33 startups shortlisted for Safaricom investment

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The US$1 million investment fund launched for tech startups by Kenyan operator Safaricom has shortlisted 33 startups for consideration since launching, according to Safaricom chief executive officer (CEO) Bob Collymore.

Disrupt Africa reported at the end of November Safaricom launched the Spark Venture Fund for an initial two year period, targeting mobile tech startups in Kenya.  The fund will offer equity investments and other debt instruments for values between US$75,000 and US$250,000.

“We see this as a much needed catalyst that will help actualize our aspiration to nurture a vibrant ICT economy in Kenya,”  said Joe Ogutu, director of strategy and innovation at Safaricom.

Collymore has now told Disrupt Africa that in the two months since launching, the Spark Venture Fund has received over 200 startup enquiries, and 125 applications have been submitted.

To be eligible for funding, startups must have a functioning product or service – with an active user base – displaying an ability to create transformative solutions.  Startups applying to the fund should also provide a use case showing market potential, and must have identified a market segment.  Applicants must be based in Kenya; and have a team in place capable of achieving the goals presented.

33 startups have fulfilled the fund’s criteria so far, and have been shortlisted for discussion, Collymore said.

Seven applicants have already been rejected, Collymore revealed; whereas six have been presented to Safaricom’s Investment Committee.

Two startups are already progressing through the due diligence process.

Recent months have seen increased efforts by Safaricom to engage with tech startups.

In November the operator partnered with local startup Dynamic Data Systems for the launch of M-Pesa payments tracking app M-Ledger, in the first in a series of commercial partnerships Safaricom said it intends to pursue with startups in support of “high potential mobile tech start-ups offering solutions to everyday problems in Kenya”.

Collymore told Disrupt Africa the new focus on building relationships with startups – including the launch of the Spark Venture Fund – reflects his view that “most of the useful innovations are coming from young entrepreneurs in Kenya”.

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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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