Last Friday, members of VC4Africa came together for a VC4Africa meetup in Kampala, Uganda, hosted by the Mara Foundation at the Mara Launchpad in Kampala. We had a chance to catch up with organizer Liz Karungi of the Mara Foundation to find out more…
Please tell us something about Kampala’s startup scene?
“The start-up scene in Uganda is rife with a lot of potential. Young people make up the bigger percentage of the population and their creativity and willingness to try to follow their dreams is very inspiring. They just need a push in the right direction in terms of mentoring and funding in order to get started because most banks will not be willing to give them loans because most of the ideas are risky and have not been done before plus they do not have security to secure a loan.”
What do you offer entrepreneurs?
“The Mara Foundation is a social enterprise, supporting entrepreneurs in many ways. We offer affordable office space, host informative talks and networking events, and help businesses to grow in which ever way we can. We also have a very important and successful entrepreneur mentorship program, where successful business owners or entrepreneurs provide one-on-one mentorship to young entrepreneurs, for a period of six months. Finally, the Mara Foundation also has a VC fund, the Mara Launch Fund, where we provide capital to startups or early stage businesses in exchange for shares in the business. It is not just funding we provide: we become partners in the business, work together to grow the business, providing for it in whichever area there might be needs, e.g. sales and marketing, accounting, etcetera.”
Why did you decide to organize a VC4Africa meetup?
“We decided to organize a meetup because we are fairly new to the VC4A network and therefore wanted an opportunity to meet with everyone else in our area and host a good networking evening for everyone to know everyone else.”
How did the event go?
“It went well and I am sure very many good connections where made! Every member of the Mara Foundation team pitched in to make the event a success.”
Around how many people attended and what were their backgrounds?
“We had about 50 people turn up for the event. The beauty of the event is that we had all sorts of entrepreneurs, from software developers, people involved in food processing and value addition, to people with businesses in the tourism industry and many others, both students and working-class.”
Who was the most interesting person you met, and why?
“All where very interesting, but a group of Makerere University students caught my eye. They are developing an app, “Destination East Africa”, that will show-case the different tourist attractions in Uganda, giving all relevant information about the various spots they can visit: direction, costs, photos of the places, etcetera. All this will be presented as an Android app and can therefore be used from anywhere by anyone.”
What are your conclusions, final thoughts and message to the VC4Africa community?
“The Mara Foundation was very privileged to host the VC4A meet-up, we are really grateful for the opportunity. Many thanks to those that turned up, we met very many interesting people and look forward to building on those relationships, positively impacting on the community and being inspired by more entrepreneurs through future interactions.”
Thanks Liz and the rest of the team at Mara Foundation for a great job! It’s great to see the local VC4Africa community come together like this!
The next VC4Africa meetups coming up are Thursday March 21 in Amsterdam, and Wednesday March 27 in London. Other VC4Africa meetups coming up are in Dar, Abidjan, Addis, Lagos, Abuja, Nairobi, and other places.