Apps4Africa highlighted in new Documentary

Apps4Africa and 2012 A4A Winner ProWork are featured prominently in this new mini-documentary “Inside DEMO Africa 2012″.

The inaugural DEMO Africa event took place last October 24-26, 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya. It provided a platform for 40 of the most innovative technology products from companies across the African continent with the opportunity to launch before a global audience of investors, media, strategic buyers, C-level executives and other entrepreneurs. This was the first time ever that a DEMO event was hosted on the African soil.

The DEMO conferences have earned their reputation for consistently identifying tomorrow’s cutting-edge technologies, and have served as launchpad events for companies such as Palm, E*Trade, Salesforce, Webex, Tivo, VMware and Fusion-io and thousands of others, helping them to secure venture funding, establish critical business relationships, and influence early adopters.

The second annual DEMO Africa conference will be held October 24 & 25th, 2013.

The film is part of the ongoing “Cheetah Code” web TV series chronicling Africa’s young entrepreneurs and emerging technology sector and can be found at CheetahCode.com or @cheetahcode on Twitter.

“Inside DEMO Africa 2012″ can be found on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/65979643. Runtime 00:23:54

Congratulating the Apps4Africa 2012 Winners!

In 2012, the Apps4Africa: Business Challenge asked young tech developers to submit their business ideas aimed at solving local problems through a series of brainstorming sessions held in six countries across Africa. The brainstorming events, which engaged local stakeholders, partners, and local US Embassies, focused mainly on engaging and encouraging the next young tech CEOs and teams of change makers that could innovate, create, and transform their technology businesses to provide more employment opportunities and strengthen the economy of their region.

 

We’re excited to announce that of the near 300 submitted applications, from nearly 1000 people, three winners have been elected for funding:

Ffene
Team - Titus Mawano
Country - Uganda
Award - $10,000
Website - http://ffene.com

Ffene is a low cost business management platform that enables small and medium businesses to leverage technology to reduce overhead costs incurred due to administrative tasks, freeing up resources that can be redirected to growth initiatives. Currently, Ffene can be used for accounting, customer relationship management, product management and generation of reports.

SliceBiz
Team - William Edem Senyo, Heather Cochran
Country - Ghana
Award - $10,000
Website - http://www.facebook.com/SliceBiz

SliceBiz, is a disruptive crowdsourcing web and mobile investment platform providing alternative funding for startups. Our mission is to unlock a whole new funding market for startups to access finance by creating the framework that will make it easy and appealing for middle class Africans to invest small amounts of their disposable income into high-growth startups with proven potential to give high return on investment. The solution SliceBiz is offering is to leverage web/mobile (& offline) platforms to create a connection between startups looking for funding and business-savvy young professionals/middle class looking to invest.

Prowork
Team - Francis Onwumere, Opeyemi Obembe, Ernest Ojeh
Country - Nigeria
Award - $10,000
Website - http://prowork.me

Prowork is a mobile first enterprise class project management and collaboration solution for businesses. It’s like Basecamp or Atlassian’s confluence but mobile and easier to use, more powerful, with real time collaboration everywhere, anywhere. Prowork is accessible via mobile, the web, SMS and a robust API to allow developers to extend the functionality.

Apps4Africa 2012 Finalist Announcement!

Appfrica and the U.S. Department of State, with the support of the World Bank, would like to extend our congratulations to the 30 final innovations that have been selected from the Apps4Africa 2012 Competition!

Our expert judges are now voting on the innovations that should be invested in this year.  BIG thanks to The U.S. Department of State, The World Bank (Africa), Nic Haralambous, Liz Ngonzi, Loren Treisman, Makhtar Diop, and Wayne Sutton for your participation in the judging process!

The (30) Final Innovations are:
PENYA Financial (Zimbabwe)
TYAN - OpenApp (Zambia)
The Business Planner (Zimbabwe)
Ama Sampo (Zambia)
Ujamaa (Senegal)
Spell Africa (Nigeria)
1School/Oneskool (Nigeria)
AWPN (Nigeria)
Zambianized (Zambia)
Alsvas (Central African Republic)
Ffene (Uganda)
Prowork (Nigeria)
Esaja (Zimbabwe)
Yaalda (Cameroon)
Prep-hub (South Africa)
Youth Village (South Africa)
Intumwa (Rwanda)
Click Tradex (Ghana)
Exportunity (Benin)
SliceBiz (Ghana)
Learnitug (Uganda)
StudyMate (Zambia)
BrainShare (Uganda)
Yeboao/KKYB (Ghana)
MyCareer (Uganda)
Jobs-in-Nigeria (Nigeria)
Miguide (Ghana)
Opportunity Pour Tous (Cote d’Ivoire)
Bloorx/Searchlamp (Nigeria)
XCommodity (Tanzania)

What Happens Next?

