Entrepreneurs from Senegal, Ghana & Cote d’Ivoire receive top honors at GIST startup boot camp West Africa

On July 10-11 was held in Dakar, Senegal, the GIST Startup Bootcamp West Africa, a two-day event with international investors, mentoring and a pitching competition organized by the incubator CTIC Dakar along with the GIST Initiative (US dept. of State). This major conference which gathered more than 130 tech entrepreneurs from all over West Africa also saw the launch of the 1st investors’ club in Senegal dedicated to tech startups.

An international event for West African tech entrepreneurs

The Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative is an international program funded by the CRDF Global – US department of State, which aims at promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging countries. In the framework of its partnership with the IT incubator and accelerator CTIC Dakar, a two-day bootcamp focused on startup funding was organized to train and mentor tech entrepreneurs at all stages.  On the first day, American investors shared their expertise to the public in duets with local entrepreneurs. Among them were Scott Hartley, a former Googler and now a VC in Palo Alto for Mohr Davidow Ventures ; Gibs Song, Business Angel in the Silicon Valley ; Val Livada, Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan, Ibrahima Djibo, general manager of the Sinergi Fund in Niger,Serigne Barro founder of the leading West African digital agency People Input, Mor Adj from the National Business Owners association (CNP).

Pitching competition: Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana at the top!

On day two, the 50 selected entrepreneurs were welcomed with a keynote by Abdoulaye Mbaye, founder of the success story Neurotech, who shared his values of integrity and commitment. They then received individual mentoring and the 24 best participated in the pitching competition. In addition to cash awards totaling USD $5,000, the entrepreneur with the highest score will travel to the U.S. in October 2012 to receive additional training and network with potential investors. The Startup Boot Camp winners are:

» Amarante, GIST Transformer, $1,500 + USA Business Trip; Amarante has created a web and mobile application that allows users to purchase and share prepaid mobile phone credit from different telephone companies. Founder Moustapha Kane is from Senegal.

» eeZydeel, Second Prize, $1,500; eeZydeel allows any mobile subscriber to purchase or sell a variety of goods and services through text messages. Entrepreneurs upload their goods and services for consumers to view and purchase. Djack Ouattara is from Cote d’Ivoire.

» Farmerline Ltd., Third Prize, $500; Farmerline Ltd. provides timely agricultural information to rural Ghanaian farmers such as seed prices and how to treat diseased crops. Alloysius Attah is from Ghana.

» M-Louma, BuntunTEKI Prize, $2,000; The founder of M-Louma Aboubacar Sidy Sonko is from Senegal. See below

The closing of BuntuTEKI, the 1st startup accelerator in francophone Africa

The event had a special taste for some young entrepreneurs (not only because it was in a beautiful landscape by the sea), since it was the official closing of the intensive 3 months accelerator program BuntuTEKI, ran by CTIC Dakar. For this last pitching session, the 7 teams which “survived, wanted to show the progresses they did in terms of technology and business development. The winner of the BuntuTEKI program is M-Louma, co-founded by Aboubacar Sidy Sonko and Ardo Bar, who developed and tested a web and mobile service which connects farmers to food purchasers by displaying real-time market prices and localizations.

The second place of BuntuTEKI came back to the founder of SamaEvent, Stéphane Ndour, who created a mobile and web app that allows you to book and pay your ticket for any types of events.  This pilot edition of this first accelerator program in francophone Africa was very enriching for the CTIC’s team. Of course the 7 startups that finished the program did impressive progresses in their entrepreneurial behavior, business skills and technical development. They are now able to push their startup to the next level thanks to the credibility they gain and the connections that were made for each of them with private and public decision makers.

Good news: out of the 7 projects, 1 is already concluding with a local business angel and 2 others should raise seed capital in the coming weeks.

However, such a program really needs in our African context to be a little longer (4 to 6 months ideally) and to have a seed fund available for all the companies. They do not need much money at this stage but just a minimum to cover a web hosting, a server with SMS gateway and transport fees to go on the ground meet their customers. The next BuntuTEKI session will thus be boosted with seed funding and launched by the end of the year.

A new business angel club dedicated to tech startups

Finally, the event was for CTIC Dakar the occasion to gather renowned local business men and to show them the potential of investing in West African tech entrepreneurs. After being part of the jury, they took part of private meeting and dinner sponsored by the World Bank program InfoDev. The results were very positive since they decided to form the 1st investors’ club dedicated to tech startups in Senegal. The club will be supported by CTIC Dakar for the due diligence and financial management of the companies.

Partners and sponsors

GIST Startup BootCamp West Africa was organized by CTIC Dakar and the GIST Initiative (CRDF Global – U.S. Department of State) and was supported by lions@africa, the US Embassy in Dakar, the African Development Bank, the Senegalese Telco regulator ARTP, Orange-Sonatel, Microsoft, InfoDev, the Foundation of ICT incubator in Senegal (FICTIS), and the association of IT companies in Senegal (OPTIC).

Relive the entire event on facebook.com/cticdakar and facebook.com/gistinitiative an get in touch with CTIC Dakar on www.cticdakar.com