Monday, 21 October 2013

Microsoft Ventures providing support for African entrepreneurs

Amrote Abdella, director, 4Afrika Venture Capital and Startup Programmes, speaks on the expansion of the Microsoft Ventures partnership programme into Africa. Excerpts by OLUYINKA ALAWODE
Microsoft Ventures was introduced in June as a co-ordinated global effort to offer tools, resources, expertise and routes to market for start-ups through partnerships with accelerators around the world. Amrote Abdella, quoting leading Harvard professor, Michael Porter, who said: “Innovation is the central issue to economic prosperity, points out how Microsoft is using innovation to empower African entrepreneurs. She says one of the goals of Microsoft is to empower Africans to make the most of, and monetise their own business ideas.
“There is certainly no shortage of brilliant ideas on the continent, but no matter how bright they burn, they require time, investment, and the right tools to become a blazing, fully-fledged business.”
Citing the example of the Nigerian entrepreneur in Kenya, she explains, “One of my favourite stories and a prime example of what we hope to achieve with this partnership is a company called Gamsole, started by Nigeria’s own Abiola Olaniran. Abiola had a vision of creating his own tech company, capitalising on the growing mobile space and people’s love of entertainment in Africa and all over the world. Funded by 88mph and Microsoft’s BizSpark programme, he started developing Windows Games and is now the highest paid Windows game developer in Africa, with over 1.5 million downloads. This is just one example. You can read about dozens more on the Microsoft Ventures website.”

She points out that Microsoft wants to remove as many barriers as possible that prevent a start-ups from thriving. Further explaining, she says, “The programme is simple: those who are interested can apply to an immersive 3-6 month accelerator programme. The only requirements are a full-time founding team and less than $1 million raised. Qualifying companies will have access to mentors, technical and design experts, development tools and key resources.”
She adds: “Ultimately, we want to see a thriving African start-up ecosystem contributing to Africa’s economic development and competitiveness on a global scale. We feel strongly that by partnering with 88mph we are helping to pave the way to a better, stronger future.”
She explains this as the reason that she and her team are so excited to announce that Microsoft’s Ventures partnership programme is expanding into Africa, starting in Kenya. Explaining further, she says, “Microsoft Ventures was created to give start-ups a leg-up by providing access to tools, technology and training. Kenya is quickly being recognised as an innovation hub, particularly in the mobility space. It’s been reported that there are 74 mobile phones for every 100 Kenyans and, of those who access the internet, 99 percent do it via a mobile device. … Microsoft Ventures speaks to our belief that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world. Around the world, Microsoft Ventures selects strategic accelerator partners in each region to provide local market expertise. For our venture into Kenya, we have selected 88mph for its proven track record in helping local entrepreneurs turn ideas into thriving businesses. Since opening up in July 2011, the company has already graduated 32 start-ups. That equals nearly one success story for every month they have been in operation.”
Source: BusinessDay

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