First Somali Accelerator Breaks Records

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Innovate Ventures, the leading start-up accelerator and technology fund in Somaliland and Somalia has just hosted the first accelerator. The firm has effectively created a system of supporting the next wave of Somali entrepreneurs to propel the growth of the currently nascent start-up ecosystem in Somalia. Innovate Ventures has been running coding camps, incubators and accelerators in Somalia since 2012.

The first Somali accelerator was made possible through a partnership between Innovate Ventures and VC4A, Telesom and Oxfam and was held in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The accelerator is a 10-week program intended to support and fund the next generation of digital Somali start-ups. During this time, vital training and mentorship is provided by a group of experts and entrepreneurs. Although this was the first accelerator held in Somalia and Somaliland, there was an overwhelming interest that pleasantly surprised the founders. It was anticipated the programme would be well-received with an interest of around 50 applicants, however, there were over 180 applicants; which were the most applicants the other programme accelerator partners such as Oxfam, VC4A and Work in Progress Alliance received. On the demo day which was a culmination of a 6-month program to select scalable ventures that would create sustainable impact and jobs. The event was well attended by entrepreneurs, investors and the media. Each team pitched their startup to a panel of judges from experts and entrepreneurs. This year first place went to Guriyagleel an online property rental start-up and MuraadSo, an e-Commerce startup who both received $5,000 in seed investment. Other winners on the day included SomSite and Hargeisa Daily Media who received $3,000 and $2,000 respectively for a total seed investment pay-out of $15,000.

The accelerator also had a huge turnout from the Somali community where all the functions such as workshops and roadshows were fully attended with the accelerator program reaching a total of 250,000 via the following mediums (SMS, online advertising, billboards, etc). The program was also broadcast on several Somali TV channels (HCTV, Somaliland TV) and Somali news channels which reach millions of Somalis in the diaspora. Dr. Abdigani Diriye, Director of Innovate Ventures, “we were impressed by the drive, commitment and traction from many of the startups in the programme. This further underscores the potential of the Somali tech scene and the wealth of talent and skill in Somaliland and Somalia. We believe technology, innovation and entrepreneurship can be one of the drivers of economic prosperity in Somaliland and Somalia”.

Initiatives such as these are especially important today in Somalia as they represent confidence on the next wave of Somali technology, they provide a creation of a tech scene and eco-system, and ultimately encourage innovation and provide traineeship and know-how which ultimately creates an impact by jumpstarting the economy by nurturing entrepreneurs and creating employment. Next year’s program is earmarked to build on the foundation of this year and solidifying the Somali tech scene by engaging more start-ups, investors and partners.

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