Nic Haralambous on Finding Funding

19 Nov

Nicholas Haralambous was the CEO and co-founder of Motribe before the company was successfully acquired by Africa’s largest social network, Mxit in August, 2012. In 2009 he featured on GQ’s list of Top 30 Men in Media and was also a finalist in the Men’s Health Best Men Awards in 2010. Prior to its sale, Motribe, was named by Forbes magazine as one of the Top 20 Startups in Africa in 2012. In this essay Nicholas offers advice for African entrepreneurs looking to find funding.

by Nic Haralambous

Finding funding is never easy, don’t let anyone tell you differently. You don’t simply trip and fall into a pile of cash. This is especially true in the emerging markets at present.

Many investors are risk-averse (they don’t want to invest in unproven businesses) and those who are local and not averse to risk don’t have enough money too truly back a long-term startup play. This is the first paradox in the tech-investment space in Africa right now.

There are many investment firms making a move in the right direction in Africa but they are still few and far between.

There are the varying types of investment you can go after; Private equity, angel investment, seed funding, accelerators and Venture Capital. You could also look to family funding as an answer - getting your family to back you in small increments.

I have previously raised fairly substantial seed funding from 4Di Capital in South Africa for my company, Motribe and I lived to tell my story.

In 2011 I was certain that the solution to everything was more funding. I also believed that the money needed to come from abroad.

Here are some problems I ran into:

Move to the US/EU

Many investors were interested in giving me money but wanted me to move the Motribe Headquarters to New York. This was a bad idea but the money was good. We decided against it.

The lesson: The investor needs to be the right fit for you and your business. Not all money is good money or the right money, don’t settle.

Not Enough Revenue

This problem generally comes into play with a fairly young startup in a very dynamic space. It’s often tough to raise funding without revenue in the emerging markets.

The lesson: Make money. You don’t have to make profit, just prove that your business can make money and scale the making of money.

The Wrong Kind of Revenue

Be sure that you have chosen the right revenue model for your product or company. Revenue anywhere is often the advice given but often leads to troubles down the line. Be vicious with your goals and ensure that you go after scalable revenue.

The lesson: Be patient and don’t be greedy. Sometimes turning down revenue is better than getting the wrong revenue.

General Misunderstanding of African Markets

Traveling abroad and pitching to Venture Capital abroad taught me some interesting lessons. One of the main observations I made is that interest in Africa is peaking but knowledge of the market is not. Investors are often loathe to get on a plane and come into deepest darkest Africa and find out for themselves what is happening.

The lesson: You know your market, stick to what you know and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Apps4Africa 2011 Winner Farmerline: My DEMO Africa Experience

17 Nov

Emmanuel Owusu Addai is the co-founder of Farmerline the Apps4Africa 2011 West Africa 3rd Place Winners. Farmerline was selected as one of two former A4A winners who would present at the first ever DEMO Africa. Here, Emmanuel tells his story and offers advice to those wishing to win funding in the 2012 Competition!

by Emmanuel Addai

Emmanuel Addai (Co-Founder, Farmerline) at DEMO Africa 2012

DEMO Africa was a whole week of learning and experiencing what it takes to sell your business ideas to the world. Being part of the first ever DEMO on the African continent has strengthened me and our app, Farmerline, as well as wiped out all manner of perception and doubts about what the young African entrepreneurs are capable of. There they were - young men and women from across the African continent with great vision, ideas and creativity - seeking mentorship and investments for their start-ups.

Before the start of DEMO Africa, I had the rare privilege of attending the [email protected] Summit held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi on the ticket of Apps4Africa. It was a day of pure learning. Meeting all the people who matter in the ICT space, discussing about how to push the frontiers of Innovation and Technology using the 4C’s [Capacity, Connectivity, Creativity, Capital], and telling sponsors and participants about Farmerline as well as receiving responses from them, was an experience of a lifetime. They all believe in one thing - Provide the 4C’s to the African youth, and you will be amazed at the innovations they will come up with. It was gratifying to be in the company of all the giants behind this idea [Microsoft, Nokia, infoDev, USAID, DEMO, Appfrica, VC4A, State Department of USA, etc].

