RENEW Strategies

2020 in Review

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Erin O'Connor
| January 5, 2021

As we start a new year, it’s one of our traditions at RENEW to look back and remember the high points of the last 12 months. Here are some of the highlights of 2020:

  • January - We hit the ground running in January with a trip to the UK to meet with investors while our East Africa team prepared companies to meet Impact Angel Network (IAN) members during the February Econ-Tourism trip to Ethiopia and Uganda.
  • February - Members of the IAN traveled to Ethiopia and Uganda on RENEW’s Econ-Tourism Trip where they met with 16 entrepreneurs.
  • March - We celebrated International Women’s Day with a look at RENEW’s Gender Equality Report Card and a blog authored by four women who work at RENEW.
  • April - When the first case of COVID-19 showed up in Ethiopia at the end of March, we began to work with our portfolio companies to develop contingency plans in the event of a prolonged economic slowdown. We shifted from looking at deals during our monthly Members’ Call to keeping investors abreast of the emerging situation across East Africa.
  • May - In response to a growing need to help companies beyond our pipeline and portfolio to make it through COVID-19, we launched a Telegram channel, Orange Business Network, and began to produce and share critical resources like training videos, tools and information for the East Africa business community. We also took our investment workshops online to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and to expand our reach to more businesses in need of support. At the end of the month, members of the Impact Angel Network funded a third investment in Roadrunner Technology Solutions LLC (Roadrunner), a partner of Deliver Addis, which continues to play a critical role in slowing the spread of the virus, and has become one of the largest e-commerce companies in Ethiopia.
  • June - We published our 2019-2020 Impact Report! This year's report was a photographic journey through a year of investing with RENEW in East Africa. Thousands of people around the world enjoyed seeing pictures of impact and investing in East Africa.
  • July - Political unrest sparked by the assassination of a political activist put the country on stand-still as the government turned off the internet and left millions in the dark and disconnected from the rest of the world. Despite this, companies like Deliver Addis pivoted and many companies found ways to continue to do business and weather the political unrest.
  • August - the Internet was restored and our team began to line up some excellent investment opportunities that would consume our work for the second half of the year as RENEW and the IAN began a new investment strategy that focused on building stronger middle management teams across our portfolio companies.
  • September - After five months of running contingency planning webinars for entrepreneurs, we analyzed poll data from these workshops, taking a deeper look into the effects COVID-19 has had on Ethiopian SMEs. We learned valuable insights into how female and male managers and owners responded differently to crises like COVID-19. These underscored the importance of building gender-balanced executive teams in companies - which is part of RENEW and the IAN’s new investment strategy.
  • October - We grew our team by bringing on Paul Reynolds as head of asset management, and Kirsten Newman was promoted to RENEW’s general counsel.
  • November - RENEW’s Matthew & Laura Davis, and Dagmawit Shiferaw were featured on EBS’s Ethio-Business Show, talking about RENEW’s investments in Ethiopia and the critical importance of the development community ecosystem that is supporting the private sector in Ethiopia. We also announced an investment into Roadrunner Technology Solutions LLC (Roadrunner), a partner of Deliver Addis, despite the global pandemic and domestic challenges.
  • December - We closed the year by building a pipeline of companies for potential investments in 2021, and began expanding out of Ethiopia into the region; adding members to our Uganda team and building a new investment team in Rwanda.

February 2021 will mark nine years RENEW and the Impact Angel Network have been in East Africa. The IAN is the most active SME investment group in Ethiopia and continues to expand and invest in new companies across East Africa. Despite the challenges of 2020, we believe we learned a lot, made it through with our heads held high and we’re better off because of the many lessons we learned.

We are most grateful to our partners at Global Affairs Canada and USAID who make our work in Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda possible. Both have charged into the world of blended finance and are helping to develop new, more sustainable ways to create leverage and impact in Africa. We are also grateful for our fearless and dedicated investors who continue to believe in the potential of the continent and in entrepreneurship to drive positive change. We are grateful to our entrepreneurs, who have shown perseverance through an unbelievably challenging year in an already challenging environment. And lastly, but not least, our team at RENEW - you remain loyal to our clients and our companies working tirelessly to help plant the seeds for a vibrant economy in the decades and centuries to come.

Happy New Year...now let’s get back to investing!

The RENEW Team

Matthew Davis, Paul Reynolds, Laura Davis, Justin Reesor, Emily Ziethen, Erin O’Connor, Yoseph Getachew, Tsegamlak Solomon, Kirsten Newman, Teddy Fantahun, Dagmawit Shiferaw, Filseta Asrat, Mary Adoi, Tamiru Belayneh, Shail Bhandari


To find out more about RENEW or the IAN, contact us at renew@renewstrategies.com, follow us on Facebook @RENEWLLC, Twitter @RENEWLLC, Telegram OrangeBusinessNetwork, or find us on Instagram @impactangelnetwork. Apply to join the Impact Angel Network: Application: LINK