Top 5 Kenyan startup developments in 2017

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It has been a topsy-turvy year in the Kenyan tech startup ecosystem, prompting Disrupt Africa to publish this piece earlier in the year questioning whether the space was developing as expected.

That said, there were some exciting developments, with the major ones fleshed out right here.

BitPesa on the march

Kenya-based bitcoin payments startup BitPesa began the year in fine fundraising form, closing a US$2.5 million round with a view to expanding its services further across West and Southern Africa, as well as in the UK and Europe.

It never looked back, in March partnering the Germany-based SME lending platform Bitbond to improve access to financing for businesses in Africa. It then raised follow-on funding from a number of investors to take its total secured investment to around the US$10 million mark.

Quite a year for the startup, even though it is still prevented from operating in its home country due to decisions taken by the Central Bank of Kenya.

TechCrunch Battlefield Africa hits Nairobi

Disrupt Africa reported in May the TechCrunch Battlefield Africa 2017 was coming to Africa for the first time this year, with 15 startups from across the continent subsequently picked to take part. The event took place in Nairobi in October.

Kenyan startup Lori Systems was crowned the overall winner, winning US$25,000 in equity-free funding and an all-expenses paid trip for two to compete in the Battlefield at TechCrunch’s flagship event, Disrupt SF 2018.

World Bank’s Traction Camp assists Kenyan startups

m:lab East Africa and the World Bank Group launched the Traction Camp initiative in 2016, one of a series of accelerator programmes being launched by the World Bank across Africa.

A total of 21 startups from across East Africa were selected to participate in the Nairobi-based programme, which was aimed at nurturing startups to create globally competitive, growth-oriented mobile and digital technology businesses.

It culminated with a demo day in September, and was deemed such as success the iHub has already opened applications for the second edition.

Twiga funding

The major one-off Kenyan funding round of the year was raised by mobile-based business-to-business food supply platform Twiga Foods, which secured a US$10.3 million Series A funding round to enable it to increase the number of vendors it serves, diversify its product portfolio, and introduce advanced supplier services.

Launched in 2014, Twiga Foods uses technology to consolidate the fragmented purchasing power of urban retailers, saving them a trip to the market by delivering to their doorstep better quality and better priced stock.

Aside from Twiga and BitPesa, other significant rounds went to Bamba Group, Alternative Circle, FarmDrive and M-Shule.

Nairobi Garage on expansion trail

Nairobi Garage seems intent on establishing itself as Africa’s biggest co-working space, and with that in mind this year left its original premises for a newer, bigger space. The hub, which also has premises at Westlands, is attracting larger and larger firms too, most notably ShowMax.

It is not just a co-working space either. In July, Nairobi Garage announced partnerships with a handful of service providers to ensure it is able to offer member startups things like advisory and legal services.

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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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