I recently spent a week in Kigali, Rwanda collecting data to support an ongoing Network Science Center at West Point Research project that is developing network models of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in developing markets. This is the second in series of posts documenting my experiences and findings.
While in Kigali, I first visited a recently established (2014) technology incubator and was hosted by Sara Leedom, the Managing Director of Inkomoko, a group that supports entrepreneurship in Rwanda and a think mentor, and Paul Soko, the incubator’s Managing Director. Sara is also a co-founder of the African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC). AEC is a network of accelerators and incubators and “now including two accelerators in Kigali, supporting over 100 entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in a wide range of industries, including agribusiness, retail, manufacturing, services, and ICT and was hired by Tigo, a leading mobile phone provider on the African continent to help grow the companies in think.
think is housed in the BHC House in Kigali’s Kacyiru neighborhood.
The view of Kigali from think
Millicom, which operates under the Tigo brand in Africa, is the initial investor behind think and is interested in identifying and supporting innovative tech start-ups that are creating digital solutions for Africa. Millicom believes that Rwanda provides a unique opportunity as a platform for technology startups due to its young and dynamic population as well as the significant government investment in the country’s ICT infrastructure.
Café Neo in Kacyiru
think operates under a more traditional incubator model. There is a competitive application process and selected start-ups received $15,000 in equity investment, and live in Kigali for a period of six months. While in residence, the teams have access to coaches, mentors, as well as resources and access to the Tigo customer base to test and refine their products. Additionally, the startups engage with other technical and business experts to work on creating scalable and market-ready products.
Inside the accelerator.
In October 2014, think selected the first two companies to join the incubator. The applicant pool included teams from more than 20 African nations and the winners were selected by a group of top tech investors. I was fortunate to meet with both teams.
The CEO of TorQue meets with Julienne Oyler, Founder & Executive Director of AEC.
The first is Cribpark from Nigeria. Cribpark offers an online marketplace platform for home design and architecture, and connects homeowners, who in many cases build their own home over an extended period of time, to an array of valuable goods and services. Cofounded by Dare O. Pius and Oaldapo Ayo, “the team is building a one-stop shop for African housing items for a local context.”
The second is TorQue from Rwanda. TorQue “delivers channel management software for wholesale distributors in the beverage and telecom industry.” The software is designed specifically to manage the entire distribution business with a focus on the local environment. Their model fits well across the entire African continent. TorQue was founded in Kigali by Jean de la Croix Niyotwagira and the company has recently gained the business of large-scale international beverage distributors, insurance companies, and telcos.