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Having successfully held 15 pitch events — with another taking place today (9 November) in Botswana — and with four more to go, Seedstars World is close to wrapping up its annual tour of some of Africa’s top tech startup ecosystems.
For those in the know, that means one thing — the organisation’s annual Africa regional summit is just around the corner. This year’s edition will take place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 13 December. Ventureburn readers can get discounted tickets (see here).
The 2018 Seedstars Africa Summit will see the 25 Seedstars local winners participate in a Seedstars Growth Bootcamp and Investor Day before it closes with a regional conference.
Seedstars regional manager for Africa Claudia Makadristo (pictured above) told Ventureburn earlier this week that the regional summit is about “connecting the right people” on a local, regional and global level.
“The regional summit is about bringing together the right stakeholders on the continent and is meant as a showcase of the entrepreneurs we have found to stakeholders that might not have been able to join the local event and find a trip to Switzerland, where we organise our global Seedstars Summit,” explained Makadristo.
The 2018 Seedstars Africa Summit will take place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 13 December
She also pointed out that the gathering also entails connecting entrepreneurs to each other in order for them to learn from entrepreneurs that might be facing similar challenges. “It’s a platform where our community can engage in meaningful discussions,” she added.
In the following Q&A, Makadristo explains how Seedstars World organises and sponsors its local pitch events, what the organisation looks for in startups and its plans for next year’s Seedstars Africa tour.
How are the countries and cities which host the Seedstars pitch events selected?
From a Seedstars perspective, we are of course strategically positioned to be in countries where the ecosystem is generally strong, as our main aim is to find investible ventures.
However, as part of the Seedstars mandate — To promote, connect and invest — we are also constantly on the look-out for upcoming young ecosystems that show potential, commitment from a small group of local players and growth. This is the reason why each year we add countries where the ecosystem is very nascent to the list, as we see the potential for growth.
How are the startups chosen to pitch at these events selected?
The bottom line is that we are looking for real solutions to real problems. There are four different aspects we look for in an application:
- The startup must have been launched within the last two years.
- If the startup has received external funding, it can only be up to $500 000.
- The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (minimum viable product or MVP).
- The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability.
In some instances after Seedstars announces the 10 startups that will pitch at each pitching event, more startups are then added. How come?
When selecting startups for the local event we, of course, have limited spaces. Ten is the average number that we look for.
However, with more nascent ecosystems we might only invite eight. We typically invite more startups where the competition is very fierce and the number of quality entrepreneurs is quite high. Therefore, we might add an additional one or two. Usually, the minimum is eight, the maximum is 12 and on average we have around 10.
We noticed South Africa has two pitch events and then a final pitch event, while a country like Nigeria, which has a just as big tech startup ecosystem, only has one, why is that?
We tested the model in South Africa and we have seen that it works very well and ensures more inclusion from the different regions of the countries. We are aiming to replicate the South Africa model in a number of countries, including Nigeria.
How are the pitch events sponsored?
We typically work with local partners that have a particular mandate to support entrepreneurs and a partner that we believe can add a lot of value to the event. However, this is not an absolute must as Seedstars itself sponsors competitions in certain countries as well.
How does Seedstars select the judges that preside over the pitch events?
Typically, the jury represents a mix of investors, corporate, ecosystem supporters and a Seedstars representative. We usually receive recommendations locally for jury members and the Seedstars team screens the profile to make sure they have an understanding of the space we play in.
How big a deal is winning a local Seedstars pitch event, besides publicity and the trip to the regional and global Seedstars summits, what do the winning startups receive?
It is about being plugged into a global community and being able to easily connect with one another. The competition is actually not so much about winning as there are only a couple of winners.
It is about using the three bootcamps and events we organise to sit down and learn from relevant mentors and jury members to be introduced to relevant partners and investors and to learn from other entrepreneurs that might be facing similar challenges.
It is a journey and winning or losing is not the end of it.
The main aim is that from the moment we meet the entrepreneurs until the global summit and beyond, we see growth. And of course, the goal for Seedstars is to make sure that through this journey we can accelerate their growth, invest and or introduce them to relevant partners that can help grow their business.
What new locations will be added to next year’s Seedstars Africa tour?
We are still defining which countries to add and will let you know in January.
However, Lusophone Africa and the islands are definitely the places we would like to explore better, as well as expanding our footprint in countries where we see different ecosystems popping up in cities beyond the capital.
Featured image: Seedstars’ Africa regional manager Claudia Makadristo (Maryam Mgonja via Facebook)
Ventureburn is a Seedstars media partner