2011 was a good year – a great one even. Here’s why:
- iHub reaches one year, clocks over 6,000 members and more than 100 events. Companies were founded, business got funded and many companies found CTOs and employees through the network. (What makes the iHub work?)
- The m:lab (East Africa’s mobile lab) was founded, with a testing center, 7 companies incubating and 2 classes of mobile app development trained.
- AfriLabs was founded and now has grown to see over 15 labs in Senegal, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zambia, Cameroon, Ghana and South Africa.
- The first Pivot pitching competition and conference was a massive hit. Look for regional versions in South and West Africa in the coming years.
- Ushahidi has over 20,000 deployments in 132 countries, the community grows.
- Kenya leads an open data revolution in Africa, and we also held the IGF which brought many big names into town.
- African tech startups start to get some real attention globally.
- Massive growth in bandwidth mixed with lower costs on smartphones, internet itself and mobile services as well as increases in internet and mobile users across the continent.
2012 looks to be even better
The past few years have been about building an infrastructure that improves the chances of the technology startups in Africa to succeed. Seeing this buildout in action in 2011 was exciting, but it should be recognized for what it really was: a setup for 2012 and beyond.
You see, all those labs and hubs around the continent, the startups and the media coverage? They’re all about getting attention and increasing the awareness of the pent up startup potential in Africa’s technology space. Media and funders both have a bigger target to hit when looking for entrepreneurs. We were setting the stage to broaden the base of our startup pyramid: finding the local innovators and entrepreneurs and getting more of them funded.
Where we stand now is an order of magnitude beyond what we had just a few short years ago. In 2006 if you stated that you want to be a web or mobile entrepreneur you weren’t taken seriously. Five years later and it’s a legitimate position to take. We now have some successes to point out (think mPedigree, Mxit, PesaPal, Sproxil and Ushahidi etc), which make it a lot easier for the new breed of startups to get started.
This is what we’re aiming for: a playing field that allows more entrepreneurs to startup, get some seed funding and fail fast if necessary. The ones who make it, the ones who get beyond the startup phase and become real companies with cashflow and employees, are why this is being done. This will make some people a lot of money, and it will make millions of others lives a lot better because they have better and more relevant products locally.
2012 is set. It’s the year where we grow the seed funding and early stage venture capital investments so that five years from now we have the ecosystem needed to support a much larger investment and startup community.
My prediction is this: In 2012, if you have a startup in one of the main tech cities in Africa and are unable to get funding, it is due to one of two things: Your idea isn’t viable or you don’t know how to pitch.
The funding is coming, and it’s up to you to create a business and make it succeed.
(To do this, I suggest you read 2 posts on the Afrinnovator blog: “15 Skills African Tech Talent Must Acquire in 2012” and Mbwana Alliy’s “12 Predictions for African Tech in 2012“.)