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.”