Attending Demo last month, I was once again amazed by African start-ups creativity and energy.
African innovation is rooted in mobile stunning expansion, and Demo selected a range of 40 tech-entrepreneurs at early stage, offering a chance to ‘witness technology at its birth and to report on the next big thing from Africa’.
Considering the mobile-equipped market they’re aiming at, most tech African start-ups are designing ‘mobile first’: they’re crafting a bespoke service for mobile device. Africa is embracing from the outset the Internet mobile wave: entrepreneurs are not designing for PC screen, and then adapting to smaller devices, using framework such as responsive design; they jump straightforwardly to mobile and tablets experiences. Africa’s Internet somehow prefigures our future, where mobile and tablets will have outsmarted PC usage.
Going global… from the start
Going global from the beginning came to the fore: African start-ups are clearly enticed to do so by the various speakers. VCs want naturally to invest in players targeting a global market, corresponding to soaring growth, and return on investment for them.
What an opportunity for a global player like Orange: helping startups to extend their reach by means of access to its network capabilities is the goal of the Orange API Toolbox for Africa. Local marketing support, in the different markets where the start-up open their service, would be much appreciated as well.
Networking African Tech-Hubs
Tech communities are widespread all over Africa: there isn’t one Silicon Valley sun shining over the continent and, there is a constallation of tech-hubs stars, and it’s much more exciting this way. Linking African tech-hubs in a cooperative community would represent a tremendous asset for African start-ups in a fierce digital competition. AfriLabs is committed to build this network of creative African labs: ‘AfriLabs supports growth of communities around African technology hubs, and encourages expansion of the network by providing tools and resources for new and emerging labs’.
Information at hand
Various niche services presebted at Demo target information provisioning, crossing in-depth database with social communities feedback. They cover various domains such as: job search, touristic travel places, housing market, hospitality service including menu update, city transport, bus ticketing and schedules, PO box delivery notification, education (multi channels lessons service inclusing quizz interactive testing), reporting fraud, events management, blood donation, diabetes personal management, residents association portal, mums social network, investments groups, small business local market place, and a transversal portal dedicated to African mobile services.
Internet entrepreneurs are working hard to make accurate information available, most of the time including a mobile access through mobile Internet or USSD service. Thus they extend their reach, and deliver information in any place in real time.
Let’s communicate & entertain ourselves
Start-ups offer communication systems tweaked for African context: low cost solar BTS (radio station for mobile network), Internet streaming box, cloud storage, mobile VoIP app, transparent stickers transforming screens into touch screens, portable box embedding content, instant messaging platform to communicate with customer, and solar lamp charging a phone account.
Entertainment on mobile devices are not forgotten: mobile streaming TV, mobile software player, mobile gaming.
Mobile money platform
Thriving on the dizzying adoption of mobile money, money platforms develop slick add-on features: save to buy, billling software, online payment platform for retailers (demo was performed with Orange payment!), mobile money transfer.
40 Start-ups Pitches shaking stage
All start-ups detailed data sheet and contacts are on VC4Africa/Ventures.
image credits: CNN, Orange Money, AfriLabs, Guardian, Vivifi
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Nicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Serial innovator, he set-up creative BU with an international challenge, and a focus on new TV experiences. Forward thinker, he completed a thesis on “Rapid Innovation”, implemented successfully at Orange, and further developed at nbry.wordpress.com. He tweets @nicobry