her leadership, the company grew from managing one cottage in Diani to marketing over fifty vacation properties countrywide. A passionate digital marketing strategist, Doris has trained close to 100 SMEs under the Boost With Facebook training program and is a holder of Facebook Media Planning and Media Buying Certifications. Apart from her Bsc in Actuarial Science degree, Doris holds an ACCA Certification from Strathmore University. Doris enjoys traveling the world, with her favorite destination being the Kalahari sand dunes in Swakopmund, Namibia, where sand and sea meet, literally!

Eva., Venture Builder

Eva Kigo

An entrepreneur at heart, Eva is an avid traveller, foodie and wine enthusiast. In 2015, after living in the US for over a decade, she returned to Kenya with a passion for business growth in the region. While in the US, Eva worked as a consultant at Navigant Consulting and Deloitte in their respective transaction advisory departments. Upon her return to Kenya, Eva joined Lundin Foundation overseeing their projects and programs in East and Southern Africa. Leveraging her background in Economics and Finance, coupled with her experience in strategy consulting, compliance, program implementation and impact investing in both developed and frontier markets, Eva has supported the growth of hundreds of micro and small businesses over the course of her advisory career. Eva has a Msc in Applied Economics from the Johns Hopkins University.

Evans Gatonye, Venture Builder

Evans Gatonye

Evans is an experienced digital marketing professional, with a background in fintech and travel-tech. Most recently, he was Products & Marketing Manager at PesaPal, and prior to that was Product Manager at DPO Group where he worked heavily with airlines, hoteliers, travel agents & tour operators across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania,  South Africa and UAE. He’s passionate about building customer experiences that create value, touching on product development, customer care, sales and of course marketing. His favorite destination?… anywhere with a beach!

Lizzie Wright, Stage Lead

Lizzie Wright

Lizzie has been working in tourism in Africa for the last 9 years. Originally from London working in Event management, her feet first touched African soil in 2012 where she ran an eco & turtle conservation lodge in Ghana. Following that she operated safari lodges in Northern Uganda before starting and operating a series of businesses in the hospitality and tourism sector including an Africa wide travel agency, lodges and restaurants . She was on the founding team of the Uganda International Marathon – Uganda’s largest public fundraising event and sits on the Board for a closed loop recycling programme in Uganda. Lizzie is passionate about building sustainable tourism opportunities in Africa, riding horses, being on the water and driving on bad roads.

Ludovica FioravantiAssociate Venture Builder

Ludo

City girl turned avid explorer, Ludo has been adventure seeking in Kenya since she got conveniently “stuck” in Nairobi during the covid lockdown. This is when she decided to leave her corporate job behind and listen to her entrepreneurial spirit calling. A communications professional specialised in digital storytelling and delivering high-impact integrated campaigns, Ludo has led multiple projects across various business areas ranging from PR, social media, and corporate communications to operations and supply chain values for her previous employers: Dolce&Gabbana and De Beers. Fast forward to today, and you will find Ludo building companies that implement sustainable solutions, drive innovation across digital channels, and creatively tell brand stories… all while planning her future trips with friends and family and collecting quirky mementos along the way (with a particular obsession toward herbs and spices, jewellery, and art!)

Mikul ShahVenture Builder & Co Founder

Mikul Shah

Born and raised in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast, Mikul Shah is a foodie, travel enthusiast, angel investor and serial entrepreneur with over 20 years experience in hospitality & tourism. In 2010, having relocated from London to Nairobi, he founded the award-winning restaurant discovery portal, EatOut. The brand has since grown to encompass some of the largest food festivals in the region, as well as assets in print and digital media. He is passionate about the role of technology for business in Africa and has served on the advisory boards of Africa Technology Ventures, Blankets & Wine, Safaricom SPARK Fund & Old Mutual and is the recipient of the Business Daily Top 40 under 40 Award, the Vision 2030 Tourism Award for ICT & the Kenya Tourism Award. He has a BSc from the University of Manchester and is an alumni of the Stanford GSB Seed program in East Africa.

Natalie Kokonya, Admin & Finance Lead

Natalie

Natalie is a city girl from Nairobi who has a deep love for hiking and the beach. She’s a seasoned finance and administration professional who holds a BSc in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Finance. Having worked as a data analyst in the engineering industry and in customer service in the IT industry, she’s an adaptable person who has shaped her skill set to match her love for travel. She lives for new experiences and memories, and is a firm believer that “Not all who wander are lost”, and food is what brings people together; but don’t try to get between her and chicken.


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