BY EMEKA AGINAM
As part of its 4Africa initiative, Microsoft Corp on Monday announced the expansion of the Microsoft Ventures partnership program into Africa starting in Kenya.
The expansion into Africa was conducted as part of the recently launched Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative and will therefore prioritize startups in key sectors including agriculture, education and healthcare.
It would be recalled that the initiative was introduced in June as a coordinated global effort to offer tools, resources, expertise and routes to market for startups through partnerships with accelerators around the world.
Already, the global software giant has selected 88mph as its first African accelerator partner. 88mph was chosen for its proven model of helping launch and secure funding for innovative African startups. With this, Microsoft and 88mph will work to provide startups with mentorship, technology guidance, seed funding, joint selling opportunities and more.
However, Microsoft Ventures takes a holistic approach to helping startups get off the ground through a community evangelism program including Microsoft BizSpark, an accelerator program and a seed fund that works with startups worldwide.
Startups will be selected based on the globally established criteria of Microsoft Ventures as applying companies must have a full-time founding team, a bold vision for tackling a real problem, technologically driven solutions and less than $1 million raised.
In Africa, Microsoft is also looking for solutions that can scale across and even outside the African continent.
The graduating startups from 88mph’s most recent accelerator class will participate in a DemoDay on Dec. 5 in Nairobi where, with Microsoft’s help, the startups will present their businesses and opportunities to invited investors.
Through the BizSpark program, the company has already helped support 625 African startups to date by providing access to Microsoft tools and technologies, and this program will continue. And for the second consecutive year, the company is also a sponsor of DEMO Africa, a startup competition taking place Oct. 24–25 in Nairobi.
“Through the 4Afrika Initiative, we are deeply committed to fostering African innovation and to fueling Africa’s economic growth and competitiveness, and we are very proud to see Microsoft Ventures extend its reach into the African continent,” Amrote Abdella, director, 4Afrika Venture Capital and Startup Programs, said, adding that, “We strongly believe that with the right support, African startups hold tremendous potential to impact both their local economies and the world’s perception of African-led innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Reacting to the partnership, Nikolai Barnwell, Nairobi director, 88mph, said that, “Microsoft is a company that deeply understands the value of the ecosystem, and we believe that by working together, 88mph and Microsoft can offer a world-class launch pad to African startups looking to achieve true scale,”
“We share a deep commitment to the African startup community and look forward to showcasing more and more African innovators on the world stage.”