VENTURES AFRICA – Hot on the heels of competitions such as IPO48 and Pivot East, seed investment fund 88mph is to run an intensive three month accelerator program in order to invest $200,000 in between eight and fifteen startups by mid-September.
88mph is the first accelerator program in Africa, and invested $180,000 in seven Kenyan startups last year, including the successful M-Farm.
Now the accelerator is looking to redouble its efforts by running a longer, more intense program. With Africa having a larger population than the United States and 50 per cent of the population being under 25 years old, 88mph has spotted an opportunity to gain from this combination of large market, young population and opportunities within the mobile/web industry by seeking out ambitious young techies hungry for funding. They are seeking startups that can scale across English-speaking Africa. Local applications are in demand in Africa, with mobile internet spreading across the continent at a great speed. 274 million Africans are now on Edge or 3G.
88mph founder Kresten Buch believes that Africa is the next big arena for investors, offering better opportunities for investors than the United States and Europe.
“Looking 2-5 years ahead, the US and Europe will be stagnating at best,” he said. “I think the biggest opportunities for return on investment will be in Africa and other emerging markets. Our accelerator program is a great opportunity for international tech entrepreneurs and returning diaspora to come, take advantage of the insane growth here, and work on solving some really interesting problems.”
The company will provide office space, local networks, market knowledge and cash to the chosen startups, and is open to applicants from everywhere. “One of the reasons for the success of other tech/investment ecosystems, like Silicon Valley, has been the influx and mix of talent and ideas from across continents and cultures”, said Nikolai Barnwell, program manager at 88mph.
88mph has previously hosted two investment events in Kenya, running the IPO48 boot-camps, 48-hour events that resulted in an investment in M-Farm as well as six further startups. They are not the only organisation organising competitions in Kenya to try and unearth local tech talent and content. Nokia East Africa hosted a two-day mobile application development competition at the end of June, challenging participants to develop innovative and sustainable apps for the Nokia platform. 100 developers gathered for 48 hours on 23 and 24 June to compete against each other in app development.
These are the latest in a line of competitions for app developers in Kenya, another prominent example being Pivot East, and focus on providing a platform for partnerships between developers and corporate brands. Though there have been 10 million Nokia Store downloads so far in Kenya, only 15 of the 530 apps available belong to local companies. In the face of calls for multinationals to offer support to local developers, the event was conceived in order to develop apps that can satisfy a growing desire for phone applications in Kenya, with mobile data and internet subscriptions on the rise, and 99 per cent of internet subscribers accessing the net from their mobile.
“Through Nokia Hack, we want to recognize and reward local app developers by giving them a platform to create their best apps with Qt,” said Peter Karimi, Business Development Manager for Nokia East Africa. “We will also work closely with them to refine the apps for publishing on Nokia Store and have already seen great traction in East Africa and globally for downloads of these smartphone apps.” As with the 88mph competition, the competition winners received funding.
The competitions serve a valuable purpose, with the Kenyan government perceived to be doing little to help young techies make their innovations a reality due to lack of finances. In the face of this perceived indifference, multinationals have been called upon to help young developers fulfil their potential, most notably by Capital FM CEO Chris Kirubi.
“If we all come together to help young students, to give them the correct platform for app development, I believe that the app stores will be encouraged to take them up and they will be downloaded by many Kenyans,” Kirubi said.