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How we made it in Africa’s Due Diligence series asks top players in Africa’s private equity industry about how they are mastering the art and science of profitable dealmaking and fundraising. Doing the due diligence on those who do due diligence for a living.

Where did it all begin?

I started my career with Investec inside the Private Client and Investment Banking team. We serviced wealthy families with net asset values of R250m (US$21.4m) or more and managed both sides of their balance sheets. I then ended up working in a niche looking after some of the bigger, well-known black families, who were involved in a lot of the black empowerment transactions in the early to mid-2000s.

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From there I left to join Absa Wealth. At that point in time it was quite clear to me that I was sitting on the wrong side of the conversation with my clients. I had a strong enough track record and CV, and was quite young (29 in 2011), second child on the way, and thought there’s never going to be a ‘right time’ so let me just close my eyes and jump.

I founded Nisela Capital in 2011 and we focused on doing advisory work to high-net-worth individuals and family offices. We raised a relatively small amount of money initially just to get us going and we invested in a few opportunities in South Africa and some in Zimbabwe, mostly in the agri-processing and mining-processing fields.

Describe your greatest challenge in establishing Nisela capital.

The biggest issue we had was building up a track record. What we found is that if you want to be successful in private equity in Africa you must have satellite offices and dedicate staff in-country. We were covering Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique as well as South Africa. But we were a team of three and we weren’t able to do justice in any of those markets via remote control from South Africa.

I sold off the African piece of the business to two former partners. That was almost like a reset button and one of the smartest decisions I have made because from there the growth has been quite rapid. Luck has also played a part as many of my longstanding relationships came to the fore.

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