Ecosystem, what ecosystem?


Europe’s largest accelerator, Startupbootcamp, in December revealed to Disrupt Africa plans to launch an accelerator in South Africa.  Two weeks ago it emerged Startupbootcamp is merging with Johannesburg-based Seed Engine for the new accelerator. In this exclusive guest post for Disrupt Africa, Marc Wesselink, co-founder of Startupbootcamp South Africa, discusses his excitement for the programme, and his confidence that Africa will compete with Silicon Valley.

Last June 2014, I have taken up the gauntlet on starting an accelerator programme in South Africa. Many people said to me that there is no ecosystem to build on, not enough startups, no entrepreneurs, no corporates willing to invest, no good ideas…we all know the reasons.

I always point critics to a report made by Endeavour in 2014 supported by the Omidyar Network, “How Silicon Valley Became ‘Silicon Valley’”. They showed that 70 per cent of the Valley’s public firms are linked to one startup in 1952…. Fairchild Semiconductor.

Based on one startup, the Valley was able to build what is now known as the strongest tech startup ecosystem.

I believe we can make Africa compete with Silicon Valley. I believe we can solve more real problems using tech in Africa than anywhere in the world. I believe that Africa will be an example on how to implement a total new payment system (Bitcoin) and act as an example in the world. Africa is able to skip legacy problems (look at the development of M-Pesa), Africa has more mobile users than Europe (635 million) I believe that the introduction of cheaper and more accessible smartphones (and data) will drastically improve the prosperity and welfare of Africans.

I have started 12 companies, failed four times, sold two, had two bankruptcies, had a tumor twice, learned to walk four times….. I never, ever give up. So I won’t give up in starting an accelerator in South Africa.

We have built 10 accelerators in Europe and now starting in Asia and the US. We believe in connecting local government, corporates and investors (our entrepreneurial triangle) and within that triangle we invite a maximum of 10 startups to accelerate their business. Together with a strong network of mentors, we will help the startups to do more in three months than they would normally be able to do in 18 months. In Amsterdam we have accelerated 50 companies since 2012 and together with our fellow accelerator in Eindhoven, we have successfully launched 70 companies in total (Netherlands only). Since 2012 the scenery of Amsterdam has changed: An increase of 650 per cent in startup activities in Amsterdam, an increase of 1100 per cent of people who called themselves startups, an increase of 300 per cent of VCs, angels who are willing to invest in seed stage companies, an increase of 470 per cent of seed investments and an increase of 4500 per cent in flexible workspaces in Amsterdam.  To date we have an almost 100 per cent funding rate in Amsterdam.

Imagine what we could achieve when we will start the best accelerator in Africa…



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Key players from Africa's startup and investment ecosystem post on issues close to their heart for Disrupt Africa.

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