Google Expanding its African Mentorship Programs

Launchpad Accelerator Africa

Google, a tech giant from Silicon Valley is broadening its regional mentorship program for early stage African technology startups.  This comes amid its aim of assisting them to change into the commercially viable venture. Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Africa program kicked off eight months ago in six countries that include South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda. Beneficiary companies each got equity-free cash grants worth $10,000. By now they have raised over $7 million in total.

Google has decided to expand its operations to bring in the technology startups from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Senegal, Botswana, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda. The startups will have an opportunity of getting funding worth $3 million, free working space and access to experts from Africa and Silicon Valley over the next three years. The head of startup success and services at the Launchpad Accelerator Africa program Folagbade Olatunji-David said that startup must strive to get solutions to challenges in its home country, city or Africa and create value for the rest. That is what will make the startup to stand a chance of benefiting.

He added that the startups must be found in sub-Saharan Africa, with their main target being the African market and they must have secured seed funding. Below are startups that are taking part in the first phase of the program about their experience and their vision.

South African based Swift Vee.

The startup is a technology site for the livestock industry that was founded in 2016. According to Russel Luck, the co-founder, they got their inspiration from the persistent drought in SA that used to cause a huge loss of livestock. They discovered that the country was losing livestock because of inefficiency in farming practices. The startup addresses food security, water scarcity and efficiency of the market for the livestock industry. The startup has been listed amongst the 100 most innovative companies with global growth potential in South Africa. Luck said that the program had given them a chance to expand their value proposition to some stakeholders in the agricultural sector. According to him, Swift Vee has managed to bring many farmers and stakeholders on board.

Nigerian based Thrive Agric.

The startup uses crowdfunding to offer technology-driven advice, inputs, and access to the market for farmers. The providers of the funds get regular updates on the progress of the farmers and profits divided equally after harvest. Ika Uje, the co-founder of the startup, said that starting the company was inspired by his experience in operating a company in the agricultural sector that was linking farmers to buyers. He added that he realized that farmers go through many challenges that include access to information, market, and financing. He added that they launched Thrive Agric in June 2017. The main target was small-scale farmers, financial institutions, investors and processing companies. The startup now improves the yield using technology and data points and incorporating them with best farming procedures.

Tanzanian based Tango TV.

This is a video-on-demand service meant for Africa’s content that allows users to stream their favorite shows, TV episodes and films. Users make payment for the content through mobile money services. According to the co-founder Victor Joseph, they realized that there was an opportunity to deliver African content through digital means because already there was a massive penetration of internet services within Africa. He added that the platform is on top of the other competitors since it offers hyper-localized content targeting African customers.

Joseph said that the service started with Swahili content in East Africa. Moreover, they are now bringing in more African content. Launched in 2016, Tango TV currently has over 35,000 active users. This makes it the leading video on demand service for Swahili content. Its immediate target is to get to 500,000 users giving them more than 5,000 hours of TV and film programming. Joseph added that the platform already has a customized set-top box that provides users with a chance to watch any movie of their desire on their TV screen at any given time. They have plans to expand into more African countries and talks are already there to scale up its content to French-speaking countries.

FlexPay from Kenya.

This is an SMS based site that assists clients to pay for essential goods and services using their mobile phones. It also allows clients to reserve an electronic product in their favorite Kenyan based retail store. They do that by depositing a certain amount then complete the payments in installments through M-Pesa over a specified period. Launched in March 2017, FlexPay target the underbanked and unbanked individuals in developing countries who are not capable of paying for more goods or services on a single basis.

According to the co-founder, Johnson Gituma, they came up with the idea after facing difficulties in raising money to buy important household electronic items. FlexPay is currently working with Tuskys supermarket to give payment solutions for its electronic products. Gituma added that the platform aims at helping flexible payment for sellers and their clients for the buying of goods and services through banking and mobile money transfers. For sellers, the idea increases the sale of inventory bringing in higher profit and goods or services sold. For clients, it offers a cheap, convenient and simple mode of payment to own goods that they were unable to afford. The platform is also developing a credit score model for its clients as it aims at offering a lending site as part of its plans to grow. The platform has 3,000 registered agents in Kenya and its targeting to expand outside Kenya in three years.

Nigerian based Babymigo.

This is a fast-growing community for expectant mothers and young parents. It gives information in local languages and links users with experts and hyperlocal children services a web portal, mobile app, and SMS. Adeloye Olanrewaju, the co-founder said that the inspiration to start the company came from her experience in working with nursing and expectant mothers in maternity clinics within Nigeria. Olanrewaju added that he realized that the group lacked a support system during the critical parenting period. Founded in 2017, Babymigo uses simple mobile technology that every mother can access irrespective of their location or social status. It offers mothers a platform to ask questions and get the best answers from medical experts and experienced mothers. They chat in a group with experts, link with moms in the same city and age group, get, book and review local maternity and children services. They also access baby and mother articles which they get to read. According to him, the platform has over 75,000 users who are registered and have helped to answer over 20,000 different questions. He said they have a target of getting to 5 million mothers within a span of the next three years.

Ugandan based Teheca.

This is a digital health platform that develops better experiences for infants and mother during pregnancy, delivery, and postnatal care. The Teheca App assists users to get a dedicated care assistant for their family members when they cannot attend to them. The assistant helps the woman with daily chores, offer companionship and ensure that the doctor’s instructions are followed. According to Daniel Ruyonga, the founder of Teheca, the startup has moved from giving the home patient and postnatal services to the uptake of maternal healthcare services via web and mobile application. Launched in 2015, the startup targets young mothers, pregnant mothers, first-time mothers, hospitals and healthcare institutions that give maternity services. Ruyonga said that the platform allows both the hospital and the mother to have a consultation session and advice the mother to source for the closest health workers that they wish to have. The platform is currently working with the Ministry of Health to create products for public hospitals.

Nigerian based OkadaBooks.

This is a marketplace for African users to publish, distribute and sell their digital content quickly. It also allows users to get cheaper books compared to bookstores through a digital device. Founded in 2013, the name of the platform came to Jude Nwoko, the founder while he was riding a motorcycle taxi (Okada). He took note of how the Okada was in a position to navigate the huge traffic in Lagos giving a cheaper, faster and more efficient means of transport. The startup bypasses the traffic in the book publishing sector including high printing cost and poor distribution. Earnings are directly paid to user bank account. Nwoko said he had a bad experience while sourcing for a bookstore to stoke his self-published book titled ‘How Stupidity Saved My Life.’ That is how he was forced to develop the app and he used it in selling his second book. The app guards against piracy by the use of a DRM Protector. OkadaBooks has plans to secure $125,000 by the end of 2018 and get 12,000 books sales platform every month by 2019.


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Written by Denis Opudo

Am an engineer who's a tech blogger, hit me up on [email protected] and we base our discussion on technology in Africa and the rest of the world.
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