Yesterday, 7 African startups selected for the Techstars Toronto accelerator spring cohort programme graduated alongside 4 other companies across Canada, Pakistan, and India, according to information shared with TechCabal by Techstars Toronto managing director, Sunil Sharma.
The accelerator programme provided these startups with $120,000 funding ($100,000 convertible note and $20,000 stipend), hands-on mentorship, and access to Techstars’ network of experienced founders. For the African startups in the accelerator that TechCabal spoke with, the acceptance also served as an opportunity for them to bounce ideas off the accelerator’s vast network of founders and mentors. They said Techstars has helped them better understand the problem they are solving and improve their business models.
In the last class, 8 African startups made the cut. This time around, out of the 12, 7 startups focused on the continent participated in the 3-month programme, culminating in a Demo Day held yesterday.
The African startups selected in Techstars Toronto’s spring 2022 class are: Emergency Response Africa, Blackcopper, Mycoverai, truQ, Bongalow, Glade, and Gigmile.
Emergency Response Africa
ERA was born after Pooku lost a family member in Ghana due to slow emergency response, and Owodunmi almost lost a child to a medical emergency. When both founders realised slow emergency response was a prevalent problem in Africa, they started working on a solution. ERA began operations until 2021.
“Knowing that so many people lose their lives needlessly in that journey to get healthcare with so many delays, I really wanted to find out how we could make that process better and, ultimately, save lives. And this was an opportunity to use technology to solve a big problem that I saw,” said Owodunmi on a call with TechCabal.
“At its simplest level, the problem that we’re solving is the lack of access to fast, reliable emergency medical care. But there are a lot of factors that contribute to that problem existing in the first place. One of those factors is simply a shortage of supply in terms of ambulances and first responders. But perhaps more importantly, the bigger issue is that there’s a lack of centralised communication and dispatch,” she added.
Emergency Response Africa identifies, assesses, and onboards a large network of first responders, emergency vehicles, and hospitals on its technology platform, making it possible to dispatch the right resources to the patients in minutes.
Owodunmi said that Techstars has helped ERA in refining its business model and also provided insights on how they can increase the efficiency, speed, and quality of responses from its network of first responders. Owodunmi said that ERA is currently only available in Nigeria, but it intends to expand across West Africa in the next 3 years.
Blackcopper provides lenders with data that helps them make smart credit decisions and thereby helps nano, micro, and small businesses access credit. It was founded in 2020 by Muyiwa Faulkner and Azeez Oluwafemi who have a cumulative 2 decades of banking experience.
“While building solutions for a bank and a number of fintechs, I found out that nano, micro and small businesses are totally neglected from getting easy and fast access to financial services in emerging markets,” Faulkner said on a call with TechCabal.
Blackcooper operates only in Nigeria at the moment, but over the next 12 months, it wants to expand to Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Banjo explained in a call with TechCabal that Africans are already struggling with poverty, and that to live without insurance is to deepen the strain, so he and his co-founder thought of creating a safety net first for Africans.
“We’ve built this API that allows other businesses to embed insurance into their offering. To make distribution of insurance easy, we are leveraging two pillars: product innovation and distribution. For product innovation, we are working with insurance companies to create insurance products that are very interesting and attractive to the end users. Then the second leg is to find businesses who are going to embed our offerings into their own products and services. For the third leg, we are building an infrastructure that makes the claims process easier for the insurance companies and the users,” Banjo said, explaining Mycoverai’s product.
“We’ve created this retail health insurance product called FlexiCare which goes for ₦1,600 monthly and gives people up to ₦1 million worth of benefits and access to primary care, secondary care, surgeries, and eye care. We also discovered that this product is unique and robust. About 3,000 of our current users are first-time purchasers of insurance products,” Banjo added.
Mycoverai currently operates in Nigeria, but it intends to expand to 5 other African countries including Kenya and Rwanda in the coming years.
Bongalow is a US-incorporated but Africa-focused startup that provides digitised mortgage infrastructure that traditional banks, neobanks, and real estate agents and brokers can embed into their products to offer mortgage solutions to their customers. It was founded in 2021 by Kelechi Nwokocha (CEO), Abdulrahman Atta (CTO), and Samuel Haruna CPO,
truQ is automating and optimising short-haul logistics across Africa. It is doing this by connecting B2B e-commerce businesses, merchants, and individuals in real-time to the closest vehicles to enable trusted, trackable, and affordable shipments. It was founded in 2019 by Williams Fatayo (CEO) and Foluso Ojo (COO).
Glade is a fintech startup that provides African businesses with multi-currency bank accounts and allows them to perform cross-border payments. It was founded in 2020 by Liyi Victor (CEO) and Temitope Hundeyin (COO). It is trying to solve the challenges that African businesses deal with when accessing cross-border payments including the outright decline of access, high costs of exchange rates, bad experiences, and lack of transparency in transactions by making cross-border payments seamless.
Gigmile provides gig workers with various financing options ranging from motorcycle financing to smartphone financing and fuel advance. Gigmile wants Africa to tap into the full potential of the gig economy by supplying potential gig workers with important tools such as vehicles and smartphones and giving them access to skills training and credit. It was founded in 2022 by Nigerians Kayode Adeyinka (CEO) and Samuel Esiri (COO), both ex-Jumia country head.
Like in other years, this 6th cohort of Techstars Toronto features an array of startups dealing with payments and money in some way, a trend credited to Toronto’s reputation as a financial centre. It also features a healthy mix of startups that aren’t tilted towards fintech or payment.
“It’s another remarkable class of Canadian and international startups, and they are all raising money and growing really fast with very strong founders, most of whom are now in Toronto,” Sunil said in a statement announcing the graduation.