The Next Big Thing finalists get Sh1m funding for smart jackets venture

Cladlight CEO Charles Muchene (right) and
Cladlight CEO Charles Muchene (right) and project manager Michael Gathogo during an interview in January. The startup expects to receive Sh1 million capital for their LED reflector jackets. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Hardware start-up Cladlight, which designs smart jackets for motorcycle riders in a bid to reduce road accidents, is among ventures set to receive funding of Sh1 million each. Charles Muchene and Michael Gathogo came up with the innovative idea of wearable technology to try and reduce road fatalities.

Their innovation which incorporates light-emitting diode (LED) connected to the motorcycle’s indicator system into reflector jackets has gained a lot of attention with their start-up emerging among the 11 entrepreneurs who made it to the finals of The Next Big Thing competition organised by the Business Daily.

Cladlight’s funding is part of Sh5 million that Nairobi-based start-up accelerator Nailab has sought from investors in a bid to bolster five promising startups. Nailab, which was launched in 2011, offers a three to six-month entrepreneurship programme with a focus on growing innovative technology driven ideas.

The incubation programme provides high level mentoring, product development and professional training on different professional facets that help in the formation of a start-up. Nailab has been investing Sh300,000 per enterprise as part of their capital  but the additional funding will see this amount increase for the currently incubated start-ups to Sh1 million each.

While making the announcement, Nailab chief executive Sam Gichuru said that there was a need to support startups with ideas which help in creation of local jobs and enable young in achieving financial independence.

“In light of our previous experience on the funding of the start-ups, we sought more capital injection into this businesses through our investor networks to ensure that we give entrepreneurs a greater chance of survival through the capital base,” he said

The other four start-ups, currently undergoing incubation include Hisa Play a captivating mobile stock simulation, TasKWetu which is an online errand running and tracking platform, Mode Mara which creates an online hub for fashion designers to interact and the fashion design company Young Freddie Collections.

This is the second batch of technology start-ups that have benefited from the initiative under the ICT Authority contract granted to the incubator in June 2013 to help lower entry barriers for tech entrepreneurs who want to implement and scale up their business ideas in Kenya.

The government is in a three-year partnership with the incubator to offer support to startups at a cost of about $1.6 million (Sh140.8 million). “We are glad that more investors are coming on board and we hope to keep raising funds for all the enterprises that we have the privilege of incubating,” said Mr Gichuru

The group of startups will continue in the programme for another three months, in which they will work on refining their products and increasing customer acquisition.

Since 2010, Nailab has incubated more than 30 startups and has 14 ventures making part of the existing alumni with an average revenue of over Sh500,000 per month each.