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5 of the Most Promising African Startups to Watch in 2016

A website focused on sharing news and information regarding startup businesses, Disrupt Africa recently published a list of African companies that it believes will make significant strides in 2016. The following are among the startups that made the cut.

DabaDoc

dabadoc logoExpanding into Tunisia and Algeria in May 2015, DabaDoc has also launched operations in Nigeria and South Africa since its establishment in 2014 in Morocco. It was founded by siblings Zineb Drissi Kaitouni and Driss Drissi Kaitouni. DabaDoc, the winner of the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) competition in Casablanca, allows patients to search for physicians in their area and make an appointment online. In addition, the website gives doctors a platform to manage their appointments, and doctors are also able to use its software in conjunction with their existing scheduling platforms. DabaDoc has been featured in Forbes and on France 24 and is the largest online medical appointment booking platform on the continent. The free service maintains a database of thousands of doctors, who are searchable by specialty and location. Patients have access to doctors specializing in 72 fields in 50 different cities.

SafeMotos

safe motos logoEstablishing a safer environment for motorcycle taxis and passengers, SafeMotos is similar to Uber in that people can use the app to find a motorcycle driver to transport them from one location to another. However, SafeMotos drivers must install smartphones on their motorcycles to gather data regarding their driving habits. The app automatically weeds out poor drivers by pushing them to the outskirts of the system. As a result, passengers have access to safer drivers. The app, as of mid-2015, had 15 registered drivers and was on pace to have a total of 400 by the end of the year. SafeMotos has a goal of raising $120,000 in capital and has already obtained $85,000. The company is currently active in Rwanda and expects to launch in other African countries in the near future. In addition, SafeMotos has received recognition from numerous media outlets, including CNBC Africa, Silicon Republic, TechCrunch, and The Guardian.

CladLight

chad light logoAnother startup focused on transportation is CladLight. Founded in 2013 and led by chief executive officer Charles Muchene, the company received backing from Kenyan startup accelerator Nailab and a crowdfunding campaign. Its flagship product, a smart jacket, is designed for motorcyclists and features LED signal transmitters on the back of the jacket that alert others on the road when the wearer brakes or wants to turn left or right. Enhancing the visibility of riders, the jacket also comes equipped with a GPS tracker and can be worn over other riding clothes by adjusting the straps. In addition, the product is resistant to water and dust, making it suitable for all road conditions. As of June 2015, CladLight had pilot-tested its jacket. With $41,000 in funding, the company had a target goal of manufacturing 500 jackets by the end of 2015. Its CEO aims to sell the product to bike retail stores, motorcycle assembly plants, and insurance companies.

SweepSouth

sweep south logoIn just over a year, South African startup SweepSouth reached its operational break-even point when it was able to charge customers $3 per hour for home cleaning services. What started as a self-funded business has flourished into a promising enterprise that has grown at a rate of 60 to 100 percent each month. The success of its operations caught the attention of investors from Newton Partners, Pule Taukobong’s AAN, and the Identity Development Fund managed by Polo Leteka Radebe. The three entities provided the crucial first round of funding to help the company scale its operations. SweepSouth currently provides home cleaning services in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Centurion, and Pretoria. Customers can book services through the company’s easy-to-use website at any time, using any device with an Internet connection. SweepSouth’s professional cleaners undergo a vetting process before becoming insured with the company. Customers can expect to pay, on average, $12 per day of cleaning. Specific services range from mopping and dusting to folding clothes and emptying trash bins, and customers can also choose to add additional tasks, such as ironing clothing and cleaning the refrigerator.

meQasa

meqasa logoBased in Ghana, meQasa is a platform that allows real estate professionals to connect with prospective buyers, sellers, and renters of residential and commercial properties. The site, supported by the incubator MEST, is similar to the American website Zillow in that it allows people to create dynamic property profiles, with photos and details about amenities, for real estate for sale or lease. A free service, meQasa is designed to work with mobile devices as well. It only connects prospective buyers and renters with trusted agents to complete transactions. Additionally, the company maintains a customer service line accessible through phone, email, and text. In 2015, meQasa obtained $500,000 in venture capital backing from Malaysian-based Frontier Digital Ventures to accelerate its mobile and web services.

