East African startup accelerator gets international attention

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East Africa has a new tech startup accelerator fund and it’s getting international attention.

The Savannah Fund is a partnership between Mbwana Alliy, Paul Bragiel and iHub founder Erik Hersman and is “focused on finding and investing in East Africa’s highest potential pre-revenue startups”.

According to Hersman, the “idea is to bring the Silicon Valley-style accelerator model to Africa, seeing what needs to be tweaked to make it work for our region”.

At present the fund has about US$10-million at its disposal with classes of five startups at a time being brought on board and invested in.

Each startup will get a US$25 000 cash injection, in return for 15% equity and between three and six months to prove themselves.

Hersman says that “those who fail either pivot or leave”, while “those who gain traction have a chance at follow-on funding”.

A portion of the fund will reportedly be invested at the US$100 000-200 00 range for follow-on funding for the startups in the programme, and also at other high-growth tech companies in the region.

The fund says it will be looking at startups throughout the region, from Rwanda and Tanzania to Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya.

That’s promising, because it means the knowledge gained from Kenya’s rise to become one of Africa’s tech powerhouses can be spread to other countries in the region.

Mbwana says the thing that makes Savannah special is that it’s “a fund for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs”.

Hersman adds that it is “here for the small guy and our goal is to find those risky tech startups with hungry, passionate founders that will do the hard work it takes to become a successful company”.

The fund has caught the attention of a number of US-based investors including Yelp co-founder Russ Simmons, Tim Draper, Dave McClure, and Roger Dickey and Dali Kilani of Zynga. It’s also been mentioned on TechCrunch.

The fund is just the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at boosting the continents startup scene. Others include Nigeria’s Enspire, Ghana’s MEST, the Google-sponsored Umbono in South Africa, and Tarhir2 in Egypt.

Maybe next time we list Africa’s most promising tech startups, there’ll be 130 instead of 30.

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