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Want Sh13 million funding for your startup? Here’s an opportunity

By Jevans Nyabiage | July 31st 2016

Promising startups have a chance to win Sh13 million in a new initiative launched by mobile phone operators.

GSM Association, the London-based global mobile operators’ lobby, unveiled an innovation fund during the GSMA Mobile 360 – Africa conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to support startups in emerging markets such as Kenya. This innovation fund is open to startups operating in Africa and selected countries in Asia.

The fund is backed by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and supported by the GSMA and its members. “The launch of the Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund is an exciting opportunity for the mobile industry to work with entrepreneurs in developing markets to create services that will deliver important socio-economic benefits to their communities,” said GSMA Director General Mats Granryd.

“I anticipate that we will see some incredible applications and I look forward to seeing the first selected startup businesses flourish.”

The fund will help identify innovations with the greatest potential for growth and provide best practices for players who are encouraged use mobile phones to improve the welfare of their communities.

Funding and technical assistance will be provided to selected startups. The  establishment of partnerships between operators and startups is expected to increase the reach of mobile phone services.

The fund will run several rounds between 2016 and 2020, with each having specific areas of focus. In the first funding round, about £2 million (Sh268 million) will be disbursed.

Two-stage process

Each successful startup will receive between £100,000 (Sh13.4 million) and £250,000 (Sh33.5 million) in funding.
However, applicants must be aligned with one or both of the focus areas in order to be eligible.

First, the sharing economy, which is defined as any mobile-based platform, product or service that enables low-income citizens to generate income from ‘under-utilised assets’, such as free personal time or vehicle use, by sharing those assets with their peers.

The other is services for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which is any mobile-based solution, product or service designed for micro and SMEs in emerging markets that promote improved productivity and growth.

For the first round, applications will be assessed through a two-stage application process. In the “pitch stage”, applicants are required to complete an online questionnaire providing an overview of their product or service— the deadline for submitting pitches is September 18.

In the ‘proposal stage’, eligible applicants with pitches that meet the objectives of the fund will be invited to develop a detailed proposal setting out the full business case for the project, with GSMA’s support.

A maximum of 30 pitches will be selected to advance to the proposal stage.

An independent panel of experts will then appraise the proposals and present awards totalling £2 million (Sh268 million) to between 10 and 15 startups in January next year.

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