Out of these finalists, 3 innovations will be selected and funded with $10,000USD each. Appfrica will continue to engage these innovators, providing mentorship, additional exposure and additional funding opportunities.

Look out for our (3) selections to be funded in the coming weeks!

The Apps4Africa 2012 team: (L to R) Marieme Jamme, Thomas Genton, Barbara Birungi, Jon Gosier, Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson

African Tech Innovations: The Missing Link

By Mariéme Jamme, Apps4Africa Consultant

Each time I return from Africa, I have the feeling that progress is happening on the ground but something is missing. People are desperately and rightly demanding change.

 

During my visits to Kinshasa, Ghana and Senegal for the Apps4Africa 2012 Competition brainstorming sessions in particular, I witnessed from the innovators a real desire to innovate and have their voices heard. In Senegal, I met an African news team that produces AFRIQUEITNEWS, and Stephane Ndour, finalist of Startup Weekend, who created SAMAEVENT- the only online platform providing all the tools needed to register an event in Senegal. In Ghana, I met Allosyius Attah, founder of FARMERLINE and winner of Apps4Africa 2011, whose organisation provides a mobile and web-based system to furnish farmers and investors with relevant agro industry content to improve productivity and increase income. In Kinshasa, some upcoming, enthusiastic youth technologists showed me their new linux app, and discussed their desire to establish a tech hub where they can meet and innovate, something desperately needed in the DRC.

Therefore, I truly hope that the growing competitions and gatherings, such as Apps4Africa, Startup Weekend, Africa Gathering and BarCAMPS can give visibility and credibility to young African innovators and ultimately make them more profitable. Such brainstorming sessions and gatherings, where people meet to share ideas and learn, could form the missing link by helping to create a culture of entrepreneurship and trust, to challenge and empower the technology entrepreneurs to do more for Africa.

Reality Checks and Talks in Apps4Africa Brainstorming Sessions

However, I remain unsure about how the mosaic of demands and desires will be met without an urgent change of the mind-set of policy makers in Africa and the entrepreneurs themselves. Whilst an African Technology Revolution is taking place, many of the young innovators still face huge problems of understanding how to build sustainable businesses around their innovations. Most are following their dreams, inspired mostly by the stories of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and succeeding without clear business plans or structured road maps when they started their businesses many years ago. The reality check has not yet taken place in the minds of African innovators and much time is being wasted on unrealistic ventures.

Apps4Africa is the only competition with an educational element to analyse local problems though hard-talk and debate. I found that the gap between creating ideas and creating a business around them is still massive. Hence this year’s Apps4Africa theme was very timely and relevant. 

We took the journey this year wishing to find the tech CEO who can not only innovate, transform, and solve local issues, but can also start a business around their innovation, ultimately creating jobs and reducing poverty in their communities.

“Our goal is to catalyze the growth of Africa’s early-stage startups to address the issue of youth unemployment across the continent. Africa needs to create at least 120 million jobs by 2012 to maintain its current trends of a growing middle class. Those jobs are not going to come from government mandates or multi-national corporations; they are going to come from successful startups and entrepreneurs. With Apps4Africa 2012, Appfrica and our partners at the State Department, [email protected], and the World Bank are demonstrating our commitment to addressing this problem now and in the future!” Jonathan Gosier

A moment of Reflection

The Apps4Africa brainstorming sessions are only possible with the amazing collaboration of innovators and business experts from the African Diaspora returning in Africa and few exceptional locals, for whose support and enthusiasm I am truly grateful.

At the end of my journey, I was convinced that Africans have many great ideas, and that supporting innovation helps entrepreneurs provide jobs for their communities.  They also have the ability to create many applications- we have scores of apps being developed across the continent currently. However, the great majority of entrepreneurs in Africa need more business mentoring and within their countries. There exists neither the ecosystem to address this nor a culture of entrepreneurship and risk taking required for success.

I believe that African policy makers need to invest seriously in creating more business schools and putting the right infrastructures into place to build the private sector industry of Africa.

I also believe that is an urgent need to equip young Africans with the right business innovation skills. Competitions such as Apps4Africa, where tangible results have been shown, need to happen more often to help more innovative business to be created. I believe that this will spread the culture of true entrepreneurship. Africans creating real meaningful Business in Africa is now a necessity.

 

 

Indigo Trust’s Loren Treisman on the Technology Ecosystem in Africa


Loren Treisman is the Executive of Indigo Trust, a grant-making foundation based in London that funds and supports technology-driven projects that bring about social change in Africa. She supports a wide range of programmes that focus mainly on innovation, transparency and citizen empowerment. Her portfolio also includes innovative projects that utilise information technologies to support development outcomes in any sector including the health, education, human rights and agriculture spheres. The Trust also supports technology innovation hubs across the continent.

