Innovate Ventures, the first Somali tech startup accelerator launched in partnership with VC4A, Telesom and the Work in Progress! Alliance, had their first cohort of 11 startups from Somaliland and Somalia graduate from their program.
The Innovate Accelerator is a 10-week programme intended to support and fund the next generation of digital Somali startups. Mentorship and training was provided by domain experts and entrepreneurs and the 4 startups from the Innovate Accelerator received $15,000 in investment from Innovate Ventures Fund.
From the outset it was anticipated that the program would be well-received and there would be a decent interest and at least 50 applicants to the program at the ideation stage. Once launched, the interest for the program was overwhelming, with over 180 applications submitted by the end. The workshops and info sessions organized by Innovate Ventures and VC4A in July as part of the roadshow to promote the program and recruit the startups received a huge turnout by the Somali community.
“This was our most successful roadshow to date”, comments Alina Vinogradova, Partnerships Lead of VC4A and the ‘Work in Progress!’ Project Manager. “Somali market is new for us and this was clearly a successful pilot. The interest for the program and the number of applications exceeded all our expectations”, she said.
The accelerator programme reached almost 250,000 people via SMS, billboards and online advertising. It was broadcast on several Somali TV channels (HCTV, Somaliland TV) and the news which reached over a million Somalis in Somaliland, Somalia and the UK and US.
The Demo Day was the culmination of a 6-month programme to find startups who could create value, jobs and had the potential to scale. The event was well attended by the media, entrepreneurs and investors. Each team pitched their startup to a panel of judges from experts and entrepreneurs.
This year first place went to Guriyagleel, an online property rental startup, and MuraadSo, an e-Commerce startup, who both received $5,000 in seed investment. Other winners on the day included SomSite and Hargeisa Daily Media who received $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.
The team of online property rental startup Guriyagleel receives a cheque from Abdigani Diriye of Innovate Ventures and Alina Vinogradova of VC4Africa.
The team of e-commerce startup MuraadSo receives a cheque from Abdigani Diriye of Innovate Ventures and Alina Vinogradova of VC4Africa.
The team of SomSite.
The team of Hargeisa Daily Media.
Dr. Abdigani Diriye, Director of Innovate Ventures, comments: “We were impressed by the drive, commitment and traction from many of the startups in the programme. This further underscores the potential of the Somali tech scene and the wealth of talent and skill in Somaliland and Somalia. We believe technology, innovation and entrepreneurship can be one of the drivers of economic prosperity in Somaliland and Somalia”.
Next year’s programme is earmarked to build on the foundation of this year and give the Somali tech startup scene a jumpstart by engaging with more startups, partners and investors.
About Innovate Ventures
Innovate Ventures is the leading startup accelerator and technology fund in Somaliland and Somalia. Innovate Ventures was created to propel and accelerate technology startups in Somalia and Somaliland, support the next wave of Somali entrepreneurs, and grow the nascent startup ecosystem in the country. Innovate Ventures have run coding camps, incubators and accelerators in the Somali region since 2012.
VC4A is a startup funding platform and a network of entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists and mentors building game changing companies on the African continent. VC4A supports the growth of Africa’s startup ecosystem by connecting startups to both hard and soft capital through online platform, promoting the culture of angel investment and providing technical support to local accelerators.
About Work In Progress! Alliance
The goal of “Work in Progress!” is to improve the economic prospects of young men and women in Egypt, Nigeria and Somalia, create jobs and stimulate entrepreneurship by improving the skills of young people, strengthening small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and creating an enabling environment. Alliance partners include Oxfam, VC4Africa and Butterfly Works.
About Telesom Company
Telesom is the largest telecommunications company headquartered in Hargeisa, Somaliland. elesom provides a variety of mobile communication products and services. It offers prepaid call plans, monthly subscription plans, International Roaming, MMS, WAP (over both GSM and GPRS), residential fixed line services, and broadband internet plans