Habitat For Humanity Drives Innovation in Market System by Connecting Startups and Corporates

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Wednesday, 20 February 2019 saw thirty early stage and scale-up businesses and twenty-one corporate organisations in Kenya meet in Nairobi to interact and discuss opportunities for collaboration at the Strathmore Business School Auditorium. The early stage businesses and scale-ups, currently in the ShelterTech Accelerator program, are tackling affordable housing challenges in Kenya through innovation. The Event dubbed “Meet the Corporates” put startups on a journey of learning from industry players and corporates on pertinent topics including how to properly value their businesses and strategically plan when interacting with corporates. Additionally, corporates gained perspective on how to inject innovation in their models through corporate-startup collaborations.

ShelterTech Accelerator Program as a key driver of startup-corporate collaboration

The event was organized by the ShelterTech Accelerator Program. The program is the first of its kind in Kenya and is led by Habitat for Humanity and implemented by BDO East Africa in collaboration with Pangea Accelerator. The program seeks to support these 30 early stage businesses and scale-ups with solutions addressing access to decent and affordable housing in different focus areas such as renewable energy in homes, water and sanitation, housing and construction and waste management.

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Jane Otima, Associate Director Market Systems & Entrepreneurship at Habitat for Humanity International’s Terwilliger Centre for Innovation in Shelter

Jane Otima, the Associate Director Market Systems & Entrepreneurship at Habitat for Humanity International’s Terwilliger Centre for Innovation in Shelter, noted that to increase uptake of affordable housing innovations and solutions, there is need to have all professionals involved in housing ecosystem to understand and appreciate the technologies so they can help popularise them in the market.

Strategy in building startup-corporate partnerships

Furthermore, from the panel discussions, corporates learnt that startups do not solely seek funds when engaging with them. Mr. Sandeep Khapre, the Regional East Africa CEO of the multinational tax consulting accounting firm, BDO, added that it is not always about money, sometimes people are looking for an intellectual challenge and startups need to leverage that when seeking partnerships.

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Mr. Sandeep Khapre, the Regional East Africa CEO of BDO, a tax consulting and accounting firm.

Startups also pointed out, when seeking corporate partnerships; they look to learn, have a wider market reach, receive mentorship and be capacity built through access to industry knowledge such as data and research labs.

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Beyond this, startups acknowledged their fear of corporates stealing innovation from startups and incorporating as their own product. Pangea Accelerator’s CEO and Co-Founder, Jonas Tesfu, responded to this by bringing attention to the recent formation of ASSEK (Association of Startup and SME Enablers in Kenya), which seeks to connect and provide a holistic framework for corporate and startup collaborations in Kenya.

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Networking and pathways for business leads and investment

The networking session that followed compounded effect with the striking of strategic deals and agreements to mutually benefit both parties. Noted organizations present during the event include: GlaxoSmithKline, Bamburi Cement, iBuild Africa, British High Commission, Kenya Commercial Bank, QuestWorks among other key representatives.

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