Launching and running a technology startup in Africa can prove to be a tricky affair, with numerous challenges facing founders and their teams as they dream big and create solution with the end game of being profitable and ensuring a return to investors.
Now imagine the challenges that face incubators or accelerators whose business is to guide and stabilize these startups and release them well equipped into the world. Being in the business of startups is challenging and we have seen many initiatives mushroom across Africa, all with a vision to spur innovation and creation of world class companies.
With many having clocked at least six months of existence, the spotlight has been on them to show the “fruits of their labour ”. Two particular outfits in Kenya are seemingly ahead of the pack in graduating their first class of “students”, or at least taking them to the next level of business in what has been an experiment of sorts to test sustainable business models and creating ecosystems for innovation and entrepreneurship.
Investment firm 88mph who are behind the Startup Garage have seen some traction in their investment portfolio whose more prominent “students” are Tusquee Systems; a school management platform , Drugs.co.ke; a mix of online and brick and mortar pharmaceutical solutions outfit and Futaa.com; a local football news portal for the Kenyan, Nigerian, and Ugandan markets. Futaa.com recently closed a second round of funding worth USD 300,000 lead by investors from Nigeria.
Nailab a tech incubation hub is graduated their first class of startups this August (2012), and started recruiting their second class soon after. They have seen their systems tried and tested to produce companies that are well on their way to greater success with a firm foundation of business sense from peer interaction and critique as well as exposure to mentors, high-level training and knowledge transfer from consultants from Accenture and the One Percent Club. Their student roll includes – Ghafla; an entertainment portal, Card Planet; who make microchip cards for tertiary institutions integrating a wide array of functions, Weza Tele; a mobile commerce platform provider for the retail sector ; Mprep ; taking a swipe at the challenges of delivering quality education to the masses, Brite Skills; democratizing knowledge transfer, Ukall; with business process automation solutions; Vive Visuals; helping brands communicate more efficiently via motion graphics and the Creative Community Networks that provides customized business solutions to the creative industry.
These “startups” in the startup business are proving that it is indeed possible to create ecosystems that support innovation and entrepreneurship. It is my hope that all the other players will hit similar if not better numbers as the end result will serve to position Africa as a net producer of value that can be exported, creating both employment and generating much needed revenue whose sole raw material is and has been our creative capital.