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7 of the Best Tech Startups that Launched in Nigeria

In 2015, $49.4 million was invested in Nigerian technology startups. Additionally, companies based in Nigeria received the most support from Venture Capital for Africa (VC4Africa), an organization dedicated to funding new businesses. Read on to discover some of the best tech companies that were founded in the country.

1. YNaija

ynaija logoCatering to young Nigerians, YNaija is an online newspaper that publishes articles on current news, entertainment, politics, technology, and fashion, among other topics. The media outlet, a brand within the omni-media group RED, encourages the public to send in tips about interesting stories that can be featured on the site and also has a blogger platform that helps up-and-coming writers build a portfolio.

YNaija utilizes a point system to rank bloggers based on published articles and page views. The points accumulate each month and determine which writers receive a featured position, which increases their visibility to the public.

2. Jobberman

Jobberman logoHelping decrease unemployment by connecting job seekers with employers, Jobberman serves as a leading recruitment site in Sub-Saharan Africa. The company has history dating back to 2009, when it was founded by a Nigerian college student. In 2015, Google for Entrepreneur’s Startup Grind reported that the job search engine received more than 1.5 million visitors per month.

During the same year, the company’s success resulted in its acquisition by One Africa Media. Jobberman is now a part of the media company, which is partly owned by the largest online employment marketplace, SEEK. The company continues to serve as a job search engine and also offers services through its subsidiaries, Jobberman Consulting, Jobberman Testing, Jobberman Learning, and Workcenta.

3. IROKOtv

irokotv logoIROKOtv gives audiences the ability to stream Nollywood films and television series. The company, which is similar to Netflix, has become a notable African technology brand and is the largest online service for African entertainment. It receives backing from Tiger Global, a United States-based hedge fund. Additionally, the firm has garnered more than $30 million in support since its inception in 2010, when Manchester University graduate Jason Njoku began purchasing online licenses for Nollywood films to share on YouTube.

Special watch lists created by IROKOtv staff ensure users have access to the best films and TV series available. Streaming entertainment through IROKOtv’s Android app is available as well. Further, users can download content to watch offline at their leisure.

4. DealDey

DealDey logoFounded in 2011, DealDey provides consumers discounts of up to 90 percent on products and services by partnering with local businesses. The company guarantees all promoted items come from quality vendors. The site is free to use, but registration is required. Once signed in, a consumer can shop listed deals and complete their transaction using one of three payment options.

For convenience, purchased items are typically delivered directly to the consumer. Pickups at designated locations can also be arranged. Service-related deals or those requiring redemption come in the form of coupons that can be easily downloaded from the user’s DealDey account when ready. Redeeming coupons requires contacting the merchant to arrange delivery of services.

5. WhoGoHost

whogohost logoSupporting WordPress and Joomla sites, WhoGoHost provides web hosting and domain registration services. The business, founded by Opeyemi Awoyemi, launched in 2007 and became an incorporated company four years later. It maintains accreditation as an apps reseller through Google and partners with Cloudflare and Interswitch. By providing quality service, which is available in and outside Nigeria, WhoGoHost now stands among the top three web hosting companies in the country.

Other services accessible through WhoGoHost include SiteLock and web design. The former is a cloud-based security solution that safeguards data stored and websites owned by small- and medium-sized businesses. The latter leverages the expertise of designers and developers to create a website that communicates effectively to targeted audiences.

6. Hotels.ng

hotels.ng logoEstablished in late 2012, Hotels.ng received financial support from SPARK in 2013, which made it possible for the startup to grow into a prominent online hotel booking agency. In 2015, the website had an estimated population of 170 million users. Its success caught the attention of venture capitalists representing the EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund and Omidyar Network and resulted in $1.2 million in Series A funding.

Today, Hotels.ng helps travelers book accommodations at more than 7,100 hotels in 334 cities throughout Nigeria. The company offers exceptional customer service that ensures booking hotel rooms online is accomplished with ease. Upon selecting a room, users can choose to prepay their reservation or pay upon arrival.