More than 40 great presentations were made from 25-26 October, and 5 businesses were crowned as DEMO Africa Lions. My advice is simple - Guys, get your start-up ideas ready. You may be lucky to be a part of Demo Africa 2013! I can’t wait.

A Few Lessons I Learned

First, being a winner of a credible and prestigious competition such as Apps4Africa comes with it a certain amount of responsibility. It is not just about the winning, its about how you will seize the opportunity of all the hype to make it big. Farmerline has got all the opportunity to ride on the wings of the Apps4Africa award to succeed. The credibility that our business has had with this and many other awards is tremendous, and we are poised to convert these successes into a real problem solving machine.

Second, sometimes you need to improvise to save the situation. I accepted to be part of DEMO Africa not knowing how huge the expectation was. Though I was not happy with my presentation, I have come to an important realisation that sometimes I need to respond to situations as it demands. I failed to demo our unfinished application during my presentation only to realise moments after the presentation that people who followed up to see how our application works just loved that ‘unfinished’ app. In hindsight, I should have been bold enough to show it on stage.

Third, never think you are the only repository of good ideas. Others out there have other, sometimes better ideas. Go out there, listen to them, and polish the little you have.

Finally, learn how to break the ice whenever you get on stage to speak, it really helps to diffuse tension. And I will refer to (former Apps4Africa winner) Eric Mutta’s Mini-Shop presentation - people loved to listen to him more and more because they thought they were listening to a story. Congrats to Eric!

My Advice to the Apps4Africa 2012 Applicants:

We (Alloysius Attah and I) entered the Apps4Africa challenge not even believing our own story. After our idea (Farmerline) came third in the West and Central Africa category, we had to put pen to paper, mind to action, and dreams to reality. Everywhere we go, people want to listen to us just because we are winners in a continental competition. Apps4Africa is serious business. Make the best out of this competition, and you will never regret trying.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Appfrica, the organization that facilitates the Apps4Africa competition, for sponsoring Farmerline and Mini Shop to attend the DEMO Africa event, and for believing in me even when I was unsure of presenting.

Appfrica at DEMO Africa 2012

If I would forget everything that happened in Nairobi, it would never be the inspiring smiles of the Appfrica team (Jon Gosier, Bahiyah Robinson, Marieme Jamme, Thomas Genton, and Babara Birungi) as well as the unending appetite to want to listen to Eric Mutta (Mini Shop) more and more. Thank you all!

Apps4Africa 2012 Launches at DEMO Africa

27 Oct

The first ever DEMO Africa was held this week in Nairobi and was a big success. Here’s a summary of things that occurred, this is a cross-post from

On October 24th, 2012 Hillary Clinton announced the 3rd Apps4Africa competition at DEMO Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. Her pre-recorded video address to the audience was one of the many highlights of the DEMO Africa which brought investors and 40 of Africa’s finest startups together for rapid-fire 6-minute pitch sessions.

The Apps4Africa Team! From L to R: Thomas Genton (Senior Advisor, Bureau of African Affairs at U.S. Department of State), Jonathan Gosier (Founder, Appfrica), Bahiyah Robinson (Executive Director, Appfrica), Barbara Birungi (Director, HiveColab), Emmanuel Addai (Apps4Africa 2011 Winner), Marieme Jamme (CEO, SpotOne Global), Eric Mutta (Apps4Africa 2011 Winner), Thomas Debass (Director, [email protected])

The announcement also marks a big change in the Apps4Africa model. This year the competition is targeting startups and businesses through competitive funding, offering a non-diluting path to venture capital, mentorship and other forms of support. 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 it’s 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!

We’re greatly appreciative for the remarks of Mrs. Hillary Clinton and the continued support of our friends at the State Department!

At DEMO young companies are offered 6 minutes to demonstrate their app’s utility, their business model and their case for investment. It’s very fast-paced and exciting for the entrepreneurs.

Keeping with that theme, we’ve selected 6 photos that capture the experience of the conference

Emmanuel Addai (Co-Founder, Farmerline) at DEMO Africa 2012

Emmanuel Addai (Co-Founder, Farmerline) was one of two entrepreneurs representing the Apps4Africa 2011 Winners at DEMO Africa 2012. Farmerline came in third in the 2011 Climate Challenge.

