It was an exclusive, invitation-only event aimed at encouraging cooperation and innovation between corporate enterprise partners and African startups fostering innovation.
An influential and dynamic group of people convened to discuss a wide variety of topics involving climate, government, policy, and innovation, as well as innovation through partnership, from the 7th floor of Microsoft’s office in Kings Tower, Ikoyi.
An essential step in the right direction. Building community, asking the right questions, and bringing hidden gems to light. Gems like the very many startups present at the event were eager to rub minds, share their solutions, and showcase innovation—a “show and tell” of the best minds and ideas to come out of the African entrepreneurial marketplace.
The discourse with numerous panellists, the best of the best businessmen and women, entrepreneurs, and corporates, would span over very many topics and ideas. This included, but was not limited to, what is happening in Africa’s business ecosystem and how everyone can capitalize on the unique opportunities available for every entrepreneur and corporation in various verticals such as climate, renewable energy, data, infrastructure, and community.
From the very beginning, networking, beverages, conversation and comradery filled the air with excitement and set the scene for the greatness that followed.
GetFundedAfrica – Enabling “Innovation Providers”
Adebola started by outlining the goal of the gathering, which he described as a plan to see how partnerships can form between big businesses and startups, whom he referred to as “innovation providers,” for the reason that although some startups may start small, the scale of growth is sometimes extraordinarily high.
He also remarked that startups should not be undervalued as they could be “our next unicorn,” while encouraging entrepreneurs that operate on a global scale to leverage Nigeria as a testing ground for collaborations and partnerships before moving into other African countries.
Adebola further explained what GetFundedAfrica does and how GetFundedAfrica is working to facilitate cross-border collaborations by connecting investors to a vast network of diverse startups, as well as hosting numerous innovative and networking events to foster partnerships and channel funds to the ecosystem.
“GetFundedAfrica is a platform that turbocharges innovators and African startups. We are a platform that helps these companies to grow and scale because we match them funding, mentors/advisors, corporate organizations, ecosystem partners and several other things.”
He also described the brand-new, one-of-a-kind platform that GFA developed to integrate all the players in the African startup ecosystem on a single platform by applying technology.
“GetFundedAfrica has been successful up to the point that this year alone, we have helped channel $250m into African startups. Last year, we were able to channel $100m, and that’s how we roll.”
Microsoft – Influencing Collaboration & Partnership in the Startup Ecosystem
Olatomiwa Williams, Microsoft’s Country Manager for Nigeria and Ghana, addressed the floor and welcomed everyone in attendance. She proceeded by explaining the significance of this event to Microsoft and everyone else involved in the startup ecosystem.
“I love startups so it’s always a pleasure to be among creators and the innovators of our time. It’s a great event because it gives us the opportunity as Microsoft to continue in our drive to bring our mission to life which is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.”
She continued by highlighting the importance of startups and how Microsoft is working hard to support the ecosystem by giving entrepreneurs access to the necessary information, platform, and funding for them to scale quickly. She also discussed the value of collaboration and partnerships, although Microsoft already owns the required technology.
“We believe in partnership and collaboration, and that’s why we made that strong effort and investment to bring on board various organizations that have experience providing funding for startups. “We have this huge partnership with GetFundedAfrica, and they have done a lot of great things across Africa and the world.”
She also encouraged everyone to adopt a collaborative mindset to take advantage of the network that this opportunity gives for idea sharing and brainstorming on issues that would help companies expand quickly. She closed by showing appreciation to everyone who took the time to attend and urging them to make use of the platform that Microsoft is providing.
Then Akin Banuso, Microsoft’s Enterprise Commercial Lead, briefly went over how Microsoft is connected to the enterprise sector. He described Microsoft’s early beginnings when it was originally conceived in a garage and has since expanded to become a cutting-edge organization in technology.
Additionally, he said that the enterprise arm is keen to partner with other Microsoft arms, such as the African Transformation Office (ATO), to partake in the growth of startups and SMEs because they are well-informed of the huge impacts that such collaboration could have on the ecosystem.
EduAbasi Chukwunweike, Business Development Manager for Startups & ISVs at Microsoft also spoke briefly on why Microsoft is putting in work for the ecosystem.
“Microsoft has been engaging the startup ecosystem for a while. It used to be called “Microsoft for Africa.” At that point, there was a lot of one-on-one engagement with the startups.”The startup ecosystem has improved and revolved for the better since the program began four years ago,” she continued.
“There’s a new goal to impact 10,000 startups in the next five years; that’s the new goal, and we’re going to be impacting them through a series of engagements.”
Two panels were held with discussions that covered climate, government, policy, and innovation, as well as partnership-based innovation.
In the first panel, participants discussed Nigeria’s progress toward catching up with global trends in government policy addressing climate challenges, the potential effects of a lack of corporate investment in addressing climate issues, what needs to be done from a government and corporate perspective to encourage smaller tech companies with innovative solutions in this space, and other pertinent questions. The issue of how to scale the hurdle of distrust between corporations and startups was also addressed.
