Techstars Announces 10 Startups For First-Ever African Program

Renowned startup incubator Techstars has announced the first 10 businesses – all in fintech – for the newly opened its Barclays Accelerator partnership in Cape Town.

The companies are: Inuka Pap (from Kenya), BimaAfya (Tanzania), Social Lender (Nigeria), Beyonic (US, focused on Uganda and Kenya as its initial markets), tech4farmers (Uganda), Asoriba (Ghana), Reable (Lebanon), BenBen (US, focused on Ghana and a co-founder originally from Ghana), WizzPass (South Africa) and Simba Pay (UK/Kenya with Kenyan founders and focused on Kenya and Uganda).

Over 450 applications were received from 45 countries for spots in the 13-week programme, which is being run in Africa for the first time. The 10 companies come from nine countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Lebanon, UK and US. This makes it the most broadly representative Techstars programme ever run, says Techstars Cape Town MD Yossi Hasson.

“To be selected out of the 450 applications from across the globe is no small feat. Each of the 10 companies represented something unique that we believe has the potential to become a significant and relevant player on a global scale,” he says.

“Typically Techstars companies go on to raise between $1-million to $3-million in venture funding on completion of the program from primarily UK and US-based investors. Having a Cape Town office extends the reach of these companies so that they can benefit from the Techstars network for both access to funding, markets and talent,” he told me.

“The programme itself focuses on the African continent rather than just South Africa, but ultimately all companies selected will have to relocate to Cape Town for the 13 weeks, extending the reach and scope of Cape Town as a global player in the startup ecosystem.”

Techstars is the “best global ecosystem for entrepreneurs to bring new technologies to market,” he adds. “Techstars is significant as it has been working with early-stage technology businesses since 2006 and has invested in over 828 companies who have gone on to raise over $2.2-billion dollars in funding. 90% of companies that have been through a Techstars Accelerator are still alive today or have been acquired (a significant difference to the 10% success rate most startups achieve).”

The Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars, partnership “gives startups access to a global leader in banking accelerating their access to the Bank as either a supplier, client, distribution channel and partner”.

Paul Nel, head of open innovation at Barclays Africa, says: “At Barclays Africa we recognise that to drive innovation within the bank, we also need to look outside the organisation and embrace the innovative start-up ecosystem. I am looking forward to working with these ten start-ups as we find increasingly innovative ways to help Africa prosper”.

Hasson adds: “Access to Barclays is a significant opportunity for these fintech startups to greatly accelerate their growth through partnership or distribution deals with Barclays and access to their senior executives as mentors, providing key expertise to the startups that ordinarily would be almost impossible to get access to.”

Being in Cape Town, with its Africa focus, is significant, he says. “The importance of the programme being in Cape Town is that it’s an African-focused Accelerator. Being in Africa gives local relevance to the companies attending while ensuring that they have access to a global network of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors instead of being primarily limited to their local ecosystem only. The combination of both (local ecosystem and relevance plus global network) greatly enhances the startups’ ability to access capital, new markets and scale.”

The 10 companies – and the problems they aim to solve – are:

    • iNuka Pap (Kenya) – “A mobile platform that partners with credit co-operatives to allow their members to conveniently deposit, withdraw and access instant micro-loans as well as access other credit services”.
  • BenBen (US, focussed on Ghana) – “A solution for governments to convert physical land titles to digital copies on an irrefutable platform secured on the Blockchain. Additionally, they provide citizens with a mobile application, website, USSD platform for them to manage their properties”.
  • Beyonic (US, focussed on Kenya, Uganda) – “Enable businesses to quickly deploy and manage two-way mobile money payments to eliminate the need to make payments using cash. Through the use of web services and APIs, businesses can access payee and workflow management systems that greatly reduce fraud”.
  • SimbaPay (UK, focussed on Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda) – “Send money to family and friends bank accounts or mobile wallets in Africa (from abroad) in a convenient and cheap way. Customers can also use their bill settlement technology to pay merchants in Africa (such as universities, utilities). You can also open a bank account back home using the app”.
  • Asoriba (Ghana) – “Simplifies church administration for leaders and improves engagement with members via mobile apps”.
  • Social Lender (Nigeria) – “A lending platform, licensed to financial institutions, that determines credit worthiness based on social reputation on social media platforms”.
  • WizzPass (South Africa) – “Complete parking solutions app allowing entry and exit to shopping malls, airports, commercial property, office parks, residential property and gated communities via your smartphone”.
  • Tech4Farmers (Uganda) – “Provides farmers with real-time access to market information through an electronic commodity exchange and electronic warehouse receipt system
  • Re-Able (Lebanon) – “Provides tools and apps that empower the financial literacy and inclusion of people with special needs. Their ReAble Wallet uses technology such as OCR, to allow users to conduct transactions by simply taking a picture of the receipt. The app then scans the receipt and informs the user the total amount to pay, the optimal combination of bills and then validates the change received”.
  • BimaAFYA (Tanzania) – “Micro-health insurance that is administered from the mobile handset. From cover registration, options browsing, premium payment (via mobile money), profile management, benefits wallet (ledger) management to claim (hospital) payments”.
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