BY AMBROSE GAHENE
Five Ugandan startups that are ready for the next level of growth have been selected for the next innovation with the Japan Accelerator program.
During a pitch day that took place at The Innovation Village recently, startups including M-scan, Laboremus Uganda, ChapChap Africa, Endiro Direct, AkelloBanker, Patasente and Easy Matatu pitched their business solutions and competed against 12 startups to emerge winners of the NINJA Accelerator Uganda program.
Uchiyama Takayuki, the chief representative at Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Uganda Office, said the startups were required to showcase aspects of relevance, impact, feasibility, readiness, traction and innovation.
“We looked at the business profitability, sustainable business models, future growth strategy and return on investment. For the innovation aspect, we assessed the business incorporation of technology to provide solutions and address societal challenges” Uchiyama said.
“Now that the assessment process is done, the winner will undergo a three-month custom-made program based on their individual business need and capacity so as to achieve their desired level of growth. They will have a chance to access mentorship sessions, executive networking opportunities with partners and investors within the Japan ecosystem and support to test and refine their business idea,” he added.
As part of the accelerator program, each of the five start-ups will receive up to $18,000 (About Shs63.4m) proof-of-concept funding to test their ideas. They will also be given the opportunity to raise between $0.5-1 million in investment, Uchiyama added.
The NINJA Accelerator Uganda program comes at a time when many startups are struggling to keep their businesses afloat given the insufficient financial resources, lack of innovation and unawareness of business principles for some.
With programs like these that break down barriers and create a path for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, The Innovation Village believes that Uganda could produce the continent’s next game-changers.
The program is now expected to breathe life into some of Uganda’s top startups and catapult socioeconomic transformation.
The founder of Business to Business e-commerce channel, Endiro Direct, Roger Agamba said: “Endiro Direct is thrilled to be able to participate in the NINJA Accelerator Uganda program and work with the team to develop a solution that solves a real and often difficult challenge of access to markets for many coffee producers in Uganda and Africa.”
Sharing the same sentiment, Jean Anthony Onyait, the Chief Executive Officer of agriculture finance and tech startup, Akellobanker, said the NINJA Accelerator Uganda program is an opportunity to think big and get creative about its services.
“We will go a long way in building our operational, technological and financial capacity to scale rapidly in Uganda and to expand to other markets in East Africa,” he said.
George Bakka, the Chief Executive Officer of Patasente, a Fintech startup, noted that the NINJA accelerator program has come at a good time in its growth trajectory.
It is an opportunity for the startup to learn more, build new capabilities, further refine its product, and lay the foundation for both local and regional scale-up.
According to Lema Andrew, the co-Founder of Easy Matatu, joining the program for the first time is an opportunity to access business, technical, investment support as well as gives visibility to its product as it works to fix public transport challenges in Africa.
As implementing partners, The Innovation Village, Hive Collab, and Outbox will each be assigned a startup to train and mentor.
The collaboration of these three hubs and the JICA task force will be one of the ecosystem’s largest efforts towards supporting startups and entrepreneurs in Uganda.