Norway-based startup accelerator Pangea and Estonia startup boot camp Garage 48 held an interesting workshop named Empowering the Start-up Community in Nairobi that sought to explore design solutions for issues facing the startup ecosystem in East Africa. The fair also received support from the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Development Cooperation Fund.
The event was timely because the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that startups can change their mode of operations. Some of them revealed that their companies have accelerated the digitization of their internal operations and customer interactions, and the share of their digital or digitally enabled products and services has also seen key developments.
Nearly all startups in attendance, which, by the way, were more than 25 from accelerator hubs and incubations hubs in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Somalia, agreed that their growing organizations have stood up a couple of temporary solutions to address new demands on them, and faster than they had thought possible prior to the pandemic.
The startups also expected that these issues will likely pose a long-lasting effect on their operations. In fact, the organizers were asked about the impact of the pandemic on a range of measures, they responded that funding for digital initiatives has to some extent grown substantially.
Commenting on the workshop, CEO of Garage48 Mari Hanikat, noted that the idea of the workshop is to bring together different start-up community ecosystem key players, create additional synergy between them and see how each of these organizations could contribute to the lifecycle of the East-African start-up.
The comments reiterated why accelerators are evolving at this time. The ongoing crisis has been marked by reduced customer demands and a lack of employee availability that have disrupted business survival.
During the presentations, during which attendee startups brainstormed a wide range of ideas, it became apparent that uncertainty has made starting a new venture more challenging. Put differently, turning ideas into sustainable business models is becoming more complex. And while funders continue to support the ecosystem, funding is still scarce to some and investors are more risk-averse.
That said, new opportunities are emerging from the crisis for the startup ecosystem. Currently, Pangea and Garage 48 say they are up to the task to create synergy, offer opportunities for collaborations and are more than ready to help startups solve their issues and scale up. Consider, for instance, food systems or healthcare, the renewed use of digital tools and opportunities associated with working from home. Accelerators such as Pangea are reportedly evolving their business models to accommodate their portfolio of business now and whenever the pandemic will go away.
“Having this opportunity to cooperate with a leading East Africa ecosystem player is a big opportunity for us, specifically now that we need to focus on economic recovery from the effects of Covid 19. Besides, it is exciting to partner with a key player in the Estonian ecosystem. Estonia is by far a global leader on e-governance and innovation, hence the need for us to learn from their experience,” said CEO and Co-Founder of Pangea Accelerator Jonas Tesfu in his keynote remarks.
Another key issue that was brought forth during the workshop is the financial fragility of startups over this period, and why some of them do not access funds. KNCCI Nairobi Chapter CEO Kenneth Ndung’u echoed that there are significant challenges and uncertainties because startup revenues have been affected by issues such as containment measures. While the state has attempted to shield the economy from the crisis, some of the startups facing financial fragilities have not been lucking in accessing grants or funding.
The conclusion of the workshop on Friday 20th August presented a rebirth of innovative and new solutions for members through the integration of IT skills in a variety of industries. It is possible that emerging trends will create the potential for entrepreneurship opportunities for the attending firms, and support their path to securing funding. On the whole, Pangea and Garage 48 are putting more emphasis on seeking additional collaborations, local and global to access new funding partners and create robust synergies.