Safaricom launches 3rd edition of Appwiz Challenge

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Leading Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom has launched the third edition of its three-month Appwiz Challenge, aiming to nurture and mentor ICT-driven startups.

The initiative is launched in partnership with the @iBizAfrica incubator at Strathmore University, and takes participants through a three-month training curriculum, offering mentorship and coaching from industry leaders and leading entrepreneurs, as well as training in entrepreneurship skills.

Three innovative businesses and ideas will be selected from four categories, with the grand winner receiving a cash grant of KES1.5 million (US$14,700), second place KES1 million (US$9,800) and third place KES500,000 (US$4,900). Submissions are now open and close on August 16.

“The growth of the mobile technology market presents a great platform for technology startups to not only create innovative solutions to everyday needs, but to transform these into sustainable businesses,” said Joseph Ogutu, Safaricom director for strategy and innovation.

“Through this competition we want to transform lives through innovation, by supporting young ICT enterprises so that we can also help create opportunities for self-employment of Kenyans and retain Kenya’s position as an African technology hub.”

Appwiz, first introduced in 2013, has so far incubated almost 30 tech startup solutions. Last year’s winner was campus news portal Magazine Reel, which now has close to 200,000 active users and 1.5 million page views monthly. M-Ledger, which was a runner-up in the first edition of the challenge, was in November last year acquired by Safaricom. It now has over 150,000 active users.

“We identified a gap in the market, where one of the main challenges startups face is the lack of funds to transition from prototype to market-ready product. So we developed a competition and training module that covers all the basics these innovators need to build successful start-ups. We’re asking them to participate in groups of three, so that we can help them appreciate the value of teamwork in a business as we nurture their startups,” said Ogutu.

Safaricom is also looking to support Kenyan tech startups through its Spark Venture Fund, which was launched in November and will see successful candidates receive between KES7 million (US$72,000) and KES22 million (US$225,000) investment in return for a minority stake in their startups.

Disrupt Africa reported last month 200 applications had been received for the US$1 million investment fund, with fund managers currently reviewing applications to create a shortlist.

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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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