7. Jumia Nigeria (Jumia)

jumia logoDubbed the “African Amazon” and owned by the Africa Internet Group, Jumia extends its services to eight additional countries outside Nigeria. The company has received multimillion-dollar backing from Summit Partners and grown its workforce to 1,500 employees.

Jumia stocks in excess of 100,000 products, and the brands Innjoo and St. Genevieve were exclusively launched on the site. The two join other popular brands, including Apple, Samsung, Vera Moda, and AX Paris. Among the startup’s most prestigious achievements to date was winning the world retail awards. Received in 2013, the accolade was the first time an African-based business won the award.

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3 of the Best Pitch Events for Startups in Africa

Although Africa’s entrepreneurial scene has grown at a rapid pace in recent years, the challenge of obtaining venture capital remains. Fortunately, entrepreneurs looking to launch a new enterprise can attend a variety of pitch events, where they can share their business ideas before an audience of investors. The following competitions are among the most popular:

DEMO Africademo-africa-2015A collaboration between the US Department of State, DEMO, USAID, Microsoft, and Startup Weekend, the Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@frica) created DEMO Africa in 2012 to give emerging entrepreneurs a global platform through which to share their products. The annual pitch event caters to technology-focused businesses and offers individuals a chance to meet influential representatives of the tech eco-system, ranging from venture capitalists to information technology buyers. Representatives come from various industries, such as agriculture, entertainment, waste management, and banking.

DEMO Africa’s 2015 event included 30 startups from across the continent.  Parties interested in pitching at an upcoming DEMO Africa event have an opportunity to apply through their university or college. The organization is accepting 10 individuals or groups, who have an innovative alpha-stage product. If chosen, the individual or group will receive a full scholarship into the program, which includes mentorship that prepares entrepreneurs for the big stage.

On the day of DEMO Africa, participants will be given 90 seconds to share their product with an audience of top investors and potential customers. In addition, they will receive kiosk space in a pavilion to further educate attendees about their companies. The organization will also provide promotional support to enhance exposure.

Diamond Challenge

Run by StartupAfrica, Diamond Challenge caters to high school students in more than 150 schools in Uganda and Kenya. Teams of students conceptualize new business ideas and pitch them before a panel of judges, comprised of entrepreneurs and business executives, to vie for capital that can be used for launch the venture or fund higher education. Participants are each allotted five minutes to deliver their pitch. Following the presentation, participants must answer questions regarding their concept. Finally, a panel of judges selects the best candidates to move from the preliminary round to the finals.

In 2016, the final round of the Diamond Challenge will take place at the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit (YES!) in Newark, Delaware, on April 15th. It includes two competition tracks: the first focuses on a business concept of a for-profit company, and the second takes into consideration social impact and can include for-profit companies with a mission to spur social change and nonprofit organizations.

Entrepreneurs from around the world, who have been selected in their respective countries, will attend the event to represent their venture and compete to win prizes totaling more than $50,000. In addition to winning cash awards, the summit gives students access to networking events, interactive workshops, and educational breakout sessions led by experienced entrepreneurs. Further, YES! aims to help students improve their business products and entrepreneurial skills by connecting Diamond Challenge finalists with potential customers. Prospective customers can provide valuable feedback for product improvement, thus enhancing a startups’ chance of becoming a viable business.

She Leads Africa’s SheHive

Founded by Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei, She Leads Africa focuses on empowering female entrepreneurs through business development programs and entrepreneurial events. The organization, which has been recognized by CNN, Forbes, and CNBC Africa, created the SheHive professional boot camp to help women improve their business and networking skills. SheHive conferences span three to five days, depending on the location, and offer more than 20 expert-led classes. Workshops topics that range from creating a pitch deck to drawing the attention of prospective investors. Attendees also learn strategies for overcoming setbacks and handling negotiations.

Of all the activities that take place during a SheHive conference, the business pitch competition has plays the most crucial role in helping entrepreneurs obtain funding. The contest matches entrepreneurs with mentors to enhance their business ideas prior to the event. On the day of the competition, each participant pitches his or her idea to a panel of judges, which has previously included the CEO of InVivo Partners and the chairman of Etisalat Nigeria.

