Startup Guide: the lonely planet for entrepreneurs

With an ecosystem portfolio base of 40+ cities, globally acclaimed publishing and media company, Startup Guide officially launched their Startup Guide: Nairobi edition in January 2021.

We caught up with the founder, Sissel Hansen to gain a deeper insight into the story of Startup Guide, and how the publication is becoming a global enabler of entrepreneurship.


From Germany to the world

The story of the publication starts with 20-year-old Sissel leaving her home, in Denmark with a fiery passion to support projects that could help young entrepreneurs in Berlin, Germany.

Geographically both countries are neighbours and one could assume that going across the border, to start a business would be easy.

This could not be farther from the reality as there were challenges identified from understanding the language, cultures, attitudes, to the lack of a network that could help demystify the startup scene.

After familiarising herself with the ecosystem, working on various B2B projects, she reflected on her own experience starting out in Germany and that is when she had the idea of the Startup Guide.

” This was a project that came out of me, having spent time in the startup scene, I suddenly realised that It was difficult to be in a new city, and start a new company, and so (to gain a better understanding) I interviewed a lot of people, who had gone through that process.”


Hello Nairobi: Startup Guide to the city of the sun

Nairobi was among the four cities chosen under the Startup Guide’s Impact series that showcased brilliant African, and African-based companies making a difference in the continent.

To make the publications accessible, the Impact Series guides were funded by:

-SAP- A German company that helps customers seamlessly link operational data on business processes with experience data on emotional factors such as purchase experience and customer feedback

-GIZ- The German development agency dedicated to shaping an Africa that generates and implements ideas for social and economic change.

The Startup Guide team was attracted to Nairobi’s growing, and ambitious nature of the ecosystem with a buzz of various entrepreneurship support organisations, (ESOs).

“It was interesting to observe the growth of ecosystems working together such as Nairobi and Kigali with conversations of a Pan-African passport, showing you start working together as a continent rather than individually.”

“It was also interesting to see that a lot of the businesses succeeding were truly making an impact on the society…it was interesting to understand the challenges, and how entrepreneurs are using technology to solve these problems. When you look through the guides, you cannot be anything else other than being purely inspired. “


The ecosystem power Houses behind the Startup Guide 

The publication was able to partner with local partner Metta and highlight key entrepreneur support organisations and Startups making an Impact within the ecosystem.

GrowthAfrica was delighted to be featured and play the role of contributor through the company’s executive partner, Ian Lorenzen.

The publication also featured impactful startups such as Ajua, BuuPass, Food4 Education, Hope Tech Plus, Safi Analytics, Sanivation, Sendy, Soko Watch, and Taimba, alongside founder: Hilda Moraa from Pezesha, Jessica Colacom from Brave, and Samuel Gikandi Bilha Ndirangu from Africa’s talking


Africa: becoming a key exporter of ideas.

“Today it is possible to start a business anywhere, It is important to value that business is happening, and innovation comes from all edges of the world and I believe that (embracing this) is how we will be able to solve all these challenges, as a humankind.”

“We are facing challenges, globally and locally, and you can see that the people solving these challenges are local entrepreneurs. Understanding that, is the beauty of our project.”

“, for a long time, we in the West have been exporting ideas, and innovation and now, it is starting to be the other way around. Things are working in Africa, that we have not been able to identify in the western world. An idea like Rwanda banning plastic bags years ago…we (the West) are just getting to that step now”.

“I was amazed by the mobile-first generation where (Africa) skipped a beat from desktop to mobile and the existence of digital financial services that are still not existing for a country such as Germany. What is not working in Germany, works for Africa and everyone uses it.”


Building to scale: A journey of growth

The Startup Guide has grown to be a global publication that has launched 40+ ecosystem guides for entrepreneurs across five continents: Europe, Africa, Asia, Middle East, and America.

” Being able to do four books in Africa, has been one of our greatest milestones in the company’s history because it was not an easy project to grasp. It was not easy to do four books at the same time.”

The company has been able to grow and diversify its target audience from entrepreneur-focused to ecosystem-centric.

The publication grew to become the reading of choice for Investors, global entrepreneurs looking to scale, companies seeking to understand a certain target audience, community builders who want to learn from other ecosystems.

“People just want to connect to the startup scene, and they want to see the people, the faces behind (the startups), and that is the beauty of it. This product can be used in more than one specific way. 

“We are still learning how people are using it. We have user’s cases of people contacting us and sharing how they found their co-founder through our startup guide.”

A notable achievement has been the company’s organic growth in growing its global networks with each city bringing local partners to aid the Startup Guide’s mission.

“A personal achievement has been, being able to say that I have built a company where many of the people, that were with us from the early beginning are still with us today. It is such a privilege as a leader to build a company with people who like what they are doing and want to continue building this.”


Sissel’s take: Reasons Startups Fail.

  1. No product-market fit- it is either they have a good idea with no market or vice versa. 

“It is very natural to take time to figure out the exact product-market fit and the companies that get there win. Most companies may fail do not take the time to get there because time is money.”


  1. Founders Fit Mismatch

” People working together, face an internal crisis, and they decide that they may not be well fit for each other.”


  1. Lack of funding.

“Funding affects how your team functions, how you can grow a team, and whether you can take the time to figure out whether you have the right product-market fit.”


Entrepreneurship unifies global experiences.

“We have a world where people are from different cultures, religious backgrounds, speak different languages, grown up in different realities, and still the entrepreneurs that I have met from Japan to Kenya to Iceland to the U.S. are very similar. This is because they all have one thing in common, and that is they want to solve a problem.”

Startup Guide could be a defining feature of a greater global ecosystem where entrepreneurs are open to adopting different ideas and collaborating with others across the globe.

” With time, we hope to be able to open-source the data we have and connect ecosystems and ideas.”


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