Green Pioneer startups pitch at Venture Forum

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The Kenyan branch of the Green Pioneer Accelerator programme has closed its inaugural class with a Venture Forum during which nine graduating startups pitched for investment.

Disrupt Africa reported in May the Green Pioneer Accelerator – which has run concurrent programmes in South Africa and Kenya – announced graduates would be showcased at a private Venture Forum, to which investors and stakeholders were invited.

The inaugural 16 week accelerator programme was announced in September last year, and is a joint initiative of Impact Amplifier, GrowthAfrica, VC4Africa and Hivos.

The Kenyan Venture Forum took place today, while the South African one is set for Thursday.

“As you can imagine, today is a very exciting day for us,” said Johnni Kjelsgaard, chief executive officer of GrowthAfrica, in the Venture Forum welcome speech.

“It’s been an almost five month journey. We’ve had a lot of fun, and a lot of boxing matches – figuratively speaking! – trying to figure out how to improve these startups’ businesses,” he said.

“When we first started this programme, the idea was to look at spaces where innovators are active, but don’t get much attention.  Specifically, we wanted to look at green innovation,” said Ben White, founder of VC4Africa.

“It’s clear there are individuals working on solutions to very important problems,” he said.

“We’ve come here on the one part to celebrate what you’re doing, on the other part it’s to make connections,” White said, opening the Forum.

Nine of the 11 startups which took part in the Kenyan accelerator pitched their businesses, asking the investors present for the necessary funding to scale their companies.

First to pitch was Sanivation, which provides safe, clean latrines and uses technology to process human faeces into energy briquets. The startup is looking to raise US$400,000 in funding.

Afrisol Energy promotes institutional biogas as an alternative source of fuel, and asked for US$250,000 to scale its business.

Startup Green Pencils – Kenya’s only local pencil producer – sought US$100,000 to increase production of its pencils made from recycled waste paper.

Kencoco Limited produces biomass briquets from coconut shells and husks – in a bid to replace traditional fossil fuels -, and did not ask for investment, but instead is looking for strategic partners to further the business.

Skynotch Energy Africa provides a supply value chain for solar powered products to ensure better distribution to end consumers, and is looking for US$350,000 investment.

Cobitech Solar introduced its two products – a solar energy kit capable of providing power to three rooms for eight consecutive hours before recharging, and a simple solar lamp aimed at school children needing light to study at home.  Cobitech asked for EUR70,000 (US$78,756) for a 20 per cent equity stake.

Plexus Energy provides power continuity solutions, solar powered water heating and lamps; and is looking for US$400,000 investment through convertible note.

Recent winner of the 1776 Challenge Cup competition’s People’s Choice Award, Strauss Energy, provides solar-panel fitted roof tiling.  The startup needs US$500,000 to complete installation for its existing clients; US$2.5 million for the planned launch of a local production plant; and US$22 million within the next two years to improve its grid, and roll out credit options for base of pyramid (BoP) consumers.

Consumer’s Choice produces Ziko Hapa cooking stoves fuelled by ethanol gel, aiming to replace charcoal and kerosene, and help combat deforestation linked to wood and charcoal burning.  The startup requested a loan of US$420,000 to enable it to increase stock, and launch a double burner stove.

Finally food processing company Classic Foods pitched for US$2 million to upgrade its processing plants, secure advanced certifications and to increase the startup’s network of raw food suppliers to 30,000 farmers.

Pitching was followed by a networking event to enable the startups to personally meet and talk to the investors present.

“At the end of the day, your companies being successful creates the invitation to other entrepreneurs to get involved in the space,” said White.

“So we all need to work together to build momentum.”

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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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