TechCrunch, the digital publication covering technology and startup news, is bringing back its Startup Battlefield event back to Afrika for a second edition that will take place in Lagos, Nigeria on 11 December 2018. TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018 will be held in partnership with Facebook to identify some of the continent's top startups.

The winning startup will get $25,000 in cash, equity free, and a trip for two to compete in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch’s flagship event, Disrupt in 2019.

The event will also feature panels and keynotes with by technology and venture capital industry leaders such as Omobola Johnson, senior partner at TLcom Capital, and Lexi Novitske of Singularity Investments.

Controversy at TechCrunch Startup Battlefield 2017

As indicated, this will be the second TechCrunch Startup Battlefield to be hosted in Afrika. The first, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya wasn't without controversy. According to some of our readers and startups who attended the event, the eventual winner, LORI Systems, won the competition despite their name not appearing on the initial published shortlist of startups. This raised concerns around whther there was favouritism at play considering that also, LORI Systems hosted the event after party event and announced this even the final winners were announced.

iAfrikan did an investigation on this and TechCrunch's Samantha Stein insisted that this was not unusual as they always have alternative startups that can be entered later in the competition if others drop out.

Furthermore, this scenario further re-ignited and sparked discussions about what type of technology startups are likely to get funding in Afrika, i.e. it was being assumed that to attract funding (win competitions), a startup would need to have a co-founder of European decent.

Thus, I decided to have a Q&A with Mike Butcher, Editor-at-Large at TechCrunch, to understand and learn more about the upcoming TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018.

Moderator Mike Butcher speaks onstage during Day 2 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 at Moscone Center on September 6, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

iAfrikan: What does TechCrunch do in Afrika?

Mike Butcher, Editor-at-Large at TechCrunch: TechCrunch is committed to covering startups and new tech innovation all over the world, and that includes Africa. When we started TechCrunch in 2005, we didn’t turn around and go, ‘this is only ever going to be about Silicon Valley’. No way! That would have been dumb. The great thing about the Internet in the least 12 years has been that anyone on the planet can come up with something new. So TechCrunch has covered African tech news for years. And we began dedicated coverage of Africa and a monthly Africa roundup back in 2016.

Last year we held our first Startup Battlefield Africa in Nairobi in 2017, we're holding the second in Nigeria. We also programmed our first Disrupt SF main stage Africa panel this year.

Given that TechCrunch is predominantly a North American and European publication, some might ask what does it know about Afrika?

TechCrunch is a global media and events platform; members of its editorial team have and continue to spend considerable time covering Africa and interacting with its tech ecosystem on a daily basis.

If you look at the 2017 overall winner, Lori Systems hailing from Kenya, they built a logistics platform that is revolutionizing the cargo-transport value chain in Africa. Uncovering startups like this shows that TechCrunch is hungry to find more amazing companies in Africa.

What can we look forward to at the 2nd edition of the Startup Battlefield event?

A really exciting competition with 15 of Africa’s top startups judged by top VCs, interviews with amazing people such as  Omobola Johnson, senior partner at TLcom Capital, and Lexi Novitske of Singularity Investments and the convening of hundreds of local and global tech leaders, press, tech leaders and investors.

What is the criteria for startups to be shortlisted?

We select companies that are pre-seed and Pre-Series A companies. That means they have taken either Angel funding or VC funding, but at a very early stage.

What do startups stand to win?

In addition to an intense amount of media and investor interest, the founders of the winning startup will receive US$25,000 in no-equity cash plus a trip for two to compete in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch’s flagship event, Disrupt in 2019 (assuming the company still qualifies to compete at the time).

Beyond Startup Battlefield, does TechCrunch have any other plans for any country in Africa?

TechCrunch editorial and the entire team keeps eyes and ears on all corners of Africa’s rapidly evolving tech startup ecosystem. Where we hold our next events in Africa remains to be seen, but we are overjoyed and delighted to be in Nigeria this year!

What are your views on funding for startups in Afrika?

The first decade of Africa’s tech startup funding was been led by angel and early-stage investors, with investments ranging from $10,000 and $50,000. And until recently six-figure deals were rare. But last year, venture capital funding in Africa topped $560 million, up 53% year on year, according to research by Partech. Some 124 startups participated in 128 funding rounds, compared with 77 rounds in 2016.

Plus, Series A funding deals becoming more common, such as TradeDepot raising $3 million in Series A funding led by Partech. In January, Paris-based Partech launched an Africa Fund in Dakar with a target size of €100 million ($120 million). TLcom, a European VC, raised $40 million for its Tide Africa Fund last June, and recently led a $3.5 million round in mSurvey, a Nairobi-based mobile survey platform. Last month it led a $5 million round in Terragon, a Nigerian mobile marketing company.


Cover image credit: Moderator Mike Butcher speaks on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2018 at Treptow Arena on November 29, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch