Microsoft Fast-Tracks African Startups with Innovation Grants
Microsoft has revealed the seven new African startups to receive funding, technical support and mentorship to fast-track their growth and provide a roadmap to highlight Africa’s ‘future growth pole’.
The announcement was made at the Microsoft 4Afrika Advisory Council meeting in Nairobi and is the second round of grants to be issued under the 4Afrika innovation grant programme, following the five startups selected at the beginning of 2014.
One of the goals of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is to accelerate African innovation, ensuring that entrepreneurs continue to grow their businesses and solutions. In turn, they will create jobs, encourage skills development and grow the continent’s knowledge economy.
“The world is looking for the next growth pole and Africa is positioned to be exactly that. As investors assess industries and sectors to fund, there is a keen interest in exploring the future multinational companies that will come out of Africa,” said Fernando de Sousa, general Manager of Africa Initiatives at Microsoft.
“These are the startups and SMEs of today, which we aim to help grow to their full potential through smart financing.”
Each innovation grant winner will receive financial endowment and access to Microsoft platforms, while Microsoft will also provide each startup with one-on-one mentorship.
De Sousa continued: “It is critical to provide individualised support over and above funding. All startups have different needs, speeds at which they scale and unique market challenges that require tailored, individualised support.”
In addition, to ensure the scalability of these startups, Microsoft will also connect grant winners with relevant partners to enable them commercialise their solutions.
The following seven startups were selected based on their uniqueness and scalability among other factors:
· Ukall (Kenya) – Ukall is an ICT company that automates business processes, allowing companies and businesses to run more efficiently. Their mobile application ‘Akida’ addresses the challenges of staff attendance verification.
· Cojengo (East Africa) – Based on the Swahili word ‘Kujenga’, Cojengo creates mobile and cloud solutions that address animal and human health issues. Their ‘VetAfrica’ app helps farmers diagnose livestock disease and share disease surveillance data.
· MobiPay (Kenya) – MobiPay facilitates commerce and trade through mobile devices in the SME, agricultural and remittance sectors. Their AgriLife solution helps farmers access market opportunities, receive financing and get information on how best to grow, manage and market their produce.
· iTaxi.ma (Morocco) – iTaxi.ma is a mobile application that lets users book, track and rate taxis within Morocco. The app uses geo-location technology, allowing users to send their location and transport details to available taxi drivers in the area and track their progress.
· AfNov (Rwanda) – AfNov is a software development company. Their mobile application ‘Ikaye y'umudugudu’ allows users to report their community challenges and conflicts to government. In addition, users can track development and progress within government institutions, ensuring accountability and enhanced development.
· BookNow (Kenya) – BookNow is a mobile system that allows Kenyan’s to buy bus tickets online, providing secure mobile money and card payment options and enabling customers to avoid long queues.
· MMINDZS (Uganda) – MMINDZS develops and exploits technology and technology-driven processes for African SMEs and local businesses. One of their first solutions was a mobile money-ready accounting system for the SME.
"The Microsoft 4Afrika initiative gives startups like BookNow access to smart capital, helping startup businesses to grow without needing to relinquish control of their company or seek expensive capital,” said Francis Gesora, co-founder of BookNow. “This helps us improve our competitive factor and achieve our scaling targets faster."
Craig Taylor, CEO of Cojengo added: “The innovation grant puts Cojengo in a very strong position for the future. It helps us continue to deliver innovative solutions that address global challenges.”
The seven solutions were selected based on their uniqueness and scalability among other factors.
“We’re supporting startups that have developed their solutions beyond the idea stage. They are either in the process of acquiring their first batch of clients or well under way in expanding their existing portfolio of clients,” says Fernando de Sousa. “All startups have created solutions that are addressing key sectors fuelling growth across the continent.”
NetNumber: Time for a cloud-native transformation
NetNumber is accelerating the transition in the telecom industry to 5G as it starts a shift to cloud-native architecture to address the fast-paced demands of global subscribers and businesses.
NetNumber is offering the industry’s first cloud-native platform designed to ensure InterGENerational™ network performance addresses both the legacy and next-generation requirements of telecom networks.
“NetNumber has developed the industry’s most robust cloud-native, InterGENerational platform that addresses both the legacy and 5G requirements of telcos,” said Matt Rosenberg, Chief Revenue Officer of NetNumber.
The platform provides vertical and horizontal scale-out with low latency, coupled with a suite of data replication capabilities, which provide flexible architectural options that can evolve with the changing network over time.
“Cloud-based solutions from other vendors tend to be limited in terms of supporting particular network generations or protocols. We’ve created our latest platform TITAN.IUM to allow customers to take any generation of applications, any generation of legacy services and protocols and move them into the new world of cloud-native architecture,” said Rosenberg.
“This is a really important part for a carrier to harmonise their network, bring data services together, bring legacy with new together in order to make a more effective and efficient network, as well as reduce their cost as they scale forward,” he said.
Established in 1999, NetNumber has fostered a strong team environment that leverages the industry’s best skills to offer software solutions tailored for carriers of all dimensions. Based outside of Boston and with presence in over 20 countries, the company delivers a range of products that address all generations (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G) of network functions in the core network, deep rooted security products and services, STIR/ SHAKEN and set of options around data services in more than 90 countries.
Steeped in experience in building telecom solutions, software, protocol stacks, and integration of third party tools, the company’s development organisation has proven to supply to the industry with the most reliable and flexible solutions on the market.
“At NetNumber, we focus on our core competencies – we are dedicated to providing industry expertise in signaling, routing, security, subscriber management and data services. We provide customers a strong ROI through platform-based solutions that reduce Capex and Opex in the long-term,” commented Rosenberg.
Five reasons why customers choose NetNumber:
- Expertise - NetNumber has experts with deep knowledge in signaling/routing, security, and subscriber database management.
- Integration - An industry-first platform brings together domain services, applications, security, and global data services.
- Scale - NetNumber has the ability to seamlessly increase network efficiency using vertical and horizontal scaling.
- Speed - World-class solutions have the power to help companies create new service offerings and accelerate time to ROI.
- Savings - Customers enjoy significant savings in capex and opex, flexible deployment models, and investment protection.
NetNumber and Virgin Mobile MEA
“We're very proud of our partnership with Virgin Mobile MEA as they've taken the concept of the InterGENerational platform into their regional network strategy,” commented Rosenberg. “That’s accelerated how they develop exceptional services across the Middle East and Africa region.
“We work with them hand-in-hand to deliver multiple applications onto our platform which has enabled them to provide exceptional, advanced and innovative services to their customers across the Middle East, who demand high quality services.
“What they've really taken advantage of is scale. What I mean by that is they are putting multiple generations of applications and services onto the same platform and distributing that data across their network. That has resulted in an advantageous position of time to market and operational savings.
“Rather than having different applications for many different vendors that cause operational chaos, they've been able to consolidate that and reduce their operating costs by having everything on one common architecture. We’ve had a long-term relationship with Virgin Mobile in Saudi Arabia, and recently signed an agreement with Virgin Mobile in Kuwait.”
Rosenberg says that with these solutions, Virgin Mobile MEA can take advantage of getting to the market much quicker and faster—which is what today’s discerning customer demands.