In February 2020, as the world was shutting down, and as businesses downsized on account of the COVID pandemic, John Kamara was busy establishing another new startup, Adanian Labs, in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. It had taken him two years to finally make this dream a reality, and nothing — not even the pandemic — was going to derail him.
And so, swimming against the tides, he set up the venture studio in partnership with co-founders Irene Kiwia and Bendon Murgor.
“People thought we were crazy,” Kamara, who doubles up as Adanian Labs’ CEO
It may have been a tough period to build a business, but they sailed through with their mission.
“We stay the course with startups and make sure they become successful businesses — we de-risk them from failure,” said Kiwia.
How Adanian Labs started
The idea to build Adanian Labs was conceived in 2018, when Kamara was living and working in Cape Town, South Africa, where he witnessed the fast growth of the startup ecosystem, and how, in most countries, accelerators were the default launch pads. He thought the continent was ready for better support, beyond the mentorship and training that most accelerators offered.
“The startup ecosystem was growing but I could not fail to notice the problem of accelerators. You know, startups come out of accelerators and most of them do not have a real opportunity to go to the next level,” said Kamara.
“I thought, there has to be a way I can build something that could empower African founders and provide a better support infrastructure to startups…and in a way retrofit it to also build a business.”
Compelled to offer more value to startups, the co-founders launched Adanian Labs in Kenya, joining other players, like Nailab, in the space.
Adanian Labs targets idea-phase tech startups, offering them all-round support, including capital, advisory and operational backing, building them from the ground up.
It makes equity investment of up to $120,000 in these startups.
By the end of the one-year venture building program, the startups should have launched a product, onboarded and have repeat customers, have a defined revenue model and have raised or are in the process of closing seed funding.
“We help these startups build their teams, iterate where needed, until we find a market fit product,” said Kamara.
“I’m not delusional that every startup has to succeed, but from the moment they become part of the Adanian Labs it means that they have the potential to succeed,” he said.