FEATURE: The week in startups 11/05/2014

Kenya dominated the startup headlines this week, with 37 of 50 PIVOT East semi-finalists coming from the East African country and another reporting a major round of funding.

Kenyan startups dominate the semi-finalist list for year’s PIVOT East competition with 37 chosen, as well as 13 from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Organisers m:lab said its partnerships with hubs from across East Africa – namely Outbox (Uganda), Hive Colab (Uganda), KINU (Tanzania), BUNI Hub (Tanzania), kLab (Rwanda), iceaddis (Ethiopia), iBiz Africa (Kenya) and C4DLab (Kenya) – had allowed it to persuade the region’s best startups to take part in the competition.

Kenya’s largest property portal BuyRentKenya.com has received a round of investment from African classified giant One Africa Media (OAM), which the startup plans to use to boost and upgrade its operations.

Speaking to HumanIPO, Jamie Pujara, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of BuyRentKenya, said the money will be spent on improving certain aspects of the website and introducing new products.

According to Julia Moura, executive director of tech skills training startup Tunnel Lab,

technology is the quickest route to change for rural Kenyans, and enables them become active players in the country’s economy.

In an interview with HumanIPO, Moura said international corporations coming into Kenya in pursuit of natural resources and looking to tap into the population boom across Africa are focusing on how to enhance connections with rural parts of Kenya through communications technology, in a bid to draw rural Kenyans into the economy as consumers.

Tunnel Lab is trying to create a curriculum for rural students which will provide them with the skills necessary to enable them to join the country’s economy as active participants and contributors of solutions, which includes technology.

Ory Okolloh of Omidyar Network says Kenyan startups need to look at organisations other than tech firms who could benefit from their services, and look at business-to-business (B2B) opportunities rather than only business-to-consumer (B2C).

Ushahidi co-founder Okolloh, who now leads Omidyar Network’s investments and transparency programmes in Africa and wasrecently named in the 2014 TIME 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world, told the second Startup Grind event in Nairobi startups needed to diversify in terms of who they speak to in order to identify gaps that need filling and monetise.

She also said women are finding it hard to excel in the field of Information Technology (IT) and entrepreneurship because of the need to be perfect in everything they do and eliminating themselves before the competition starts.

According to Harvey Herr, co-founder of local startup MapJam.co.ke, tech talent in in the country has developed faster than business and legal infrastructure, leaving an unstructured environment hindering tech startups.

MapJam is an intelligent web-map and community web-application, which features businesses and events around Kenya, and allows users to interact and give feedback within the platform.

In Nigeria, Jumia has been named E-commerce Website of the Year at the Beacon of ICT awards organised by Nigeria Communications Week Media, recognising the company’s efforts towards expanding online commerce in the country, while Konga.com was declared the winner of the Most Innovative and Impactful Retail Award by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In South Africa, taxi app Uber offered new and existing users in Cape Town two free rides during the country’s election.

“As a country South Africans recently celebrated 20 years of freedom. To celebrate this freedom, Uber is giving back to our loyal riders, and helping make your election day even easier,” it said.

Technology companies in the country have been invited to apply to take part in the International Trade Programme, allowing selected parties to attend a six-day business bootcamp in June.

The initiative, which is organised by British Telecom (BT) Global Services and South Africa-based MEDO, will take place in the United Kingdom (UK) and hopes to help small businesses to prosper by providing networking opportunities and education.

The SABLE (South African Business Link to Experts) Accelerator, a global network of expat South African consultants, investors and domain experts based in Silicon Valley, has partnered with Powerlinx to allow South African companies to quickly identify and engage with local and global growth opportunities.

“The goal of the agreement is to more rapidly commercialise innovation, attract foreign investment, and develop global markets,” SABLE said.

The company will be integrating Powerlinx’s business-to-business matchmaking platform into its website.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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