One of the panellists, Adeyinka pointed out that in Africa and Nigeria, if not all over the world, such distrust exists since it has happened a lot where corporations steal the ideas of these startups.
“The corporates should be mindful of their reputation and be careful not to trample on the startups,” he explains.
They can create a department whose sole purpose is to relate with the startups and shield them from the corporates and work with them as peers to help them till they can stand on their own and measures such as NDAs can also help keep things in check.
The moderator explained that stealing ideas is a slippery slope. He also added that a lot of conversations happen in a business where one can tell those familiar ideas are passed around. The important thing that sets these similar ideas apart is the execution. In our moderator’s opinion, execution is rarely similar.
The second-panel session was moderated by Adebola Omololu with Adaeze Sokan from the Nigerian Startup Group, Ernest Akinlola, MD of Bbox Energy, Lanre Bakare, CEO of Factoring & Supply Chain Finance Limited, Philip Hermannsdorfer, Project Manager Corporate Development at Julius Berger Ventures, and Chisom Udemezue, Program Manager at UK-Nigeria Tech Hub.
It kicked off with The Nigerian Startup Act, and the environment it creates for startups in Nigeria, as well as the impact and impact of the act on startups and corporations.
According to Adaeze, the act serves to unlock the potential of our economy. Before the act, there was a lot of scepticism and distrust between businesses and the government due to the disruptive regulations that forced most businesses to set up a base outside of the country or even hide from the government if they were in the country.
One of the things it achieved was to foster trust and alter the approach to policy in both the tech and general sectors. It was an immediate and unified action; conversations were promptly followed by action, all of which was completed within a year.
Chisom also adds from her perspective that there’s a clear funding challenge for businesses and startups in Nigeria. There’s also a lack of an enabling environment for these startups to thrive.
Beyond the policy itself, she continues, there’s a need to both implement it, and localize it at the state levels. This helps startups understand that these policies are not just on paper and it’s a real and accessible thing even if you’re not in Lagos, Abuja or the more developed tech centres.
More conversations were held among the panellists with a couple of QnAs all centring on the effects of clean energy and digitization, infrastructure and innovations.
Nine “solution providers” supported by Microsoft presented short pitches focusing on how they can provide value to the corporates.
Some of the startups that pitched are Omnibiz, Oystr, Capsa, Popote Pay, BPS, Terragon, OurPass, Tovuti Group, Snarkhealth and ICE.
Omnibiz: Omnibiz connects fast-moving consumer goods (FCMGs) manufacturers to retailers by digitizing the supply chain stakeholders. Retailers can purchase and restock conveniently from over 200 product brands through the MyStore app, a bookkeeping solution for retailers to manage their customers and inventory.
Oystr Finance: Oystr Finance is a large alternative data provider in Africa, helping financial institutions serve customers better with the help of their comprehensive all-in-one solution. With the help of our seamless integration, you can provide an outstanding customer experience while reducing costs and saving time.
Snark Health: Snark Health is a platform that helps patients improve their access to cost-efficient healthcare through its alternative payment model using blockchain technology by removing the need for governmental or commercial healthcare insurance.
Terragon: Terragon is dedicated to promoting the expansion of the small- and medium-sized company sector, which accounts for over 90% of economic growth in Africa through job creation, employment, and GDP contribution. They also offer technology that helps businesses expand and engage with clients on mobile at every touchpoint by offering solutions designed especially for SMBs in Africa.
Popote Pay: Popote Pay is an online and mobile innovation app using mobile money to enable its users to make and manage their payments with total control, mobility and up-to-date record keeping.
OurPass: OurPass provides businesses and shoppers everywhere with easy, fast and secure payment solutions. This is done through the provision of a mobile application that enables customers to shop with one click.
Capsa: Capsa is a platform that helps to create access to competitive financing for small businesses in Africa that are traditionally constrained by limited access to growth and working capital, and in other instances, exploitative rates from lenders due to their perceived high risk.
Tovuti Group: Tovuti Group is a platform that works to inspire and empower people and organisations through the power of innovative technology solutions that make their work simple.
BPS: BPS is a pure-play channel cloud distributor that offers multi-vendor licensing programs, partner technical support/services, partner business development & SAM Advisory.
ICE Commercial Power: ICE is a platform that is committed to leveraging data-driven methods and an impact-centred focus to achieve positive change for those who need it most.
In conclusion, it can be said that the event mostly fulfilled its objectives, including fostering business relationships, networking, and advancing the entrepreneurial sector. The Corporate Innovation Enterprise Forum marked a major advancement in the right direction.
GetFundedAfrica is building Africa’s largest tech-enabled marketplace which connects African founders with global mentors, coaches, corporates, investors and government. Whether you want to raise funds ranging from $100k to $50m or you simply want to grow your business, sign up for free at www.getfundedafrica.com