Canada, Hong Kong, Paris… how to scale your startup outside Africa

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Some startups, though built in Africa, have solutions that are simply more appropriate to other markets.

Some startups have already spread across the continent and are looking to spread their wings further.

Yet finding a footing outside of Africa, and being able to scale your startup to other parts of the world can be challenging. Here are some opportunities that can help make taking the leap a little bit easier.

Scale to… Hong Kong and Singapore

Hong Kong-based VC firm Nest may have launched operations in Africa, but African startups still have the opportunity to take part in any of its corporate accelerator programmes, usually run in conjunction with various partners in Hong Kong and Singapore.

African startups have already been accepted on such programmes, and the company regularly offers opportunities in both cities. Nest can help give you a soft landing in that part of the world, as Kenyan startup Ongair has already discovered.

Scale to… Paris

Thanks to the French Tech Ticket, an initiative of the French government aimed at persuading international entrepreneurs in the startup or scaling up phases to take their businesses to Paris, African startups have the chance to relocate to Paris.

The programme is targeting entrepreneurs from all over the world who may or may not already have a business in France, offering fast-track residency procedures, prize money, free incubation, access to events and training sessions, a help desk to assist with red tape, lower prices on Air France flights, a Gold loyalty card and advertising for the startup via Air France. Sounds pretty good where we’re standing.

Scale to… Silicon Valley

There are various initiatives offering African startups the chance to make waves in Silicon Valley. All you need to do is keep an eye on Disrupt Africa for details of regular accelerator programmes and entrepreneurial visits.

The most recent such programme saw African companies invited to apply for the second Tarmac SF programme, open to international startup founders looking to scale their businesses to the San Francisco Bay Area. It describes itself as a programme allowing entrepreneurs to “land safely and easily in Silicon Valley”. There are many more.

Scale to… Dubai

In 2014, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched a national strategy with the goal of turning itself into one of the most innovative nations in the world, a driver of economic growth in the region and a powerhouse in the global community.

As part of this goal, the Dubai 100 initiative has launched, aimed at accelerating the development of talented young innovators who will contribute to long-term growth both in Dubai and in their countries of origin. The first phase of this has already seen African digital health startups offered the opportunity to apply and scale their businesses to Dubai.

Scale to… Lyon and Boston

Non-profit acceleration programme for early-stage startups Big Booster offers companies from Europe, the Middle East and Africa the chance to expand into the Lyon and Boston innovation ecosystems.

The programme typically looks for startups in bio and heath, informative tech and global impact to take part in its programme, which involves intensive three-day seminars in France and the United States (US), where they will connect with top-notch mentors and experts.

Scale to… Canada

Earlier this year a team of 15 investors from Canada travelled to Kenya on a “Startup Safari”, partnering with the iHub to host a pitch session for Nairobi startups. Some companies were offered office space plus mentor and investor pairing in Canada, between Toronto and Kelowna.

The concept is becoming more common, and we can expect more such events soon.

Scale to… Ireland

Much like the French Tech Ticket detailed above, Enterprise Ireland is an initiative of the Irish government, which wants overseas startups to set up shop in Dublin and gain up to EUR50,000 (US$55,000) in funding.

Dublin is increasingly becoming a tech hub, home to the likes of Airbnb and LinkedIn, and the initiative wants startups active in areas such as gaming, apps, mobile, software as a service (SaaS), cloud computing and fintech to scale their startups the European country.

Scale to… South Korea

This year’s edition is now over, but K-Startup will return next year to give your startup the chance to launch in South Korea.

The initiative comes from the South Korean government, which wants to attract foreign entrepreneurs to Korea and transform the country into an entrepreneurial hub. The first edition saw 40 startups from around the world take part in a three-month accelerator programme.

Scale to… Switzerland

Another European accelerator looking to attract African startups is the Switzerland-based FUSION, which runs a year-long dedicated fintech programme aimed at innovative entrepreneurs from across the world.

You’ve missed the boat this year, with startups already selected for October’s programme, but with around 10 startups accepted each year it’s another one worth looking out for when applications open early next year.

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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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