Category Archives: iHub

Startup Battlefield Africa by Techcrunch and Facebook

The Techcrunch Startup Battlefield Africa, supported by Facebook, was won by Lori, a logistics platform being developed to simplify the movement of cargo in Kenya.

At the TechCrunch event in Nairobi, 15 startup companies pitched and demonstrated their concepts in between chat sessions on the unique business climate of Africa that featured other seasoned entrepreneurs, advisors, and funders, with moderation by Facebook and TechCrunch staff.

The competing companies were drawn from sectors like finance (WeCashUpAbacus), data collection (Form+Delivery Science), logistics (Lori Systems), sales (Sellio,  SynCommerce), entertainment (Big5 Games, Tango TV, Gazkar from Lomay), health – ConnectMed,  education (M-Shule, Dot Learn), recruitment – Talent2Africa and agri-business – AgroCenta.

Lori won the day and walked away with $25,000 and an all-expense paid trip for two to compete in  TechCrunch’s flagship event: Disrupt SF 2018

Winners will join TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Alumni Network. Alumni have collectively raised nearly $7 billion and produced nearly 100 exits and IPOs to date.

Some excerpts from the day:

  • Brands are creating collections and Michele, Beyonce, Rihanna are wearing African brands – that’s opportunity @KISUAonline #TCBattlefield
  • Most lucrative buyers for @agrocenta are big companies such as breweries, animal feed, soya oil #TCBattlefield
  • Logistics is a $500B market for innovations that eliminate middle-men and make food supply and demand efficient – @agrocenta #TCBattlefield
  • 80% of farmers don’t have access to direct markets and logistic inefficiencies lead for 25% of food being wasted – @agrocenta #TCBattlefield
  • Black Africans in tech are not getting a lot of the money coming into tech – @africatechie #TCBattlefield
  • I’m in Silicon Valley; I may be on a board, but I’m not at the birthday party or talks for the next round – @africatechie #TCBattlefield
  • @big5games builds localized data-optimized easy-to-play games on sports, farming, stocks with partners like Kwese & telcos – #TCBattlefield
  • If you arrange for 20 cargo trucks between Nakuru to Eldoret, 15 will commit, 5 agree on price, but 2 will show up – Lori #TCBattlefield
  • A typical lorry takes 3 days to load its cargo, to make a 12-hour journey, then another 3 days to unload – Lori #TCBattlefield
  • Products cost more in Kenya as the logistics chain is broken; trucks are empty or idle 93% of the time – Lori #TCBattlefield
  • Today @AbacusKe launches Kenya’s first automated investment service – using algorithms to personalize advice – @TheMacharia #TCBattlefield
  • @AbacusKe aims to be Africa’s e-trade; local & foreign investors can make stock debt property & unlisted buys – @TheMacharia #TCBattlefield
  • @wecashup does 1M transactions per month of ~10 euros and partners with banks so they don’t need a license for every country #TCBattlefield
  • @wecashup 2.0 integrates payments whether cash, mobile money, cards, crypto-currencies in 42 countries, and own 6 patents #TCBattlefield
  • You can build a $50M business serving a Lagos neighbourhood; but there’s a daily swing between risk & uncertianity – @EghosaO #TCBattlefield
  • Local investors say – don’t tell me about 10-yr plans when I can bring a container from China and make more money – @EghosaO #TCBattlefield
  • Africa is about iceberg micro-economies; see below the surface – biggest opportunity is organising offline markets – @EghosaO #TCBattlefield
  • Saying Nigeria has 180m people or Africa has 1.2 billion brings wow – but you should think at city levels – @EghosaO #TCBattlefield
  • Our challenges include raisng capital and dealing with regulators & muscled players (non-market forces) – @oviosu #TCBattlefield
  • Nigeria is the biggest market in Africa. River State is bigger than most African countries – @oviosu #TCBattlefield

Co-Founder Agreements for StartUps

Last week there was a talk at the iHub about founder stock agreements i.e. the agreements that people enter with each other as they set up companies. John Freeman, an attorney who has advised on tech startups in the US & Asia, as a venture capitalist and now as an angel investor, said that most founders allocate their shares 50/50 when starting our  or in other equitable ratios.  Barclays Kenya agreement was a Parliament Act

But he said that this was a wrong allocation and that company founders should instead take some time to run a “founders pie calculation” (designed by Frank Demmler) to assess the founders commitment and responsibilities at the companies to determine exactly how much each founder is entitled to get.

