FEATURE: The week in startups 10/11/2013

FEATURE: The week in startups 10/11/2013

Following the iROKING drama of last week, this one was destined to be a little quieter, but HumanIPO still found time to touch base with startups and programmes in Cameroon, Botswana and Uganda, among others.

The Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) launched its First Step Venture Centre incubator and accelerator programme at the start of the week focusing on technical innovations in Gaborone.

Tshepo Tsheko, programme manager at BIH, told HumanIPO the hub was ready to begin its attention more towards the ICT talent in the country and they were producing something different to the traditional accelerator model.

“There is no time scale on a startups participation in the programme. Graduation from the centre can take place at any point,” Tsheko said.

“With regards to the commitment from entrepreneur, they must be working here full time and be fully committed to developing the business.”

In Cameroon meanwhile, fast growing Cameroon startup Wasamundi is planning an expansion into the education sector in a bid to aide higher education students.

Nara Laurence, co-founder of Wasamundi, told HumanIPO: “We are already working on something big that can help most University students easily access vital school information and educational resources offline with their mobile phones.”

The online and mobile city guide service already services searches for information on local restaurants, hotels and businesses.

Laurence also plans to provide a banking service, where he sees a lot of potential. In a separate interview, he also told HumanIPO he believed SMS was the future of search in Africa.

He said: “It is a unique and the most popular form of communication. Since 2010, hundreds of millions of texts are sent every minute worldwide, and it is increasing which means that it is working.

“We at Wasamundi don’t only believe but already using SMS and have added it as a new interface to local search. We see SMS as the future of local search in Africa whereby information on anything can be gotten with just 1 SMS.”

Ugandan social networking app startup Vibz meanwhile is expecting to launch in around a week as it looks to transform the way Africans interact online.

The platform is specifically designed for mobile and aims to connect people through sharing.

Speaking to HumanIPO, Mike Wagaba, co-founder of Vibz Corporation, said: “Vibz achieves this notion of connecting and syncing together friends and loved ones through a creative framework that restricts the interaction across this platform to primarily about exactly what a user is up to, from which other interactional variables and elements gain root.”

One business development group looking to make investments in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria is the Mara Foundation, which was founded in 2009 and is funded by pan-African multi-sector business conglomerate Mara Group.

Nina Werner, regional director for East Africa at Mara Foundation, told HumanIPO investments were expected next year as the foundation develops its Ad-Ventures fund, which is designed to address the shortage of early-stage capital for African entrepreneurs and boost economies.

“Mara Foundation is currently developing a unique model to fund early stage ventures in order to complement the service offering we currently have through Mara Mentor and Mara Launchpad and bridge the Pioneer Gap,” she said.

In South Africa Michael Jordaan, First National Bank’s former chief executive officer (CEO), has set up his own private investment firm to focus on “disruptive technologies or disruptive business models”.

The fund, MonteGray Captial, will be based in Stellenbosh and Jordaan said: “I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur after finishing my career as banker.

“However, I never had time to properly consider the form it would take. I recently returned from a trip in Silicon Valley where I was inspired by the fact that smart entrepreneurs are inventing the future as well as the fact that venture capitalists are not afraid of taking risks to back great ideas.”

To keep up to date with all the tech startup news coming out of Africa, check out HumanIPO’s dedicated startup section here.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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