Innovate Ventures pioneer in the Somali start-up space, has just opened applications for the next round of its Hargeisa-based tech accelerator. To date, the programme has graduated 25 startups and has invested almost $50,000 in its graduates. Building on last year’s success, this year’s program will accept 12 startups and will invest up to $30,000 in the teams with the highest potential. The programme aims to support young entrepreneurs in Somaliland and Somalia and grow the nascent start-up ecosystem in the country. Innovate Ventures is the leading Somali start-up accelerator and technology fund, and works with VC4A Telesom and Oxfam under the Work In Progress! project to make this programme possible.
The Innovate Accelerator is a 12-week programme that comprises mentorship and training by domain experts and entrepreneurs and seed investment for up to four start-ups from the Innovate Ventures Fund.
Applications will be accepted online from startups based in Somaliland or Somalia for entrepreneurs under the age of 35. Up to 20 of these start-ups will be selected for a one-week boot camp, during which the commercial viability of the product or service will be espoused and the traction attained to-date will be evaluated. Successful startups will proceed to a 12-week accelerator programme, which will be based in Hargeisa, Somaliland. This group will receive mentoring and training on how to build a commercially viable and scalable technology-enabled business.
The culmination of the programme is the Demo Day where the startups receive introductions to the leading companies and investors in the Somali region. The Demo Day will involve the startups pitching to a room full of local and international investors and media. The top four start-ups will receive up to $30,000 in investment from the Innovate Ventures Fund.
“Running the accelerator programme for 3 years has been a learning experience for our team at Innovate Ventures”, says Warda Dirir, Co-Founder of Innovate Ventures. “We’re constantly tuning the programme to the needs of the entrepreneurs in this part of the world and overcoming challenges particular to the environment here. This is what I believe makes the Innovate Accelerator, not just the first of its kind, but the best suited programme to startup development in the region”.
Alina Vinogradova, Head of Programs and Partnerships at VC4A, adds: ‘For the past three years we’ve been working with Innovate Ventures to bring Somaliland on the map as a start-up hub and angel investment destination. We now see our efforts bearing fruit, with the first-year graduates like Muraasdo building good traction and getting featured on BBC’.
The accelerator programme will provide much needed exposure to Somali start-up, and enable the founders to road test their propositions and get immediate feedback about their business models from experienced entrepreneurs and business mentors
The Innovate Accelerator applications are open from April 6th until June 15th. Business workshops and info sessions for potential applicants will be held jointly by VC4A and Innovate Ventures in the week of April 29th as part of the roadshow in Somaliland.