In 2013, Safaricom launched the Safaricom App Wiz, an innovation call to partner with developers come up with products that could plug in to Safaricom network and add value to consumers. The firm partnered with Strathmore University, thereby offering startups access to resources such as mentorship, developer training and access to marketing tools. Winners of the challenge also got a chance to participate in the global Appstar Challenge.
Safaricom has now announced the 3rd edition of the Safaricom Appwiz Challenge, which will last for a period of 3 months. This year, the competition has four categories which include Customer engagement solutions, Safaricom product excellence solutions, Mobile convenience and Out of the box solutions, where the top three innovative ideas will be selected. The Safaricom Appwiz Challenge Grand Winner will receive a cash grant of Ksh1.5 million, while the 1st Runner-up and 2nd Runner up will receive Kshs.1 million and Kshs. 500,000 respectively. The submission period kicks off today, 20th July 2015 and closes on 16th August 2015.
The Safaricom Appwiz led to the birth of the Safaricom Innovation fund, $1 Million equity fund or debt instrument, that will allow the entrepreneur access much needed finance to develop. Startups are eligible to receive amounts between Sh6.75 million ($75,000) and Sh22.5 million ($250,000) in the fund set for an initial 2 years period. Over 200 startups have so far submitted inquiries and application, with many of those under the shortlisting phase. The startups selected receive an investment in their business in exchange for a minority stake in their companies. The startups under the program access marketing tools from Safaricom as an investor and other resources like the Mpesa API, USSD, Bulk SMS and Safaricom cloud hosting.
The Safaricom App Wiz has in its time incubated close to 30 tech start-up solutions including Safaricom M-Ledger and Magazine Reel, both of which are now commercial businesses. Safaricom’s Director for Strategy and Innovation Joseph Ogutu urged participants to enter in groups of three, to help them appreciate the value of team work.“Through this competition we want to transform lives through innovation, by supporting young ICT enterprises so that we can also help create opportunities for self-employment of Kenyans and retain Kenya’s position as an African technology hub.” he added.