15 startups benefit from Nailab innovation plan


Grassroots vice president /co-founder Joy Wathagi Ndungu (left) engaging youth at Nailab in Nairobi last month. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Last month 15 startups graduated from Nailab, a Kenyan startup incubator, after taking part in a three month programme called Make-IT in Africa that involved mentorship and training on how to grow their business.

Experts say such programmes increase the survival rate of start-ups to five years or more than those that do not undergo such programmes.

It was the first time that the Make-IT in Africa was held in the country. The programme seeks to promote digital innovation for sustainable and inclusive development in sub-Saharan Africa and is funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

“The programme is nine-month long. We partnered with Nailab for the first three months in order to offer support to startups and train them on business growth. The next three-month programme will focus on business to business cooperation and we have partnered with the German Chamber of Commerce, Victoria Ventures and Venture Capital for Africa to offer support,” said Mutembei Kariuki, the Make-IT in Africa regional coordinator, East Africa.

Having support from the industry can be an instrumental experience to startups in order to get their business ready for the market.

According to a survey conducted on the importance of mentorship and training to small businesses and startups by package delivery company, United Parcel Service, 70 per cent of those that received mentoring survive for five years or more, double the rate of those who do not receive mentoring.

This is because through the programmes, they are offered support by industry experts on how to navigate business challenges, to acquire customers, deal with competition and business management in general. It thus prepares them well for the market.

Some of the startups that graduated from Nailab include ClinicPesa, a platform that provides access to healthcare financing to the uninsured; Genexe Engenieering, a company that manufactures energy efficient stoves; Redhunt, a platform that enables medical practitioners and the public to search for and locate blood types they require during emergencies; and Taimba, a mobile-based platform that connects rural small scale farmers to micro traders in urban centres.

This is not the first time that the incubator has partnered with organisations in a bid to offer support to startups. Since 2010, it has partnered with Amref Kenya, UNFPA, SOS Ke and NL.

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It has also worked with international organisation such as Good Up in Netherlands and Close the Gap from Belgium. It has also hosted events with other partners like UNCTAD which included Chinese businesses and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma as the main speaker, last year.

“Some of the startups that have gone through our incubation programme include: Eneza Education in 2011, Duma Works ( 2012), Kejahunt (2014), Herdy.Co (2015), Imara TV (2016), B-track (2017) and Tozzaplus (2018),” said Josephine Mwangi, Nailab’s head of communication, marketing and stakeholder management.

Nailab has reported a 10 per cent survival rate of the startups that have undergone its programme with a three-year minimum period for them to generate consistent revenues. Some of them have gone ahead to raise over five million dollars in startup capital.

“Accelerated business training programmes, help in reducing the amount of time the product gets to market and with the pool of partners availed through the programme, it increases the market reach for any startups,” said Ms Mwangi.

“This also includes access to capital and industry mentors. Our portfolio of startups is currently serving an average of 500,000 B2C customers and 10,000 B2B customers. Our push is always to have 10 per cent revenue growth month on month.”

The startups have created 178 direct jobs and over 1,000 indirect jobs through platforms such as Kuhustle that connects freelancers to existing projects, Duma works that is a job recruitment site and Herdy that is opening up markets for farmers produce, according to Nailab.

- African Laughter