Last month, we informed you about how FastForward Africa, the UK-based accelerator, is looking into supporting African startups, hence the call for applications into its pre-accelerator programme.
As it turns out, there's more to the new Africa-centric accelerator - aside been founded by Eunice Baguma Ball who also founded the Africa Technology Business Network and Andrew Fassnidge, founder of Appsafrica.com founder.
Techpoint reached out to Andrew for more insight into FFWDAfrica's mission of linking African startups to funding and other forms of support.
While commending the idea of FastForward Africa, the obvious first question is why FastForward Africa?
Having both worked across Africa in start-ups and tech for a number of years Eunice Ball (co-founder) and I have experienced first-hand the growth story and also the challenges startups face in Africa. Technology is driving economic development as well as creating demand for new products and services across the continent. FFWDAfrica is linking the UK and Africa innovation ecosystems with the aim of supporting entrepreneurs to develop commercially viable solutions that meet these needs.
In a nutshell, Africa has the opportunities, the UK is a leading innovation hub with good access to funding and top talent to support the development of those solutions and FFWDAfrica is the bridge between the two.
The number of accelerators and incubators on the continent is undoubtedly on the rise. What is FFWDAfrica bringing to the table for African startup entrepreneurs?
FFWDAfrica aims to assist African entrepreneurs and enable them to access the benefits of the UK's more established startup ecosystem. We are also working to encourage and assist entrepreneurs in the UK and Europe to launch ventures in Africa, while also partnering with the existing tech hubs in Africa who can support our start-ups on the ground and vice versa.
We are already establishing quite an extensive network of mentors, investors and advisors both in the UK and Africa, through which aim to facilitate mutually beneficial collaborations between UK and African start-up entrepreneurs.
What kind of synergy should we be expecting between FFWDAfrica and African accelerators/incubators?
As mentioned above, we are already building partnerships with hubs across Africa to help our start-ups enter specific African markets and FFWDAfrica will assist our partners start-ups in the UK and Europe.
How many ideas does FFWDAfrica have the capacity to take for each session of idea pre-accelerator and startup accelerator stages?
We aim to take 15 start-up ideas for the initial idea accelerator, and if successful these maybe invited for the incubator. For the start-up accelerator our focus is really on quality and scalability rather than volume.
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What is/are the source of funding for FFWDAfrica? And what is FFWDAfrica's fund size for the African Startup ecosystem?
We can’t really talk about this right now as we are in a fundraising round and have confidentiality agreements, once this is tied up and public we can give you specifics for another release.
Where will the pre-accelerator and startup accelerator programme be conducted and hosted, considering that the initiative isn't designed specifically for a particular African country?
The programs will be hosted in the UK, but we will utilise our network of mentors and partner hubs across Africa to then assist our start-ups to enter specific markets or sectors in Africa.
What is the funding bracket for startups participating in the idea pre-accelerator and startup accelerator phases? And for what percentage stake in the startup?
There is no funding bracket for the idea accelerator, as we want to encourage raw ideas and innovation. In terms of the start-up accelerator we will offer seed funding and terms will depend on each investment case.
What is FFWDAfrica's take on seed-funding system in Africa compared to other markets, considering that startup founders might have to give up a large chunk of equity in the early stage of their companies?
With London being one of the leading financial centres in the world, there are many sources of funding for start-ups. Obviously there is seed, angel investors, private funds and VC’s. Crowdfunding is very popular in UK with the likes of Seedrs, Crowdcube and most recently Emerging Crowd targeting emerging market investments.
Crowdfunding, is one of the advantages that the UK startup ecosystem has over that in Africa, as entrepreneurs have other options and do not have to accept an unfavourable funding deals. UK start-ups have the power to raise their own cash at their own valuations. These are some of the benefits hopefully we can begin to help African startups take advantage of.
What is your perception about the tech startup ecosystem in Africa?
With 54 countries it obviously varies massively from country to country, but of course Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are leading the way and have developed excellent start-up ecosystems. The iHub was a game changer and set the bar and encouraged ecosystem development in Kenya, while the CcHub has done the same in Nigeria.
Education is key and great strides are being made across all parts of Africa with the likes of Andela, Codex and MEST educating Africans to run businesses so growth will be exponential, especially once the funding gap closes. At FFWDAfrica we aim to be part of accelerating that growth by enabling skill exchange and collaboration with the startup ecosystem in the UK and Europe.
What's the six-month goal for FFWDAfrica?
In 6 month FFWDAfrica will have run two cohorts of the idea pre-accelerator and invested in the first group of startups for the startup accelerator. We've already received some exciting ideas so hopefully in a years’ time we'll be talking to you about our alumni going on to raise more funding.
Watch this space!