“The GrowthHub uses the Village Capital peer to peer review and scoring method. This essentially means that the decision of which start-up gets the 50,000 USD investment is left to the entrepreneurs themselves. ”
Two Start–ups (Ecofuels Kenya and Lipsha) were selected by fellow peers at the just concluded Village Capital/GrowthAfrica Program. The program ended on Thursday, November 29, 2012 with a Pitch Fest and Cocktail event hosted by The GrowthHub. The elation was palpable as the winners made their way to receive their cheques from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GrowthAfrica, Johnni Kjelsgaard and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Village Capital, Victoria Fram, wading off stiff competition from 15 other brilliant start-ups.
The Pitch Fest which was held at the Eastland Hotel in Kilimani attracted a number of Kenyan and International investors who were passionate about investing in early stage start-ups before a cocktail event later that same day, announcing the 2 start–ups that will receive the investment of 50,000 USD each. The start-ups were allocated six minutes each in which they had to clearly articulate to the investors what their business models are and why they should have an interest in them. Judging from the meticulous presentations, it was evident that the contestants had gone to great lengths to prepare seamless demonstrations. Probing and elaborate questions were fielded by the investors who sought to gain a better understanding of the business models being presented.
Business accelerator programs are not an entirely new phenomenon in Kenya. There currently exists a couple of such in Nairobi alone. However, TheGrowthHub’s program is quite unique and distinct from the rest. An exceptional difference is that unlike other programs where investors or a panel of judges have the final say on who gets the investment, The GrowthHub uses the Village Capital peer to peer review and scoring method. This essentially means that the decision of which start-up gets the 50,000 USD investment is left to the entrepreneurs themselves. The top ranked receive pre-committed capital from partner investors.
With over 70 start-ups applying for the program, the rigorous and thorough interview sessions held between the 5th and 20th of July, 2012 to select the best of East Africa’s social innovators saw them shrink to 18 start-ups, who eventually became The GrowthHub’s maiden start-ups for 2012. The Pitch Fest was the culmination of a 20-week program which made the entrepreneurs pass through a comprehensive sequence of activities tailored to make them understand their businesses and how to improve what they do. The entrepreneurs came from a myriad of sectors like health, education, gaming, nutrition, agriculture, water and sanitation, mobile and web technology. The program consisted of six three-day workshops addressing key aspects of each of these start-ups, including the problems they are trying to address, how they are addressing them and how they are validating the assumptions they have made about their businesses.
Renowned speakers graced the programme not only to motivate the entrepreneurs but to share with them what they went through to build their organisations, the challenges they still face and how they are overcoming them. They included Julius Kipngetich (COO, Equity Bank), Ali Hussein (CEO, 3mice Interactive Media), Matt Rehrig (Operations Director, Jacaranda Health), Rich Hoops (formerly Marketing Director with DELL), Moses Kemibaro (InMobi), Ben Lyon and Dylan Higgins (KopoKopo).
The entrepreneurs were also matched with mentors, who are heading successful companies in Kenya who were their sounding board as well as finance associates from the US who assisted them in building sound and realistic financial models. The value added by the experience gathered over the years by the mentors and finance associates was a priceless addition to the program.
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