Innovate Ventures, the first Somali tech startup accelerator launched in partnership with VC4A, Telesom and the Work in Progress! Alliance, had their first cohort of 11 startups from Somaliland and Somalia graduate from their program.
The Innovate Accelerator is a 10-week programme intended to support and fund the next generation of digital Somali startups. Mentorship and training was provided by domain experts and entrepreneurs and the 4 startups from the Innovate Accelerator received $15,000 in investment from Innovate Ventures Fund.
From the outset it was anticipated that the program would be well-received and there would be a decent interest and at least 50 applicants to the program at the ideation stage. Once launched, the interest for the program was overwhelming, with over 180 applications submitted by the end. The workshops and info sessions organized by Innovate Ventures and VC4A in July as part of the roadshow to promote the program and recruit the startups received a huge turnout by the Somali community.
“This was our most successful roadshow to date”, comments Alina Vinogradova, Partnerships Lead of VC4A and the ‘Work in Progress!’ Project Manager. “Somali market is new for us and this was clearly a successful pilot. The interest for the program and the number of applications exceeded all our expectations”, she said.
The accelerator programme reached almost 250,000 people via SMS, billboards and online advertising. It was broadcast on several Somali TV channels (HCTV, Somaliland TV) and the news which reached over a million Somalis in Somaliland, Somalia and the UK and US.
The Demo Day was the culmination of a 6-month programme to find startups who could create value, jobs and had the potential to scale. The event was well attended by the media, entrepreneurs and investors. Each team pitched their startup to a panel of judges from experts and entrepreneurs.
This year first place went to Guriyagleel, an online property rental startup, and MuraadSo, an e-Commerce startup, who both received $5,000 in seed investment. Other winners on the day included SomSite and Hargeisa Daily Media who received $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.