8 local start-ups among firms to benefit from Sh1.8bn USAid grant

FarmDrive co-founder and MD Rita Kimani. photo | diana ngila
FarmDrive co-founder and MD Rita Kimani. photo | diana ngila 

Eight Kenyan start-ups are amongst 18 companies to benefit from a Sh1.8 billion ($18.4 million) innovation programme by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid).

Most of the local awardees are using technology to address agriculture and energy challenges.

Companies picked for the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) programme include FarmDrive, an IT firm that gathers information from small-scale farmers and uses it to build credit scoring models that financial institutions can use to provide loans to farmers. 

FarmDrive is also a recipient of investment from Safaricom through its Spark fund. PayGo Energy, a fuel-stove distribution company that uses mobile money and smart meter technology to sell cooking gas on a pay-as-you-go basis also qualified for the DIV programme.

“DIV supports innovative ideas, pilots and tests them using cutting-edge analytical methods, and scales solutions that demonstrate widespread impact and cost-effectiveness,” says a statement from USAid.

Under the programme, USAid provides grants of up to $15 million to startups. The value of funding is based on the grantee’s track record and growth stage.

The funding is provided in three stages — proof of concept; testing and positioning; and transitioning to scale. USAid says 80 African companies have benefited from the programme since it was launched.

Other Kenyan ventures benefiting from the programme include Sanivation, which converts human waste into briquettes, and PowerGen, which builds last-mile power distribution networks for high-density population areas. 

Another energy sector venture, Powerhive, provides solar microgrids in western Kenya and is working on a programme to lease low-cost appliances to customers.

Keheala is a feature-phone and Internet-based digital platform that uses unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) technology to deliver behavioural interventions and disease management tools to increase tuberculosis drug adherence.

Tulaa is a mobile money product for smallholder farmers to lay away and borrow money. In East Africa, Uganda’s Burn Manufacturing and Instiglio will also benefit as will Devergy, a social energy service company from Tanzania that is commercializing affordable solar micro-grids.