Why 2012 could be the year of the African startup

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The past few years have been about building an infrastructure that improves the chances of the technology startups in Africa to succeed. Seeing this buildout in action in 2011 was exciting, but it should be recognised for what it really was: a setup for 2012 and beyond.

You see, all those labs and hubs around the continent, the startups and the media coverage? They’re all about getting attention and increasing the awareness of the pent-up startup potential in Africa’s technology space. Media and funders both have a bigger target to hit when looking for entrepreneurs. They have been setting the stage to broaden the base of their startup pyramid: finding the local innovators and entrepreneurs and getting more of them funded.

Where the continent stands now is an order of magnitude beyond what it had just a few short years ago. In 2006 if you stated that you want to be a web or mobile entrepreneur you weren’t taken seriously. Five years later and it’s a legitimate position to take. There are now some successes to point out (think mPedigree, Mxit, PesaPal, Sproxil and Ushahidi etc), which make it a lot easier for the new breed of startups to get started.

This is what we’re aiming for: a playing field that allows more entrepreneurs to startup, get some seed funding and fail fast if necessary. The ones who make it, the ones who get beyond the startup phase and become real companies with cashflow and employees, are why this is being done. This will make some people a lot of money, and it will make millions of others lives a lot better because they have better and more relevant products locally.

2012 is set. It’s the year where Africa grows the seed funding and early stage venture capital investments so that five years from now it has the ecosystem needed to support a much larger investment and startup community.

My prediction is this: in 2012, if you have a startup in one of the main tech cities in Africa and are unable to get funding, it is due to one of two things: your idea isn’t viable or you don’t know how to pitch.

The funding is coming, and it’s up to you to create a business and make it succeed.

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