The inaugural competition’s winner, Cherae Robinson, won $10,000, which she used to employ a  full-time developer for her beta website Tastemakers Africa.  Going forward, the business pitch competition will be available at various SheHive events, including ones taking place in Abuja and Nairobi.

Agnes Mulewa and her success story. Don’t give up and be positive

African women continue to surprise the world in every aspect of life. Form being survivors of the cruelty in war to starting new businesses and giving back to their community. African women are now at the front of many companies and startups that are now becoming successful.  African women and families have to struggle a lot to reach their dreams, but even so it is possible for each one of them. The story of Agnes Mulewa is about how somebody can overcome obstacles and still reach the goal of having a multimillion business under her watch. This is her story, or at least some of the highlights of it.

Since she was very young odds were not on her favor. She grew up without a father figure and struggling family to pay for education fees. “All these however, did not stop me from becoming somebody in this society” as she says. She started working at the age of 17 and having contact with people from higher economic level who gave her the motivation to look for a brighter future. Even since she was very young, she bought pencils to re-sell them at school for a higher price. She sees herself as a positive person “I believe I am a very positive person, I do not allow anything to bring me down, although emotionally I struggled I believe due to the lack of a father, I pushed on” Business was in her blood, she knew the ups and downs of life  and now she had the motivation.

Students_startups in Africa_Cecilia ibru_Agnes Mulewa
Image courtesy of United Nations Photo at Flickr.com

Agnes has not yet finished the university because she took a break from classes to focus full time on the business. She is now going back to study in May. While taking classes at the university, she realized that she had a lot of free time between classes. She then decided to start doing research on her business idea and get a better picture of it before formally launching the business and start looking for clients.

She then came up with an idea called IBS, International Brands Solutions. IBS is a Market Research company that works at understanding markets and targets and report to their clients whether their products will sell or not, or if it is viable to launch a product or tap into certain market. Most people start businesses assuming they will work in the market, but they do not have accurate information to know if their product is going to be successful or not, or what could be the product´s life cycle on certain market. She then realized while in 2nd year that there was a need to explore research for business purposes for products for new markets and old products that wanted to explore new possibilities. IBS focuses on questions such as Who are the clients selling to? Is there a need in the market? If there is a need, how are clients going to sell? IBS then proposes a marketing strategy for the clients and based on those and many other key questions and in depth research.

The business was registered only in 2015 but had been working for many years before. IBS is not a big company at all and in only six months and with only six employees (A research analyst, a creative officer, an operations officer, an accountant, digital marketer, and a social media officer), according to its latest accounts, it has already made profits of over Sh1 million.

Agnes Mulewa faces challenges like any other company or CEO in any other business. Some of her biggest challenges are that companies are not ready to hear that they need to rebrand or that they cannot sell in certain market despite the numbers and figures;  some companies are not totally convinced of the success of such research and the period of time and budget are not enough for Agnes´ company to complete the mandate. Also, her age sometimes is an issue when it comes to very traditional companies. But the results give a different picture and always attract more clients.

Although she is much respected in the business world, she feels that being young and rich is part of a stereotype for women. She thinks that women in Africa are not prepared for the future because education is not giving them the tools or the direction they need to stand out in society. She thinks girls should give the same attention they give to beauty and fame to education, business knowledge and career advance. She also has a girl empowerment program to mentor those girls who want to get into business.  The audience in this program is mainly women and girls that are discovering what they really want to do in the future with their career choice so they can be prepared to be successful and manage their personal, spiritual and professional wealth the best way possible.

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7 of the Best South African Incubators Improving Entrepreneurship

A hub for entrepreneurs to thrive in their business endeavors, South Africa offers a supportive ecosystem for ventures to gain mentorship, training, and other business development needs. The following seven incubators are making it possible for African startups to achieve their goals:

Razicorp

razicorp logoLed by Allon Raiz, Colin Kapeluschnick, and Alfie Naidoo, Razicorp offers entrepreneurs a safe environment in which to grow their business ventures with the support of mentors. The company, which prefers to be considered a Prosperator, guides growth-hungry entrepreneurs through the process of gaining capital funding, accessing markets, and developing marketing and sales strategies.

