This accelerator wants to ‘supercharge’ Somali startups

When you think of likely spots for startup accelerators, Somaliland is pretty low down on the list. If the self-declared state is known for anything, it’s trying to gain recognition as separate entity to Somalia.

But if a company called Innovate Ventures has its way, the world could soon be taking Somali startups very seriously.

In partnership with VC4Africa and Oxfam, the organisation this week announced the launch of The Innovate Accelerator, which will be based in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

According to a press release sent to Ventureburn, the 10-week programme aims to “support and invest in the next wave of tech start-ups in Somaliland and Somalia and grow the nascent startup ecosystem in the country”.

Mentorship and training, it says, will be provided by domain experts and entrepreneurs and the top three startups from the Innovate Accelerator will receive up to US$10 000 in investment from Innovate Ventures Fund.

Applications will be accepted online from start-ups based in Somaliland or Somalia and founded by entrepreneurs under the age of 35. Initially 12 start-ups will be selected for a one week long
bootcamp based on the potential of the team, the scalability and commercial viability of the product or service espoused, and the traction attained to-date.

After the bootcamp, up to 10 start-ups will be selected to participate in the 10-week accelerator programme, which will be based in Hargeisa, Somaliland. This group will receive mentoring and training on how to build a commercially viable and scalable technology business.

The start ups will also receive introduction to leading companies and investors in the Somali region.

The accelerator programme will culminate in a Demo Day where the start-ups will pitch to a room full of local and international investors and media. The top 3 start-ups will receive a total of US$10 000 in equity investment from the Innovate Ventures Fund.

“This accelerator programme represents a significant shift in how we support businesses in Somaliland and Somalia”, says Dr. Abdigani Diriye, Director of Innovate Ventures. “We are amongst
the first to run such a programme, and the Innovate Accelerator programme will provide an opportunity to help Somali start-ups find the right product-market fit and scale their startup, thus
creating job opportunities and value for investors”.

“We’re excited to get directly involved in the on-the-ground accelerator program in Somaliland,” says Alina Vinogradova, Head of Programs and Partnerships at VC4Africa. “Somali startups are
largely underrepresented on the VC4A platform – with this program we hope to identify world-class entrepreneurial talent that we can present to our global investor network. VC4A and ABAN will also work to promote the culture of angel investment among Somali diaspora, to unlock more capital for young tech innovators.”

According to the release, the accelerator programme will also enable startup founders to road test their propositions and get immediate and honest feedback about their business models from experienced entrepreneurs and Innovate Ventures business mentors. It will expose them to investors and partners through the programme and through the VC4Africa platform.

Applications can be submitted online and close on 12 August.



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