Perhaps startups need all of the above in one hub. With over 1,000 incubators and accelerators across Africa, entrepreneurs are spoilt for choice. Research reveals that “innovation hubs play a vital role in supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses by providing safe spaces that enable them to launch their ideas, scale their companies, and network with a community of like-minded individuals.
The Bolstering Innovators in Africa report released by AfriLabs and Briter Bridges emphasises the importance of non-financial support such as workshops, boot camps, business advice, networking, investor meetups, mentorship and training.
Andile Masuku, Founders Factory Africa’s (FFA) Head of Community, agrees. “Hands-on building support is not just good advice, mentorship and great connections but it’s also about true partnerships, support and relationship building.”
FFA invests in early-stage startups across the FinTech, HealthTech, AgriTech and LogisticsTech sectors. Its six- to nine-month programme assists founders in building ventures better and faster. But how does it achieve this?
The FFA team assists founders by building their concepts into venture concepts and helps them by supporting them with their pitches to the company’s Investment Committee. If the venture concept is approved, the founder can enter the Build or Scale programme, both of which include a cash investment. Assistance includes access to FFA’s 40-plus team of product engineers, PR, investment and partner specialists.
Karen Adie, CEO and co-founder of Isidore, believes that this exposure to FFA’s network, team expertise and partners helped build her knowledge and capabilities in the agricultural sector. And Sean Sanders, CEO and founder of Revix, weighed in, saying, “From the get-go, they were really proactive in making introductions. That has resulted in a lot of value being created for the business. We received investments from some of the founders that Founders Factory referred to us.”
But there’s more.
The self-styled startup growth engine has three large corporates as shareholders: Standard Bank, Netcare and Small Foundation, that double as investment partners. Funding for startups and scaleups is important, and visibility is key to finding funding. This is something that FFA provides to its entrepreneurs.
Additionally, the programme assists entrepreneurs in managing the funding they receive, which is a critical element of success. Entrepreneurs need to know how best to spend the money their companies raise. But what is the next step?
Any entrepreneur wants to ensure that their innovations can be turned into successful businesses, and with that, there are eight prerequisites they can tick off to achieve this. FFA’s Build programme also assists its entrepreneurs in doing so. It invests in the concept phase of a business and assists founders in proving their business models and achieving product-market fit. This is accomplished by identifying market gaps and user needs and designing and building solutions to these problems. Next, the focus shifts to achieving sustainable growth.
FFA’s Scale programme ensures that the founder’s startups are ready for mass adoption and have an established product-market fit. This includes a cash injection and access to services, experts, tools and hands-on collaboration. This programme ends with a wrap-up where all the achievements and learnings are reviewed. Support is given to defining the roadmap for the next 12 months of the business’s journey to achieve sustainable scale.
Sanders says, “Revix has 47 employees now and when we joined FFA, we were 13. So we scaled a lot and being able to lean on them to make key hires, to get their input, and a fresh perspective helped.” He adds that he found great value in the partnership despite his initial hesitancy about working with FFA, as it wasn’t clear what services and expertise the company could add to his. He describes scaling as the most challenging thing he has done. And for those entrepreneurs who share these sentiments, here are a few secrets to scaling a business in Africa.
It might not be easy to build and scale startups, but research indicates that Africans are more likely to use solutions created by other Africans. Now is the time for the continent’s entrepreneurs to seize the endless opportunities that the market is providing them with. It is also the time to build and scale their businesses but ultimately ensure their growth is sustainable.
This article was originally published by Inc.Africa. Original source here.