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Purple Elephant Ventures (PEV) raises $1 million; plans to build next-generation startups

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Purple Elephant Ventures, a Kenya-based startup that is focused on the travels and tourism industry, has raised $1 million in its pre-seed funding round.

The pre-seed funding, which the startup intends to use to build next-generation startups that use technology to modernize the tourism sector, had leading participations from Klister Credit Corp., and Canadian investment firm, The Untours Foundation.

The funding also had participations from a number of angel investors, including Fede Pirzio-Biroli, founder of Playfair Capital; Ian McCaig, former CEO of lastminute.com and M-Kopa board member; Anthony Rock, president of Rock Impact Capital; Rich Hoops, executive director at Impact Capital; Jim Villanueva, managing director of Global Partnerships Social Venture Fund, and Helena Riese Harstad, co-founder and chair of the Optimizer Foundation.

One of the plans of Purple Elephant Ventures (PEV) is to utilize the funds on founding four startups that will operate within tourism, climate and technology sectors. So far, the startup has founded Nomad Africa, and Elephant Bookings.

Nomad Africa is a content-to-commerce business that informs Africa’s domestic tourism market about sustainable and local travel experiences. The other startup, Elephant Bookings, is a B2B business that helps African hospitality providers become more efficient by getting them online.

PEV was founded in 2020 by Ben Peterson, Mikul Shah, and Jan van der Does de Willebois. The startup was founded just a little before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, however, that was not enough to stop PEV, as the startup went ahead to launch Nomad Africa and Elephant Bookings.

“I think what’s exciting for the team is all of the possibilities to digitize tourism for a greener future. And one of the great advantages of working in a studio is that we get to play around with new innovative ideas all the time. We have what we call ideation sessions, where we have very structured conversations around examining the tourism industry from the perspective of building businesses that will help reduce the carbon footprint of Africa’s tourism industry,” CEO, Ben Peterson, said.

Speaking on PEV’s reason to focus on tourism, and not other budding sectors, Peterson said that tourism is one of Africa’s biggest sectors, and it is odd that many companies are not looking that way.

“There are thousands of startups in agriculture, FinTech, energy and health — all the major sectors of the African economy, but very few in tourism, and only a handful have raised capital. This is despite the fact that tourism is one of the largest sectors on the continent. […] It sort of struck me as odd so I started looking into why that is the case, and at the end of the day I came to the conclusion that it is a massive industry with real margins but it is completely stuck in the 1970s in the way that it operates. Most tourism organizations barely have any online presence. You even go to the websites of the most expensive Safari lodges and you can’t even book a room. You have to email or call an agent and it takes multiple steps to actually make a booking,” Peterson said.

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