He also said’ it’s important not to have too many cofounders (never more than 5) as when they get new investment, their stakes may be diluted to become negligible. As more key people are, added, they should remain employees, but who can earn bonuses and options that vest over several years.

Founders also need to come up with term sheets, employment agreements (e.g. which note that the company owns all intellectual property developed) and shareholders agreements that have clauses such as right of first refusal. (He said if a company does not have this clause,  it is not worth investing). The clause determines who can invest in the company even if a cofounder leaves, dies or gets divorced etc. Founders who leave companies should also sign termination notices.

He said that there is an increasing trend or more convertible debt in lieu of equity investments. The documentation for theses is much faster (he does this in two weeks) and cheaper compared to equity investment, but that many  Kenyan lawyers do not understand the convertible debt  agreements. He mentioned that investor templates could be found at sites such as founders workbench,  startup percolator, cooleygo, ycombinator and orrick.

The iHub event was in partnership with m:lab East Africa and uWakili.

Award Season Part Trois

Following on part II

The Anzisha Prize for young Africans (15-20 yrs) who have solved a problem /challenges in their community (via @kenyanpundit)

The Android App competition. in the X.com dev. challenge participants can win prizes of up to $25,000. D/L is 14 May.

The 2nd eLearning Africa Photo Competition runs through April 21.

Facebook’s first hire in Africa – will be a growth manager in Nigeria (via @bellanaija)

The 2011 Freedom to Create Prize main prize and imprisoned artist prize is open to 15 July (via @Kwani)

Various jobs at Google East Africa .

iHub Mentorship program. D/L is 6 April.

Partial scholarships available to attend the 4th Global Forum on Innovation & Entrepreneurship. D/L is April 1

Kenya Government Science & Technology scholarships (29) to study in China, for undergraduates and postgraduates in engineering, medicine, computer science, and pharmacy. D/L April 7.

Connected Kenya Vision 2030 ICT awards from the Kenya ICT Board.

Maisha Filmlab with free screenwriting directing camera sound and production workshops in East Africa. (via @mkaigwa)

Mass Challenge a $1 million start up competition (via @egm_photo)

Panos Eastern Africa media fellowships. D/ L April 6.

Strathmore University’s Mobile Academy . D/L 31 March

Winners of the Nokia Idea storm will have their ideas developed into phone apps. D/L is April 14.

TEDGlobal 2011 takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland in July 2011. It moves from traditional Oxford this and 75 places available, and D/L is April 4.

Africa Youth Trust Young Women Leaders funded by the UN Women Governance and Gender Programme. D/L April 15.

Modern careers: Someone got hired via twitter

Sports: The Watamu Triathlon takes place April 9 & 10 at the Kenya coast. D/L April 4.


Photo is from a blog tracking a Cairo to Cape 12,000 kilometre bicycle expedition (equivalent to 4 Tour de Frances in 4 months). It’s now complete after a tough stint in Kenya.

From Huawei to Makmende

Last Tuesday was a roundabout day that began with the Equity Bank half year results announcement at and ended with Safaricom launch of a U8220 Android phone made by Huawei.

In between I shook hands with James Mwangi, Churchill dodged my paparazzi snap attempt, a friend of mine missed out on a free giveaway of the Huawei phone, and I missed out on buying some shares in Equity Bank as my stockbroker (temporarily) misplaced my funds.

At the Huawei launch, I had interesting chats with one pal on Kenol and another who found out an interesting tale about mobile spectrums – basically Kenyans should ignore mobile phone company promises and forget about 4G as its’ reserved for the Kenya military until further notice.

