Applications for the new East African Spring Accelerator will open next week, focusing on startups with solutions improving the lives of adolescent girls living in poverty.
The programme kicks off in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda for this first time this year, with plans to roll out to eight further countries across Africa and Asia over the next five years; the accelerator saying it aims to help 200,000 girls living in poverty by 2019.
“It’s a revolutionary experiment in market-driven social change, with the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of girls in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and beyond,” Spring Accelerator said.
The Spring Accelerator programme lasts for nine months, with selected startups provided with financial grants, as well as being introduced to a network of domestic and international investors, who Spring says will be “integrated in the programme from the start”.
The programme is built on a “human centred approach” to incubation, with participants to receive a customised curriculum, which Spring said is “tailored to the specific needs of each entrepreneur focusing on rapid testing and iterative development, prototyping with girls directly, as well as with leading sector experts.”
Participants will also gain individual mentorship from a network of business leaders, market experts, legal and financial advisors, and designers, to help build and scale “girl-forward” startups.
Applications will remain open until March 1, 2015, at which point 50 startups will be chosen to attend a selection camp in Nairobi, Kenya, in May. Following the camp, 18 startups will be chosen for the full acceleration programme.
The 18 chosen startups begin the programme with a two week intensive bootcamp in June, to be held in Nairobi; followed by a two-month period of prototyping and testing.
By the third month, startups will be presented to investors at a pitching day in the capital city of their country of origin; with the aim of raising further funding.
The programme then continues for six months in a prolonged phase of mentored and supported implementation.
The accelerator culminates at the Spring Forum in March 2016, where startups will pitch for funding for the final time.
Spring Accelerator said the three criteria for selection are the viability of the business, potential for impact, and the strength of leadership and the team.
To be eligible, startups must have made sales in the past year; have operations in Rwanda, Kenya and/or Uganda; and must target girls aged 10 to 19 as the customers, beneficiaries, or target market of the startup.