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Techstars 2017: an accelerator by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs


The Barclays SA acceleration programme, Techstars, has opened applications to up-and-coming entrepreneurs looking to scale their innovative startups in Africa and abroad.

The 13-week programme set to begin 9 May 2017, at the Rise fintech hub in Woodstock Cape Town, and will put 10 startups through their paces fitting in 12 months of work into three.

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Startups selected for the programme will have an opportunity to learn, as well as expand their presence within the African continent via Barclays Africa Group’s customers, technology teams and products.

They’ll also have a chance to scale on a global level through the various Rise sites situated in Tel Aviv, London, Mumbai, Vilnius and New York. Techstars startups will receive up to US$45 000 in investment as well as have access to over 300 perks valued at more than US$2-million.

The accelerator will provide startups with a proven curriculum as well as lifelong access to the Techstars network of investors, VCs and mentors.

“Africa has a tremendous untapped potential to not only pioneer its own creative solutions for its unique contexts but to also create solutions that the rest of the world can adopt for their own concepts,” said the leader for Barclay’s innovative agenda, Yasaman Hadjibashi.

Speaking to the Techstars MD, Yossi Hasson, his passion for entrepreneurs came from his own hardships as one, having spent 12 years of his life building Synaq from the ground up.

Read more: Landmark Barclays Africa accelerator programme concludes

“Through that 12-year journey we (himself and his co-founder) had a lot of ups and downs and learned some very painful and hard lessons as everyone does and realised probably a little later in my experience that what could have shortened the pains and the downs would’ve been getting access to mentors who’ve done this before.

“Having access to those mentors we would’ve probably accelerated the growth and reached the same kind of milestones in a shorter period of time and with a lot less pain,” he continued.

Hasson also mentioned the hurdles he’s faced going from an entrepreneur to an MD of an accelerator, which caters to entrepreneurs.

“You’re no longer the entrepreneur so you’ve got to let the entrepreneurs make their decisions as much as you might think this is what they should be doing, they are the entrepreneur.

Techstars aims to provide innovative startups with an actionable plan to scale successfully

“The other challenge has been making sure you can create a (successful) environment, because you have 10 different other companies from eight different countries, vastly different cultures, backgrounds, businesses and building a cohesive programme where these 10 entrepreneurs can work together in the same space but also collaborate and thrive together to scale and succeed,” he said.

Startups eligible to apply to the Techstars Africa accelerator should have the capacity for machine learning, lending, digital banking solutions, cyber security, trading, and data analytics. They should also have the capability for insurance, cryptocurrency, wealth management as well as payments, and much more.

Eligible candidates should also consist of a great team with both business and technical capabilities as well as a commitment to developing their startup. They also need to be based full-time at any of the accelerator sites for the duration of the programme.

Read more: 4 factors to consider before signing with an accelerator

Techstars also takes 6% for US$20 000, this value comes from the mentorship, international network, access to the investment community as well as a chance to fast track a partnership with Barclays Bank.

“I truly believe that being part of Techstars gives companies such an advantage when it comes to scaling globally. The depth of experience that the Techstars team and global mentor network has in working with and investing in over 900 startups is unprecedented for the African continent. The accelerator pushes for one year’s worth of traction in three months. At the end, your company won’t come out the same regardless of stage,” said Hasson.

So far, Techstars has worked with over 900 companies which have collectively raised over US$2.4-billion, with almost 80% of their cohorts still active while 11% have been acquired. And, for those startups looking to partner or make a successful exit, there is a mergers and acquisitions partnership team situated in Silicon Valley.

Companies have until 5 February 2017 to apply.

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