———

Only two years ago, when we started funding in the tech for social change space in Africa, it was hard for people to imagine the tremendous potential for this sector to stimulate change on the continent.  Mobile phone penetration was growing exponentially and submarine cables on both coasts were beginning to make high speed broadband internet a reality.  Still, the power of these technologies to increase transparency, improve governance and impact upon social change across a range of sectors including health, education, agriculture and human rights was yet to be realised.

At Indigo Trust, we believe that the best solutions to Africa’s challenges will be devised by those affected by them.  Technology makes this possible.  As technology becomes more widely available and people are able to utilise this tool to access, share and create information, citizens are able to stimulate the change they wish to see in their own lives and communities.  Young people are often early adapters of new technologies and crucially, they often have the drive and passion it takes to turn a good idea into a viable enterprise or product.  Now, the young people of Africa can be the change makers in their societies.

This sector is still in its infancy, but it’s an exciting time to be involved.  There’s a tangible energy across Africa.  Technology innovation hubs are springing up across the continent-from KINU in Tanzania and Hive Colab in Uganda to Co-creation Hub in Nigeria and Activ Spaces in Cameroon.  These hubs are places where techies and social activists can access high speed internet, training and mentorship opportunities.  Most importantly they can share, collaborate and innovate.

These hubs are a crucial part of the local technology ecosystem which will stimulate local innovation and entrepreneurship and ensure that world class applications are developed in-country.  This will both stimulate Africa’s economic development and ensure that social projects most effectively address the needs of beneficiaries as the teams creating them will have a better understanding of local context and culture.

We’re delighted to be supporting Apps4Africa and thank them for inviting me to sit on the judge panel.  Beyond the competition, we recognise that entrepreneurs need support to transform their prototypes into viable products.  We’d be keen to support some of the best projects coming out of the competition.  We’ve been supporting iCow, last year’s winner of Apps4Africa for almost 2 years and we’re inspired by the team and the product.  It’s incredible to see the impact it’s making on the ground, increasing their incomes through higher milk yields and better sale prices for livestock.

The opportunity is here and now.  Other funders and investors are interested in this space and support is available to turn your idea into a reality.  If you’ve got a great idea for an application which can support young entrepreneurs, why don’t you get involved and be part of the change you wish to see in your community.

Liz Ngonzi’s Advice on Improving your Pitch

Thus guest post was contributed by entrepreneur, Liz Ngonzi. Born in Uganda and “raised” at the United Nations, Liz Ngonzi is an international entrepreneur, educator and speaker committed to facilitating relationships between organizations that “do good” with those that “do well”, with a goal of meeting their mutual strategic objectives through marketing and fundraising campaigns, and educational activities.

Liz has consulted to and advised organizations in the US and in Africa, focused on gender rights, youth development and public health, along with higher education institutions.

Based on her 20-year career in marketing/sales and ten of those as an entrepreneur, Liz also teaches nonprofits how to meaningfully and efficiently engage their stakeholders using digital media, and budding social entrepreneurs how to develop compelling value propositions for investors.

Liz currently serves as a 2011-2013 Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Cornell University Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship, is on the adjunct faculty of New York University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy & Fundraising and is the Africa Adviser to Syracuse University iSchool.


Ten Ways to Improve Your Pitch

Among the most common fears in the world is that of presenting in front of others – in the digital age in which we live where our ideas and correspondingly ourselves, could be delivered to countless and faceless people around the globe, that anxiety is most likely amplified a thousand-fold.

Even for me, with 20 years of pitching under my belt, many years teaching and presenting at conferences — I still have some anxiety when having to pitch an idea. The good news however, is that my years of experience — both winning and losing pitches — and subsequent analysis of losses and wins has enabled me to develop strategies that I’ve summarized for you below.

If you only remember three things from this post, here they are: (1) do your research to understand what will get the buyer(s) to say “yes”; (2) always put your best foot forward by realizing that while content is important, presentation can be even more so; and (3) be open to learning about how you can improve for the next pitch, assuming that you have what it takes to keep moving forward in the face of adversity. For everyone else, here are my 10 points to consider in improving you pitch:

1. Research, Research, Research. Understand Your Audience

Generally speaking, you will most likely know the names of who your assessors are. Armed with that knowledge and a simple Google search (here are the results of my Google search on Jon Gosier, Founder and CEO of Appfrica), you can learn about who they are, glean information about what drives them and possibly what you need to do to win them over. In this day and age of information, failing to research and understand the people to whom you’re presenting your ideas is a HUGE mistake that could ultimately result in your loss.

