2030 Finance | March 12, 2020

Engineers Without Borders Canada spins off early stage Africa tech investing arm

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

ImpactAlpha, March 12 – Toronto-based Engineers Without Borders has been making early-stage venture investments since 2013 as a complement its non-profit global development work. After a dozen investments, the organization is spinning off its venture arm as Hummingbird Impact to expand investments in tech-enabled social enterprises. Engineers Without Borders will remain a shareholder in the new entity.

Hummingbird is looking to raise $20 million to make seed and Series A impact investments and will prioritize ventures promoting women’s economic participation. Muthoni Wachira, Hummingbird’s managing partner, told ImpactAlpha that Hummingbird’s pipeline includes a venture supporting access to e-commerce delivery for underserved customers; an affordable home healthcare startup; and an organization addressing over-indebtedness among low-income customers.

Portfolio companies rolling over include FarmDrive, a Kenya-based digital lending platform for farmers; Bloom Impact, a Ghana-based small business-focused fintech; and Kenya-based edtech venture M-Shule, among others.

The economics of small, early-stage funds, particularly in emerging markets, make it challenging to give startup impact ventures the intensive, hands-on assistance many need. Hummingbird is looking to raise up to $4 million for a technical assistance facility to provide additional support for its portfolio companies.

EWB Canada last year was rocked by allegations of sexual harassment. Wachira, who is based in Nairobi, said the spin-off is unrelated and has been in the works for several years.