DEMO Africa 2012

DEMO Africa 2012, the Launchpad for Emerging Technology and Trends

DEMO Africa 2012

One shot at 6 minutes in front of investors, journalists, and other technologists. Would you be ready?

Demo Africa 2012 Panelists

Intermixed with the pitches were panels and real-time feedback ‘sage’ sessions from seasoned entrepreneurs and investors. Some ideas passed their test, others were shot down right away for not being investable.

DEMO Africa 2012

During the pitch sessions, the exhibition hall at DEMO Africa 2012 was relatively empty, but after, this was where deals were made and startups got their second or third chance to pitch investors one on one.

Appfrica at DEMO Africa 2012

Our team was all over the place at DEMO! From left to right, Marieme Jamme of SpotOne Global and Africa Gathering, Thomas Genton of the U.S. Department of State, Barbara Birungi of HiveCoLab, Jon Gosier and Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson of Appfrica.

The Olympics as a Platform?

7 Aug

Blogger Jim Haughwout recently shared his thoughts on the ways the International Olympic Committee could have embraced the technology and data to really transform the Olympic 2012 experience by making that data available to developers in competitions like A4A…

This year was not just the first Summer Olympics since social media, multi-media mobile phones, and smart phone (and tablet) apps have become the ubiquitous means that over a billion people use to find and share information, opinion, photos and video globally—and instantly. It was also the first Summer Olympics since the rise in use of Open Data Platforms and Apps Competitions to tap the innovation of thousands of people to create better ways to access information (without adding the cost and complexity of hiring thousands of designers, developers and testers).

The IOC could have taken advantage of this by doing four things:

  1. Creating of an open data platform for access to all data (back to 1896) on events, medals, schedules, athletes, scores, etc. along the likes of NYC Open Data,, the German Open Data Set and San Francisco Open Data
  2. Establishing deals with traditional media to make metadata-tagged, embeddable video and audio available for widely and easily use in Apps
  3. Writing a social media policy that advocated (rather than limited) sharing on-the-spot comments, updates, photos and videos—promoting event, sport, country and perhaps even athlete hashtags to make social media data easier to find and use
  4. Launching an Olympic App Competition along the likes of NYC Big Apps, Apps for Development, Apps for Climate Change, Apps4Africa and so many others.

Read The Full Article

Open Database of Apps4Africa Winners

2 Aug

We’re frequently asked to share the contact details and other information about the Apps4Africa winners and their various projects. We’ve been offering these details to various interested parties on request but obviously, as demand increases for this information, it gets harder to meet all requests. Today we’re releasing a public listing of all the winners of funding from our competitions to date! Keep checking back as we improve this page by adding details about each project, what the winners are doing now, and what they accomplished post-A4A!

In this archive you’ll find participant email addresses, team participants, names, and descriptions of their various projects.

View the Database

CNN’s African Voices Features Marieme Jamme

24 Jul

Our own Marieme Jamme, who helped to execute Apps4Africa 2011′s West and Southern Africa competitions, was featured on CNN’s African Voices. We’re delighted to see the coverage on such powerful and inspirational individual and friend!

CNN — Senegalese-born Marieme Jamme is at the forefront of the technology revolution that is slowly transforming Africa.

As chief executive of Spot One Global Solutions, a UK-based company that helps information technology organizations gain a foothold in emerging markets, she encourages global investment in African IT infrastructure.
Armed with a strong desire to help Africa realize its potential, Jamme is outspoken about what the continent needs and how she can help.

Read the Article Here

An Interview with Zimbabwe’s UnsApp

23 Jul

Hugh Sado of the Zimbabwean winning team UnsApp was recently interviewed by TechZim offering more insight into their planning and growth plans…

The application is meant to be something that someone with an ordinary phone is able to access. A phone that doesn’t have any internet. We are still thinking of how the technicalities in terms of how this will be possible but basically there will be an interaction between the user and our database so that someone can register and will give them information on what is happening, they can give us information on how much they have if they are farmers, or how much they have even if they are not farmers but they know information. We’re still looking into how exactly the information will move between the different users of that information. But will also distribute via regular desktops, laptops, smartphones and also other media like TV and radio.

Read the Full Interview


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