Africa’s startup ecosystem has been actively growing in recent years and attracting attention of large institutions and bright entrepreneurs as a highly potent market. In addition to banks and talented workforce, there are also dedicated accelerator programs easing the way for innovation into one of the largest unserved market dropped out of sight of the financial system. Let’s look at some of them.
Sw7 (Start with Seven) is the largest mentor-led tech innovation accelerator in Africa with over 85 tech founder CEOs mentoring, creating access to market & to funders. The accelerator provides regular meetups in addition to group & individual mentoring sessions. Sw7 has partnered with Microsoft BizSpark & Standard Bank Incubator to offer Sw7 Accelerate for Technology & high growth Innovation markets at Workshop17, The V&A, Waterfront, Cape Town.
The BizSpark South Africa program offers startups software, support and hosting over a three-year cycle, at no cost to members. The program is designed to help startups through various stages of the product development – from the initial idea right through to an established successful product. Not only do South African startups get all the benefits of the global program, including software and hosting, but also a myriad of enhanced benefits such as business advice, mentoring and technical guidance and more.
Hatched in 2010, Nest is a full-service, early-stage venture capital firm focused on helping startups and talented founders from around the world build businesses that apply and commercialize innovation. Nest partners with leading corporations to run a series of mentor-driven accelerators. Designed to support the needs of high-potential and fast-growth startups, these programs include a unique mix of resources that enable entrepreneurs to build and scale their businesses rapidly. Nest was founded in Hong Kong and has a presence in Singapore, Nairobi, London, Paris and New York.
The Barclays Accelerator Program is a 13-week program in partnership with Techstars. Barclays provides tools, equipment and facilities for startups. In conjunction with Techstars, they provide dedicated mentorship for select startups and entrepreneurs. The accelerator program was initially launched in London and is now being run also in New York, Cape Town and Tel Aviv.
AlphaCode – a collaborative club for entrepreneurs in next-generation financial services based in Sandton, South Africa. Fully funded by the RMI, AlphaCode doesn’t charge entrepreneurs for membership. However, there are four membership models for startups of various sizes and stages of development. The memberships range from green entry level up to diamond. The hub provides a platform for members to engage and work alongside experienced entrepreneurs, technology investors and industry experts, resulting in accelerated growth and access to market. It offers office space and a clubhouse for entrepreneurs, an active online community and regular networking opportunities. The AlphaCode concept is modeled on Level39, London’s Canary Wharf FinTech development hub, which is one of the world’s leading FinTech hubs.
Savannah Fund is a seed capital fund specializing in US$25,000–US$500,000 investments in early-stage high-growth technology (web and mobile) startups in sub-Saharan Africa. A key piece of the fund’s overall strategy is to address the skills and experience gap of entrepreneurs in the region through the Accelerator Program. An accelerator program is designed to help emerging entrepreneurs build a company and launch a product. Early-stage companies participate in ‘cohorts’ and be exposed to a program to learn from experienced local and high value and reputable mentors that have built global technology brands that are also very hands on as would be expected by angel investors.
BongoHive is Zambia’s first technology and innovation hub. Established in May 2011 and based in Lusaka, the co-founders, all enthusiastic programmers, sought to address the gaps they experienced working within the local technology industry leading to a lack of coordination, skills exposure and productivity. BongoHive has evolved to assist scalable startups of any background by enhancing skills, accelerating growth, strengthening networks, increasing collaboration, providing a forum for ideas exchange and reducing the barriers to entrepreneurship.
ActivSpaces is a tech hub that runs centers aimed at providing resources to technology startups. ActivSpaces runs two programs, an incubation program and an acceleration program. The incubator supports startups by providing them with an office space, internet connection, business coaching, and a community of likeminded individuals and experts. The accelerator program helps startups to secure investments by aligning them with mentors, assisting them in incorporation, assisting them in driving growth, and providing seed funding for their operations. Startups are also being introduced to a network of investors.
The Grindstone Accelerator is a structured entrepreneurship development program that assists high-growth innovation-driven companies to become sustainable and fundable. Grindstone supplies 10 companies annually with knowledge, networks and funding readiness through growth measurement, gap analysis and deep interventions designed to build a foundation for growth, transfer skills, create relevant business networks and enable these companies to take advantage of market access opportunities. Business support resources and services will include elements of training, corporate advisory, coaching, mentorship and funding. Specific interventions for each company include doing a due diligence assessment, building a partner universe, developing pitch decks and teaser documents, financial modelling, intellectual property assessment, strategic and financial valuation as well as populating a data room.
Passion Incubator provides innovative entrepreneurs with the most critical resources to launch lean startups that can grow fast and where success can be quickly institutionalized. Passion Incubator is open to a wide array of entrepreneurs. Anyone with a clear business idea that solves a large scale problem will be considered. Passion Incubator, and its core product development team, will build the initial versions (Minimum Viable Product) for each founder team; enabling the founder teams focus on business development early so their startups can quickly gain traction.
STARTUP 90 manages sector-based Accelerator Programs. The Startup Accelerator Program is a three-month accelerator program that assists companies to bring technological innovations to market, validate products and gain traction. The Startup Accelerator Program primary focus is on startup and early-stage businesses. As the company states on the official website, “We are looking for exceptional businesses that are using technological innovations to solve challenges in their communities and countries. We manage sector-focused accelerator programs in the Finance, Healthcare, Agriculture & Energy sectors.” The accelerator’s core services to high-growth businesses include the following: growth strategy, mentorship, business development support and business linkages.
The iHub catalyzes the growth of the Kenyan tech community by connecting people, supporting startups, and surfacing information. iHub is part open community space, a part vector for investors and VCs, and part incubator. “We include all parties in the ecosystem, supporting startups throughout their innovation journey and connecting them with opportunities through our initiatives. We want to be at the forefront of igniting the growth of successful company after successful company.”
CcHUB is Nigeria’s first open living lab and pre-incubation space designed to be a multifunctional, multipurpose space where work to catalyze creative social tech ventures take place. The HUB is a place for technologists, social entrepreneurs, government, tech companies, impact investors and hackers in and around Lagos to co-create new solutions to the many social problems in Nigeria.
Springlab is a technology incubator and Joint Venture partner headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa. The lab supplies a seed capital and resources to qualifying startups, supports core functions (marketing, software development, and administrative functions) so entrepreneurs can focus on executing their idea and offers state-of-the-art office space in Cape Town among other benefits.
The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) and the MEST Incubator program provide training, investment and mentoring for aspiring technology entrepreneurs with the goal of creating globally successful companies that create wealth and jobs locally in Africa. Established in Ghana in 2008, MEST offers aspiring African entrepreneurs a fully sponsored twelve-month, intensive full-time program. Sourced from top graduates in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya & South Africa, these Entrepreneurs-In-Training (EITs) are selected each year and receive comprehensive training across the spectrum of skills required to build successful tech businesses, including computer programming, software development, product management, finance, marketing, sales and leadership best practices. After completion of the program, the EITs have the opportunity to pitch a concept. Winning teams receive a seed round from the MEST incubator to pursue their idea.
The list is certainly not exhaustive and there are much more entities working to grow and develop Africa’s startup ecosystem and help talented entrepreneurs to bring their innovative ideas to market.