FEATURE: The week in startups 18/05/2014

Startup events dominated HumanIPO headlines this week, with African participants taking part in the international uStart conference and judging beginning for mobile startup competition PIVOT East.

Five African startups pitched at the U-Start global conference in Milan this week, with Cape Town-based Over winning the competition.

“It was an incredible experience. It felt a little surreal to be sharing our story with a group of influencers from all over the planet in a sophisticated, beautiful city,” said Aaron Marshall, chief executive officer (CEO) and designer at Over.

Judging began on Wednesday to decide the finalists of mobile startup competition PIVOT East, as judges look to narrow down 50 semi-finalists to 25 who will compete at the event in June.

HumanIPO reported Kenyan startups dominated the semi-finalist list, with 37 chosen alongside 13 from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Also in Kenya, Nailab’s two-day hackathon in the lakeside town of Kisumu took place on Friday and Saturday.

The event at the Kisumu Hotel follows the Nailab’s first Mombasa hackathon in September last year, when 15 ideas were conceptualised during the two-day event.

Zimbabwe hosted its first Startup Weekend, which hoped to inspire Zimbabweans to leverage talent in the country.

The event, which was held at the country’s first technology hub Hypercube, previously took place at Strathmore University iLab in Nairobi, while events have also been held elsewhere in Africa.

The Habaka Madagascar Innovation Hub hosted the Antananarivo StartUp Cup this weekend, offering cash and free incubation to winning startups.

The event, part of the global StartUp Cup initiative and supported by Orange Madagascar, offered three winners the chance to share US$3,100 as well as receive free incubation at the hub, while the overall winner will also go on to represent Madagascar at the next World StartUp Cup.

The Lean Startup Machine (LSM) conference will take place in Cape Town later this month, hoping to provide entrepreneurs with insights into building a successful business.

LSM holds three-day conferences around the world focusing on helping innovators build disruptive products, with the Cape Town conference starting on May 30.

Applications opened this week for 440’s first accelerator programme in Lagos. The programme is a joint venture between 88mph and L5Lab and has raised US$1.5 million to invest in two rounds of 10 startups.

African tech hub association AfriLab has announced the addition of five representatives from various technology hubs around the continent to its board.

The AfriLabs network of tech hubs includes BongoHive in Zambia,iHub in Kenya, Wennovation Hub in Nigeria and The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Ghana.

Continuing its successful week, BongoHive has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the creation and launch of the Zambian Innovation Lab.

The Innovation Lab will be UNICEF’s 15th worldwide and will allow for partnerships focusing on issues affecting children and women to be fostered, which the organisation hopes will lead to the development of universal solutions.

Kenyan merchant services platform KopoKopo has launched a cash advance service providing businesses with instant cash loans without personal guarantees or late penalties.

HumanIPO reported in November KopoKopo received US$2.6 million in financing – led by Javelin Venture Partners – to enable the company to expand its service offering and to move into new African markets.

Reporters also caught up with a number of the semi-finalists for PIVOT East waiting to discover whether they have earned the chance to pitch at the event.

Kenya’s Afrokidz launched mobile app Safari Tales, aiming to solve the problem of book shortages by capitalising on high mobile uptake while also promoting childhood learning of vernacular languages through mobile stories.

The Safari Tales app makes African children’s stories available via mobile using a range of mediums including text, audio and visual elements in an interactive manner, and includes a range of stories in local languages which have not previously been recorded in a written format.

Kenyan startup FarmDrive is trialling a mobile app providing farmers with new financing options by connecting them with investors interested in funding local producers, while also providing a range of tools to help farmers improve their skills and records.

FarmDrive co-founder Peris Bosire told HumanIPO despite 80 per cent of Kenya’s population living in rural areas and performing agricultural activities, the majority of the country’s agriculture is comprised of smallholder farmers due to the difficulties in accessing financing options to enable expansion.

Gari SMS has launched a mobile platform for Kenyans to find used cars and for owners to list their vehicles for sale, bidding to simplify and secure the process.

George Mwangi and Eric Muriuki started the company last year after a mobile application and entrepreneurship class at m:lab East Africa, and the company has recently completed a two-month pilot project with customers at the Jamhuri Car Bazaar in Nairobi.

Tanzanian startup AgrInfo is testing a unique web platform aimed at aggregating land ownership data to protect the interests of smallholders and land-buyers.

In an interview with HumanIPO, co-founder Rose Funja said the platform provides much-needed access to land ownership information and helps farmers assert their rights to their land, as well as preventing unwanted sales of pre-owned land.

Mobile, web and SMS platform Askari has been developed in a bid to lower the crime rate in Uganda through crowdsourced danger reports, with the developers targeting advertisers for revenues.

As well as crowdsourcing information from users about security threats and areas of danger, Askari also provides information on crime and locations of police stations.

And finally, according to Jeremy Hodara, founder and managing director (MD) at Africa Internet Holding (AIH), Africans are born to be entrepreneurs and bring creativity, innovation and experience to company’s operating in the region.

Hodara also said MTN and Africa Internet Holding (AIH) will partner on more initiatives across the continent after launching a scheme in the Ivory Coast allowing Jumia customers to pay for their purchases using MTN Mobile Money.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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