Huawei and Safaricom were jointly launching an android phone to the Kenyan market and since the Safaricom COO was late in traffic as per his boss, Michael Joseph the CEO stepped up and launched the phone on his behalf. The CEO seemed underwhelmed by the occasion, maybe because his retirement was about to be officially announced or maybe because it was because the Smartphone being unveiled would cost about Kshs 30,000 and was nowhere near the $100 (~Kshs 8,000) price for a smart phone which he has commented as being a key target for future data growth.

This ambivalence perhaps cascaded down because when Safaricom ran adverts for the new phone in the next day’s paper , they were advertising a VF845 costing Kshs 16,500 ($206) and not the U8220, which had just been launched. The ‘correct’ ad for the U8220 then ran the following day pricing the phone at 27,200 (~$340)

Two days later, Bank of Africa formally opened their Ngong Road branch at Bishop Magua Center. This is their second branch opening this month after Nakuru and they have set out to go after the not for profit customers. They have launched a Goodwill Current Account with goodies for NGO’s including waiver of monthly ledger fees, cheque book costs, (Kshs) withdrawal/deposits, internal transfers, incoming wires, banker’s cheques, interim statements and a minimum operating balance.

And finally on Friday, in the same building, the iHUb hosted a launch by Kuweni Serious (Get Serious) of a of a series of clips aimed at getting young Kenyans to participate in the constitutional referendum and in public life and starred Makmende.
Here’s one clip

Venture Capital in Nairobi – VC101

A talk on venture capital (VC) was given by Vincent Kouwenhoven and Brian Hirman of the eVA (eVentures Africa Fund BV) at the iHub in Nairobi. They both have about 15 years experience in VC and enumerated the criteria the fund uses for investments including that target companies in Africa should have profitable track records (not start-up’s) to qualify for VC investments of between 25,000 and 250,000 Euros (~Kshs 2.5 million to Kshs 25 million).

The fund was launched in January 2010, and in the ½ year they have invested in 5-6 companies. The founders are seasoned travelers in Africa and their interest was piqued by observations they made over the last three years including;
1. Chinese investment interest in Ghana and Kenya
2. Arrival of fibre optic cables
3. More African returnees returning from the Diaspora who were setting up their own companies (it’s a good sign). They have been exposed to Kenya for many years and sense that entreprenual spirit in Nairobi is very good as are competence levels in high technology sectors.

– All their investment are active in the digital scene – whether mobile, internet, communication platforms – and include a leading internet company in Ghana, while in Kenya, they have Jumuika, Ratio Magazine, and the latest deal signed today is for an investment in Verviant (w/ Liko Agosta better known for Pesapal)

– They invest growth funding in companies and try and cultivate a healthy portfolio, unlike other VC’s who make several weak investments in the hope that one or two will payoff and offset the failures. Their investment clearly spells out the use of proceeds/funds which can vary, but ideally should not be for increased salaries or other debt repayment (unless to retire expensive debt). They also mentioned that their investment criteria is a guide, not cast in stone (e.g. Jumuika was a startup)

– They get involved in the operations of the company; whether marketing, technology, financial, entrepreneurship, HR policies. They act as a sounding board and advise owners (use skype a lot) on how to scale up e.g. when they get traction, how to set up customer care capacity

– They seek out committed entrepreneurs – not part timers, or people with one good idea they have not developed, or people with a dozen ideas (not focused). They want to invest in people with the gut and belief to start a business and are willing to eat bread & water to hack it put (not one who relies luck) – and who also enjoy what they are doing. Other “no no’s” include people who ask for too much money that dilutes their equity (EVA want founders to retain at least 51% at all timea), or which enables them to run the business without risk for two years (i.e. with the VC’s funding)

– On exit strategy their preferred rout is a buyout of the company within 3 to 7 years by multi-national or larger company. In cases where an investor may not be ready to sell, the VC can sell their stake to another VC.