Crasner Ventures backs ‘worker-first’ social network Umwuga for its second investment

London, UK, May 2021Crasner Ventures, the early-stage venture capital investor that supports businesses led by female founders and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, announces its investment in Umwuga Ltd, an emerging markets-focused social network that connects workers and employers. Umwuga is Crasner Ventures’ second portfolio company.

Umwuga is revolutionising the recruitment industry in emerging markets, by enabling workers to connect and communicate on their own terms, showcase their abilities, experience and personality and engage and negotiate directly with prospective employers. The platform opens up employment opportunities to those often excluded by a recruitment industry and social networks designed predominately for white-collar workers. It also helps employers by giving them access, without paying agents, to candidates who have been recommended by people they trust.

Launched in December 2020, the company is led by its founder Nasi Rwigema, a London Business School MBA with a background in private equity, renewable energy and aeronautics. Umwuga means ‘career’ in Kinyarwanda, the language of Nasi’s paternal home country Uganda.

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In line with Crasner Ventures’ investment strategy, Umwuga will be supercharged by the venture platform’s pioneering ‘three-layer capital’ model, which provides funds, valuable sector knowledge and lucrative relationships. This three-layer model has been fundamental to the success of Crasner Ventures’ first investment, associate-level legal recruitment business Kissoon Carr, which Crasner Ventures backed in 2016.

Umwuga is ideally positioned to bring its advances in technology, accessibility and efficiency to a jobs market that is expected to rebound with recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and that continues to experience a wave of digital adoption. In targeted territories, both internet access and the use of social media for work and job searching are on the rise at all skill levels, further increasing the need for Umwuga’s service.

Already operating in South Africa, the company plans to expand its offering across Africa, before entering Latin America and South-east Asia, as well.

Nick Crasner, the venture firm’s founder and a pioneer in diversity-orientated venture capital, will employ his unique combination of experience, knowledge and far-reaching network to support Umwuga. Mr. Crasner is also the Chairman of Crasner Capital, an award-winning boutique investment bank he founded in 2014, which advises on mergers and acquisitions in emerging markets, and the Founding Partner of Crasner Consulting, a pre-eminent retained search and management consulting firm that supports international law firms.

“Nasi is an entrepreneur with great ambition. He was looking for more than financial capital to facilitate his plans for Umwuga, which made Crasner Ventures a natural choice,” said Nick Crasner, who at 27 became the youngest person in the UK to own a regulated investment bank. “Umwuga is leading a revolution in the way job seekers find work and the way employers hire the best people. I look forward to being a part of this revolution and to supporting Nasi and his team.”

Katie Faulds, Vice President across the Crasner group of businesses, said: “I am excited for Nasi and Umwuga. First-time founders backed by Nick and Crasner Ventures enjoy support, guidance, contacts and access to knowledge, that are otherwise hard to come by. This puts them in a unique position which is proven to yield results. What’s most exciting is that this second investment hits our sweet spot in terms of sector alignment. Our experience in the recruitment industry, coupled with Nick’s knowledge of and contacts in emerging markets, will bring major value as the business grows.”

Nasi Rwigema, CEO of Umwuga, said: “I was impressed by Nick’s track record as an entrepreneur – his compellingly ethical approach, his passion for diversity and inclusion and his experience in emerging markets. We share a mission to create economic opportunity through disruptive technologies that more effectively distribute value to the fast-growing middle class in emerging markets.

“The phenomenal growth that Nick orchestrated at Kissoon Carr, his first portfolio investment, highlights the impact of his involvement as a value-add investor,” added Mr Rwigema, who first met Nick in 2019 when Nick addressed MBA students and professionals on emerging markets entrepreneurship at the London Business School Africa Summit.

Crasner Ventures was born out of Nick Crasner’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and his realisation that profits generated by his two successful businesses could support entrepreneurs often overlooked by traditional sources of funding. The platform orchestrates investment in sectors where Nick’s expertise and experience can prove advantageous, including recruitment, technology, legal and financial services and banking. Funding can take the form of equity or debt, with a capital structure tailored in cooperation with the entrepreneur.