In an ever changing world of technology, it is inevitable that new applications and new sites be developed to keep up. Now, I don’t know if you have heard, but Kenya is considered to be among the top countries with the most creative and innovative ability in Africa and in the world, reason why some major international firms and companies have their Research and Development units located here in our beloved country. Kenya is many things, some not entirely lovely, but most to be appreciated and applauded for. And innovativeness is one of those things that should be appreciated and lauded.
Two weeks ago an app Demo Day was held at the Strathmore Business School, which was followed by 11 finalist start-ups pitching their ideas and solutions to a panel of judges– including Ushahidi and BRCK Co-Founder Juliana Rotich and Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director @iLab Africa – last Monday at the final judging session during the final leg of the Safaricom Appwiz Challenge.
For the last three months the start-ups have been undergoing a rigorous training programme designed to build their ideas from concept/prototype stage to viable, ready-for-market products with the capacity to grow the young enterprises.
During the incubation period, team members from each start-up were coached and mentored by industry experts and successful entrepreneurs that included Dr.Bitange Ndemo, Associate Professor, University of Nairobi.
Among the solutions exhibited this year include: a mobile solution targeting informal sector workers with the aim of linking them to customers in need of their services, a stock simulation game that teaches users how to trade in the Nairobi Securities Exchange and a news and media entertainment solution.
Joseph Ogutu, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Safaricom says, “Through the Safaricom Appwiz Challenge we aim to build successful start-ups by helping the participants develop commercially viable solutions and ensuring that they identify the right target markets. I am glad that we are now seeing more mobile-based solutions rather than a pure focus on apps, with each of the solutions presented by finalist teams showing great potential for success.”
This year, the focus of the judges was on the sustainability model of the start-ups as well as their potential to scale up their businesses. Other than the technology aspect, the start-upswere also expected to demonstrate their business know-how and long term growth plans.
Since its launch in 2013 the Safaricom Appwiz Challenge has helped introduce close to 30 startup companies into the Kenyan market.
The main aim of the Challenge is to support local mobile technology-based start-ups, offering mentorship, networking and business skills that would enable young entrepreneurs grow their businesses while at the same time addressing the issue of youth unemployment in Kenya.
This year’s winners will be announced in early December, where the top start-up will receive Kshs.1.5 million in form of a grant, while the first Runner-up and 2nd Runner-up will receive Kshs.1 million and Kshs.500, 000 respectively.