Hong Kong startup accelerator Nest expands to Africa, plans investments continent-wide

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Hong Kong-based startup accelerator Nest has announced the opening of an office in Nairobi, Kenya, which the company will use to roll out accelerator programmes and invest in startups across Africa.

Founded in 2010, Nest services early-stage, high growth businesses, becoming actively involved in its investments, of which it has 48 so far. It will use its Nairobi office, located at the Nairobi Garage, as a launchpad for activities elsewhere on the continent.

Nest Nairobi is headed up by managing partner Aaron Fu, who will focus on finding local corporate partners and connect African entrepreneurs with Nest’s startup ecosystem elsewhere in the world. In Hong Kong, Nest has partnered with a number of international brands, such as DBS Bank and insurer AIA to run corporate accelerator programmes, a strategy it will also be pursuing in Africa.

“Our unique support system can make the difference between success and failure as we give entrepreneurs access to the right tools and resources to enable them to turn their dreams into a reality,” Simon Squibb, chief executive officer (CEO) of Nest, said.

“Far more valuable than mere funding, we provide mentorship, advice, space to develop ideas as well as access to shared legal and accounting experts so they can focus on developing their products and growing successful businesses. There is a lot of exciting talent in Africa and there’s a huge opportunity to scale businesses both across the continent and also globally.”

Fu said Kenya was an exciting frontier market that offered Nest the opportunity to be one of the first overseas organisations to make an impact and accelerate the growth of startups in “Silicon Savannah”.

“Momentum is already building in Nairobi’s startup and thriving technology community and Nest can add to this by providing startups with access to Asian capital, global mentors and market opportunities, and developing the right partnerships between Asian and African entrepreneurs and businesses,” he said.

“While we are based in Kenya we will be working across Africa to find the best ideas and talent, in particular Lagos, and Accra and Cape Town where the startup scene is already flourishing. The prospect of working across the two largest emerging regions of the world, in which consumers share a large number of commonalities, is something I am particularly passionate about.”

Fu said by combining the best practices of two vibrant startup ecosystems – Nairobi and Hong Kong – and connecting two continents, Nest could help founders internationalise their startups and scale their innovations outside of Africa.

“I admire Nest’s holistic approach to accelerating startups and look forward to collaborating with key stakeholders and ecosystem actors to spur innovation and accelerate the rate of growth of businesses out of Nest Nairobi in the months to come,” he said.

The process of getting into a Nest accelerator for African startups is likely to be a tough one, given Nest’s selective approach.

“Nobody gets into an accelerator on a funky powerpoint,” Fu told Disrupt Africa. “They get in on the merits of their businesses.”

Fu has been the driving force behind the African expansion, having previously worked in Kenya for Standard Chartered.

“I saw significant opportunities for us to get more involved with the startups here. I saw some good ideas, some OK teams, but a lot of inexperience when it came to working with corporates.”

Nest also recently launched an equity crowdfunding platform named Investable, which allows professional investors to browse through and invest in a wealth of pre-vetted investment opportunities within a wide range of industries. African startups will have the opportunity to be featured on this platform also.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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