Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom has received 75 applications for funding over the last four months under its recently launched Spark Venture Fund, bringing the total number of applications received to 200.
Disrupt Africa reported in November Safaricom announced the launch of the US$1 million investment fund, saying the initiative aims to support mobile ICT startups in Kenya, and enable the development of innovative mobile solutions.
In February, chief executive officer (CEO) Bob Collymore told Disrupt Africa the fund had received 125 applications since launching, as well as a number of enquiries.
Today Safaricom revealed an additional 75 applications have been received in the past four months, bringing the total number of applications received to 200.
The number of enquiries being made has grown, Safaricom said, however these have not yet translated into applications.
The fund managers are currently reviewing applications to create a shortlist.
Successful candidates will receive between KES7 million (US$72,000) and KES22 million (US$225,000) investment in return for a minority stake in their startups.
“We are on course to fulfill the promise that we made more than three years ago when we committed to nurture the growing mobile development space in Kenya. We believe that the sector is ripe for the development of innovative, local-based solutions that have viable commercial application,” said Joe Ogutu, director for innovation and strategy at Safaricom.
To be eligible for funding, startups must have a functioning product or service – with an active user base – displaying an ability to create transformative solutions. Startups applying to the fund should also provide a use case showing market potential, and must have identified a market segment. Applicants must be based in Kenya; and have a team in place capable of achieving the goals presented.
The Spark Venture Fund forms parts of Safaricom’s efforts to support and engage with entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kenya.
Prior to announcing the fund, the operator partnered with local startup Dynamic Data Systems for the launch of M-Pesa payments tracking app M-Ledger, in the first in a series of commercial partnerships Safaricom said it intends to pursue with startups in support of “high potential mobile tech start-ups offering solutions to everyday problems in Kenya”.
Collymore later told Disrupt Africa the new focus on building relationships with startups – including the launch of the Spark Venture Fund – reflects his view that “most of the useful innovations are coming from young entrepreneurs in Kenya”.