Q&A: Nikolai Barnwell, Program Manager, 88mph

Tomorrow, private seed fund and accelerator 88mph will be showcasing its six start-ups to investors and interested parties at the end of the three-month program in Nairobi. HumanIPO caught up with 88mph program manager Nikolai Barnwell to talk about the start-ups and the accelerator program.

What kind of start-ups do 88mph look for?

Many funds invest in whatever they find profitable, but we have in 88mph decided to only invest in mobile web technologies. In addition to meeting this criterion, we only invest in early stage, and only in start-ups we believe have a scalable business model with a solid team to carry out the task.

What kind of investment is being sought?

Most of our start-ups are looking for follow-up investments for Demo Day. They’ve all moved into post-revenue status, have proven their business model and the market demand, and now need investments to grow and expand their businesses.

What is the potential for the start-ups to become successful businesses?

The potential to build successful businesses is huge. The big challenge is to find the right teams. There are so many things to build in this region and the market is growing very fast. It’s all about finding the people with the right motivation and talent.

What have the challenges been along the way? 

There are a million challenges for start-ups. It’s bloody hard pulling a company off the ground. The biggest challenge is probably the emotional roller-coaster. One day it’s all great and you are heading for the stars, the next you are down and blue because your system crashed or one of your big deals fell through.

Is the accelerator model one that can benefit Kenyan start-ups? 

What the accelerator model brings is a chance for untested dreamers to hit reality. The ones that hit reality and survive go on to build companies.

What impact have the mentors and entrepreneurs in residence had?

Our whole model builds on getting the start-ups in touch with smart people and mentors with industry experience and wisdom. The mentors and EiRs have been a fantastic resource for the start-ups and no doubt are a major reason for all the start-ups being where they are today.

The 88mph Demo Day takes place tomorrow at the 88mph garage on Ngong Road, Nairobi.

Posted in: Startups

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