Seedstars World (Seedstars) recently announced that they will be holding their annual Seedstars Africa Summit in Tanzania from 11 to 13 December 2018. The event, in its fourth year, will focus on bridging the gap between Afrikan startup ecosystems and connect regional stakeholders to promote technology entrepreneurship as a way to impact people’s lives in Afrika.

In 2017 the Summit took place in Maputo, Mozambique after the team at Seedstars Africa had visited 20 different startup ecosystems across the continent.

Claudia Makadristo, Regional Manager for Africa at Seedstars World.

What is more interesting is that during their tour of the continent and scouting for the best startups each year, Seedstars also trained, mentored and selected what they found to be the best startups in each region.

Thus, I felt, they were well positioned to share some insights in what it takes to be a successful startup in Afrika and some of the lessons they learned in 2018.

For this purpose, I had a Q&A with Claudia Makadristo, Regional Manager for Afrika at Seedstars, in which she shared some thoughts on startup ecosystems across Afrika. Makadristo also touches on the subject of corporates partnering with startups and what we can look forward to at the Seedstars Africa Summit 2018 in Tanzania.

iAfrikan: During 2018, what are some of the big Afrikan startup ecosystem trends and lessons that you have observed in 2018?

Claudia Makadristo: 2018 has been the year that we are seeing the "countries left behind" or younger ecosystems catching up and becoming more active in entrepreneurship and technology activities. For example, countries such as The Gambia or the Democratic Republic of Congo where they are currently setting up clusters to support and encourage entrepreneurial activities such as  Ingenious City in DRC.  

Another interesting trend that we are seeing is one where more emphasis and attention is being given to bottom up entrepreneurship support initiatives (incubators, accelerators etc.), realizing that also they need support and acknowledgement for the work that they are doing. After all, in a way they are the backbone of the ecosystem.

What would you say makes for a successful startup ecosystem in Afrika?

Building an ecosystem is not a zero-sum game where there is one clear winner or loser. Each entrepreneurial ecosystem evolves in their own unique way. However, I would argue, that “collaboration” is and will remain key, especially in the less mature ecosystems where a collective can achieve so much more than an individual. In addition to that, it is important that we publish our results so we can learn from each other.

What would your advice be to corporates who want to help in developing Afrikan startups?

My main advice for corporates wanting to tap into the entrepreneurial space is to prioritize building deep and sincere business relationships over any other type of collaboration. For entrepreneurs that are serious about growing their business, a business relationship can come a long way if the corporate can help with structural issues and business opportunities such as access to market for example.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for Afrikan digital startups?

There are a number of challenges that entrepreneurs face which can be generic or particular to a business or industry. A simple google search provides us with article after article explaining why startups fail, some of them valid, some of them perhaps not.

The entrepreneurs we meet along the way tend to struggle with elements such as lack of relevant data, lack of team members with extensive expertise into a particular industry or simply not having access to the right stakeholders that can accelerate their efforts. And then it are the small things of course, such as ot coming on time for a meeting or not being responsive to emails. The latter might not seem as big of a deal but we have seen numerous times that when these behaviors occur repeatedly it can actually negatively influence the chances of receiving investment or closing a partnership.

What can attendees look forward to at the Seedstars Africa Summit?

The Seedstars Africa summit is a showcase of some of the best entrepreneurs we have found across our tour through 20+ African countries. The event is meant as a showcase, to tell the stories of these entrepreneurs but it also aims to tell the stories of the most interesting people on the continent you might not have heard of in a set of what we call “lightning talks”. In addition, we aim to deep dive into a number of relevant topics with a curated audience for each topic to ensure that we don’t only discuss, but leave with relevant outcomes and action points. These insight sessions are linked to the Sustainable Development Goals. And of course, we aim to have a lot of fun while doing it all!


Cover image credit: Seedstars World Summit 2017