Startups win Sh65m in innovation drive


British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Jeremy Hunt. PHOTO | AFP

Five Kenyan startups have won Sh65 million sponsorships to expand their operations after emerging tops in the just concluded UK government sponsored Business Innovation Challenge.

The challenge run by the Kenya Catalytic Jobs Fund awarded Sh13 million each to Nairobi-based Lynk Jobs, BuildHer, Ten Senses Africa, TakaTaka Solutions and West Pokot-based Savanna Circuit Technologies.

Speaking in Nairobi when he presided over the award ceremony last week, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the five were chosen for their business ideas that indicate a long term view of their operations that have been proved to be scalable.

“We must look for ways to promote entrepreneurship since it generates incomes as well as creates new jobs while addressing various problems afflicting society. That is how we shall improve our livelihoods via higher incomes,” he said.

Youth Enterprise Development Fund chairman Ronnie Osumba said a new fund aka Biashara Fund was under formulation saying it will make available seed capital to startups.

Mr Hunt urged startups to keep mooting up new ideas that should be tried out in the marketplace where challenges discovered are addressed thereby enabling the entrepreneurs to succeed.

“I am also an entrepreneur who started off three businesses that failed making me incur losses but my fourth business idea worked out. It is up to you not to give up in the first instance. Businesspeople are serial failures that later succeed by dealing with challenges realised in their earlier startups,” he said.

Mingling freely with entrepreneurs running tech, curio, agricultural, wastage disposal and solar provision services, Mr Hunt said the future lay in creating businesses that turn problems into business opportunities.

“I have been coming to Kenya since 2002 but I must say Kenya is fully transformed for the better. It is not what we see in our television screens back in Britain and entrepreneurs must work hard to change the conversation making Kenya a home for successful business ideas that can be replicated elsewhere,” he said.