2. Understand Your Battlefield – Know Your Competitors’ Advantages and Weaknesses

Anyone effectively going into battle knows the importance of understanding who their opponents are. Again, a simple Google search about the opposing parties enable you to understand how to manoeuver against the competition. Such results provide you with insights into strengths and weaknesses in terms of marketability of their product, team strength, etc. If you don’t have information about current competitors, you can still research those whose ideas won in the past, along with those who were less fortunate. You can learn a lot from those who were successful…and even more from those who were not!

3. “The So What Factor” - Think About What Differentiates You and Your Business From Others

I know that you believe you’ve come up with the next best THING. However, in order to make certain that you have, you need to make certain that you understand and more importantly, convey what’s unique about your offering. People come up with great ideas all the time, however what takes a great idea to a great product/service, requires a bit more work.

Does your idea save people time or their lives? Have you found a way to help them make more money? Does your business have the ability to make people happier? Whatever you are offering, make certain that it does so better, faster or cheaper than other competitors in your target market. Most importantly, make certain to convey that in your pitch.

4. Content is King, But Sizzle Sells – Showmanship Can Make All the Difference

You can have a great idea or even be the most brilliant person, however if you do not know how to package it in a way that sells…you will fail to attract investors. If you do not currently have that talent on your team, I strongly suggest that you bring in someone who understands how to make your pitch “look and feel” more attractive to the potential investors.

This can include graphic designers, stylists (if you need to pitch in person or have photographs taken of your team) and great photographers / videographers who can capture your team and its business in the most attractive manner. For those on a tight budget, I suggest finding someone with a camera/video-enabled phone to capture your story through photos / video, even if they’re not professional ones…just do your best to make them look so!

5. Curate Your Digital Brand – Don’t Let Your Facebook Posts Kill the Deal

As much as we all love to share all of the happenings of our lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and other social media, I suggest that you review what you’ve posted online thus far and consider removing anything that would make your grandmother blush and even more importantly…make a potential investor re-consider whether or not betting on you or your fellow team members would be wise!

For additional information about how to curate your digital brand, review this link and check-out this link about how to manage your digital footprint. Another great resource you can use to improve your digital image is brand yourself, a service that aims to improve your Google search results.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice – Never Go in Cold

We all spend a lot of time getting everything ready for the pitch and sometimes forget to visualize success and practice toward that goal. As much as you may be incredibly busy getting the demo or power-point presentation ready, you have to take the time to practice for the pitch (if you’re fortunate enough to do it live or in front of the potential investors). If the pitch has to be done via postings, then you should consider recording it. You’ll definitely want to have a script that you follow for taping. I always tell people that YouTube is a great resource if they are trying to find how to do something. Here is a link to various Youtube videos for those trying to pitch to investors online.

7. Social Media is Just That….Social – Engage Others to Support Your Brand

Many entrepreneurs believe they have to do it all themselves, however, the good news is that through social media, they can leverage others to support their ideas. When my team and I were trying to get votes for our Africa, Tech & Women: The New Faces of Development panel at SXSW (a major US technology and music conference), we took to social media to get that much-needed support.

We even bombarded our email and mobile phone contacts with messages seeking support of our panel. The result was that our panel was selected from 3,200 entrants and one of 600 talks, not an easy feat, given that Africa still doesn’t have the reputation for tech innovation, and women are still definitely in the minority when it comes to tech.

8. Mind Your Manners – Personalized Thank You Notes Go a Long Way

I’m pretty “old school” when it comes to acknowledging others and have a preference for hand written notes. However I know that it is easier to send a thank-you notes via email, particularly when you’re doing so in/from Africa. Whatever the format, my experience has shown me that it makes a great deal of difference to send individualized notes to all those whom I’ve met following a pitch.

To do so, you have to make certain that you ask each of them for their business cards at an appropriate time during the pitch (if it’s in person) or work hard to find their email addresses if their contact details are not not posted on the site where you register (if online). I can tell you from experience that those who receive thank you notes from you following the pitches will remember that gesture, because most people seldom do so.

9. Seek Feedback – Why Did Your Pitch Rock or Bomb?

Alongside sending out thank you notes / emails, requesting feedback from investors / judges is a rarity. Those who take their responsibilities seriously (barring rules against doing so by the organizers of the pitch) will most likely provide you with feedback on why your pitch failed and possibly pointers on how to strengthen it. Whether or not they respond, it always makes sense to seek feedback in the event that you get it…it only makes you better if you do!

10. Be Your Best Cheerleader - Celebrate Having the Courage to Do What Most People Can’t

At the end of the day, the fact that you were brave enough to come up with an idea and present it to folks who could potentially bring it to fruition through their time, talent and resources – means that you’re a winner. Take the time to celebrate that!
Even if you did not make it through this time, if you take the time to obtain and review the feedback (post mortem included) and commit to pitch other people, if you do so armed with the aforementioned knowledge and have the confidence your ability to work through disappointments, you’ll eventually get better.

Follow Liz on Twitter: @LizNgonzi