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 AfricaA 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.
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.