Naspers’s R1.4bn startup fund, Naspers Foundry, has invested R30m in SA technology startup SweepSouth, which operates an online cleaning services platform.

This is the fund’s first investment since Naspers announced its creation in October 2018 at SA’s inaugural investment conference.

Naspers, which has become Africa’s biggest public company thanks to its investment in China’s Tencent, said at the time that the fund would invest in companies “seeking to address big societal needs”, with a large chunk of funding set to go towards black-owned start-ups.

SweepSouth, co-founded in 2014 by Aisha Pandor and Alen Ribic, “has created jobs for more than 10,000 people”, Naspers said. The platform connects clients to pre-vetted cleaners in SA. 

Pandor said the investment would help SweepSouth expand into other home services and to grow beyond the SA market.

Retail Capital CEO Karl Westvig said on Thursday SA’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector has been taking significant strain in the past couple of years due to rising costs and weak demand.

“We would welcome added investment in the SME sector and lower utility costs. Government needs to support SMEs through access to finance, a lower regulatory burden and lower electricity and fuel costs.”  

Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk said the group’s start-up fund aims to announce other deals in SA “in the coming months”, adding that Naspers would also continue investing in its existing operations in SA, including Takealot, Superbalist, Mr D Food, OLX, Autotrader SA, Property24, and Media24.

Another investment by Naspers, in local vehicle-purchasing service WeBuyCars, is at risk of being blocked by SA’s competition authorities. The Competition Commission said in May it had recommended to the Competition Tribunal that the deal be “prohibited” as it could lead to higher used-car prices in SA.

Naspers announced the deal in September 2018, saying it would invest R1.4bn in the company.