The for-profit business incubator also supplies back-office support to ensure program participants have the necessary resources to carry out daily operations successfully. Educational curriculums that promote business growth and a platform to connect with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs are other benefits of joining Razicorp.

Shuttleworth Foundation

Founded by Mark Shuttleworth, a creator of free and open source software (FOSS), the Shuttleworth Foundation provides fellowship programs for social entrepreneurs that seek change through innovation. Its social investment model aims to grow entrepreneurial endeavors by 10 or more times the initially invested amount.

shuttleworth logo

Specifically, the organization upholds the philosophy of openness that will improve access to essential information, thus reinventing how people live. The foundation’s mission of creating positive change challenges the status quo by investing in ventures that support free content and data exchange as well as open access and open source for all. Its entrepreneurs envision a world with no social, technological, and legal restrictions, so the opportunities for replication and innovation are unlimited. They also value collaborative processes that help elevate the success of foundation.

JoziHub

jozihub logoWith backing from Google, ISlabs, and Omidyar, JoziHub is a product of the Praekelt Foundation. As a technology incubator, the Johannesburg-based organization supports entrepreneurs in growing sustainable business models by connecting them with developers to create mobile, internet, and social media technologies that tackle social issues.

Entrepreneurs gain access to open work environments that are interactive and dynamic. In addition, they obtain education and networking opportunities through inspirational events and activities. JoziHub leverages partnerships with 10 organizations, including Google for Entrepreneurs, AfriLabs, and Venture Solutions, and numerous mentors to help each program participant achieve success. As of February, the 2016 cohort includes 27 startups.

Standard Bank

Establishing co-working spaces in Rosebank for startups to learn and grow, Standard Bank launched two incubator programs in 2015. The programs offer traditional educational and training support in areas of business development and acceleration.

standard bank logo

Further, the financial institution helps startups overcome the major barrier of designing and creating prototypes of products.  Its ability to offer a brick and mortar facility to develop, test, and deploy prototypes is unique as many incubators do not extend the service.  This plays a valuable role in gaining financial support from investors and lenders, who typically struggle to assist in the growth of a product they are not able to see and examine for viability.

In short, Standard Bank provides a full spectrum of assistance that aids startups in enhancing value chains.

Entrepreneur Incubator and Academy

Located in Cape Town, Entrepreneur Incubator and Academy is headed by business coach Bruce Wade. The organization lives by the motto of “Growing Your Business is Our Business” and hosts a virtual incubation platform comprised of coaching and marketing tools.

EIA logoIn respect to the former, the academy developed four coaching opportunities that meet the needs of businesses in various development stages, ranging from startups to established companies. In addition, one-on-one coaching is available to help business owners address specific challenges and develop strategies to overcome obstacles.

The company’s marketing program guides entrepreneurs through marketing and social media strategy as well as videography and social media management. Program participants learn how to target specific demographics that can result in greater business success and discover the importance of timeliness in achieving goals.

LaunchLab

launch lab logoLaunchLab is a product of Nedbank and offers mixed-use space for startup businesses at Stellenbosch University. The organization has a mission to grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout Africa that focuses on business development and acceleration. Sponsored by 10 partners, including Mentors & Business Coaches International (MBCI) and Innovus, LaunchLab hosts a Lift-Off program that mentors and educates startup leaders as well as offers them a pitching platform to grow ideas.

The incubation program caters to companies in the agritech and food, edutech, paid media, cleantech, and fintech and big data industries. However, the leadership behind LaunchLab also considers startups outside the five areas that show promise in creating a successful product that does not currently exist in its sector.

Awethu Project

Awethu logoServing under-resourced South African communities, the Awethu Project uses a Talent Identification Process to select program participants based on their potential to become world-class entrepreneurs. By removing stipulations, such as a minimum level of education and capital, the incubator gives promising individuals the opportunity to launch innovative ideas poised to change their lives as well as the communities in which they live.

Individuals entering the program must be in the early stages of establishing a company. The organization guides entrepreneurs through business development and funding with the support of mentors. To date, the Awethu Project has successfully incubated hundreds of entrepreneurs and received recognition from the Echoing Green Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.