Three Nairobi programs supporting impactful entrepreneurs
he center of East Africa’s tech scene and a quickly growing startup hub, Nairobi has much to offer aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage startups. A new generation of founders are using their technological know-how to tackle some of the continent’s and the world’s biggest issues. But it takes more than a good idea to get an impactful venture off the ground. Are you looking for business support in Nairobi? Informed by Startup Guide Nairobi, here are some of the local programs helping entrepreneurs make their purpose-driven concepts a reality.
1Million Startups East Africa is a local chapter of a global entrepreneurship community focused on solving challenges in alignment with at least one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The organization’s mission is to build a community of early- and growth-stage entrepreneurs who manage sustainable and successful enterprises with both local and global impact.
“Since our alignment is with the SDGs, impact is key to us. We strive to help entrepreneurs we work with to localize the SDG they are aligned to in their company and incorporate in their business in order to grow their impact,” said Margaret Mutheu, founder of 1Million Startups East Africa.
Launched in November 2017, the organization has over 800 members from across the region and has impacted over 500 entrepreneurs through its initiatives. It provides members with access to a global multimedia platform that gives them visibility and exposure to investors.
“We connect the entrepreneurs to opportunities through the different local and international partners that we work with,” Margaret says.
1Million Startups East Africa also runs two dedicated programs. Its accelerator, the ELEVATE investment-readiness program, is aimed at entrepreneurs looking to attract capital. It also has a women-only hub called Women Biz360, which empowers women in business and connects them with technology, funding and market access.
A number of success stories have emerged from 1Millon Startups East Africa’s programs. Chicken Basket, an enterprise impacting youth through poultry farming in western Kenya, was able to access capital after completing the ELEVATE program, and The Label Saba, an accessories startup that uses sustainable materials, has experienced exceptional growth internationally.
Agribusiness Mula Export is impacting hundreds of smallholder farmers in Kenya, while Wachia Agencies, which provides luggage lockers, was selected for the Pan-African Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program last year.
“We hope to help all startups get the support they need in order to grow and make an impact globally,” Margaret says.
Antler was founded in Singapore in 2017 and has since expanded to eight offices around the world. Each location has a unique value proposition while maintaining similar methodologies across the organization and using its global network to give entrepreneurs an advantage.
The Nairobi office is focused on supporting startups with aspirations suited to the African continent. Antler Nairobi is one of a handful of fully woman-led venture capital firms and is the only firm on the continent that invests in startups from the idea stage.
Thanks to its talented pre-founding team, Antler is able to guide entrepreneurs throughout the entire process of creating a business and help them create effective and informed business models. It can take as little as 11 weeks to move from ideation to pitching at the Antler Investment Committee, where startups can receive up to $100,000 in investment, and in only six months, many of these startups begin to scale to the extent that they impact markets in Africa and the wider world.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Antler graduates used their agile thinking to help their communities, extending their services or pivoting their platforms to confront new challenges. Antler started a program specifically seeking ideas responding to the pandemic and offering paths towards economic and social recovery through intelligent investment.
As the largest organization in the world that invests at the seed stage, Village Capital has helped countless companies scale and succeed since it launched in 2009. In Nairobi, it lends support to accelerators and initiatives based around talent and entrepreneur support in the sub-Saharan African region, with a focus on locally relevant impactful issues like innovation in agriculture and fintech.
More than a financial investor, Village Capital provides entrepreneurs with educational opportunities and tailored support. It selects teams to participate in sector-specific cohorts themed around topics from finance and agriculture to health innovations and the future of work.
Participating founders are asked to answer the three questions “Am I solving the right problem?” “Do I have the right people and partners?” and “Am I ready to scale?” By engaging with their classmates and mentors, most business teams are able to answer these questions and adapt their strategies accordingly.
Village Capital prioritizes female founders, with the result that the VilCap Investments portfolio comprises roughly 45% female-founded businesses, three times higher than the industry average. Its program graduates include Nigerian startup PiggyVest, a female-founded fintech company that has become a thought leader in its industry.
Much of Village Capital’s work in Africa is now based around supporting other entrepreneur-support organizations across the continent, and it aims to create a more closely knit African startup ecosystem while democratizing entrepreneurship.
Want to know about more programs and support in Nairobi’s startup scene?
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Written by Cayleigh Bright and Tom Jackson.
Repackaged by Hazel Boydell.