The Standard Chartered Bank in partnership with @iBizAfrica-Strathmore University, has awarded five participating businesses Sh.1, 000,000 each in the culmination of the 4th cohort of the Standard Chartered Bank Women in Tech incubation program.
The winning firms include Ecila Films which produces films of authentic African stories, Ufasiri Halisi SLI Innovations Limited, which focuses on revolutionizing assistive technology for the deaf and hard of hearing, the Viwanda Africa Group which improves flight safety through a cloud-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform for aircraft maintenance and spare parts planning.
Runnovate which helps business owners save time and reduce the cost of running their businesses by working with a team of virtual assistants and Mandevu Beardcare which is a men’s grooming company offering a beard care product line.
A statement to newsrooms, Wednesday, indicates that the funding recipients were picked after a rigorous judging process undertaken by accomplished professionals from Dry Associates Limited, Viktoria Ventures, Standard Chartered Bank and @iBizAfrica- Strathmore University, who adjudicated the businesses on scalability, technology adoption, entrepreneurial and leadership excellence.
The 4th cohort of the Women-in-Tech program was launched virtually on 15th October 2020, attracting 111 applicants, among whom 10 were chosen to participate in the incubation program.
Over the last few months, the companies have successfully undergone training, coaching and mentorship offered by the @iBizAfrica- Strathmore University network of key industry experts, faculty, business leaders, experienced mentors, and professionals.
The incubator theme for the year was ‘Accelerating the digital economy through women-owned businesses’ and was geared toward businesses that were tech-enabled or those that leveraged on emerging technologies such as IoT, Robotics, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Cloud Computing, Drone Technology, and Biometrics among others.
The businesses also had to have been in operation for at least three months with less than five years of operations.
Commenting on this, Kariuki Ngari, CEO and MD, Standard Chartered Bank Kenya and East Africa said, “Sub-Sahara Africa has a substantial number of women entrepreneurs, yet female-led tech startups only account for a very few of these,”.
This is despite research showing that technology firms led by women experience a 35 percent higher return on investment.
“Having this in consideration and through engagement with the past participants of the program, we understand that there is a need for enabling ecosystems for women entrepreneurs, especially in the technology space which carries enormous potential for growth across many industries,” he added.
“Our partnership with Strathmore University’s @iBizAfrica aims to bridge this gap by offering entrepreneurial training, incubation, and financial support which are all instrumental in building sustainable businesses. Amid the pandemic,” the CEO noted.
The 10 businesses chosen to participate in the 4th cohort remained stable with some recording an increase in turnover since joining the incubation program.
Their success reflects the enormous potential and opportunities that lie in women-led tech startups and calls for further investment in programs that support entrepreneurial and leadership excellence.
“We are proud of all the applicants and participants of this year’s Women in Tech program and look forward to seeing their businesses thrive even as we continue running the program for further impact,” he added.
Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director @iBizAfrica and @iLabAfrica Research and Innovation Centre, Strathmore University said, @iBizAfrica Centre has worked with the 10 businesses participating in the 4th cohort of the WIT program, during which they saw an impressive woman-led businesses to increase the number of staff, carry out product enhancements, receive funding and obtain new clients.
Dr. Sevilla said the milestones are encouraging and a testament to the success of the program and that there is a need to facilitate the growth and scalability of more enterprises across the continent.
Some of the past participants of the program have recorded a massive increase in revenue since incubation and secured further independent seed funding.
The Women in Tech program is part of the Bank’s community engagement strategy, Future makers by Standard Chartered, that aims at tackling the issue of inequality and promoting greater economic inclusion for young people in various communities and economies, with a focus on girls and women.
The program is in partnership with @iBizAfrica – Strathmore University Incubation Centre.
Each year the program trains more than 10 small and medium businesses leveraging on technology by offering mentorship, advisory, coaching, networking opportunities, access to seed capital, and investor forums that help carve their businesses to international standards.
30 start-ups have participated to date, and 15 have been awarded one million each in seed funding.
41 businesses have so far gone through the incubation process with the first four cohorts attracting 1,150 applications.