Kenyan Startups Create Partnerships at Oslo Innovation Week 2019

Six Kenyan startups had the opportunity to attend Oslo Innovation Week (OIW) 2019 courtesy of Pangea’s partnership with IKT Norge (ICT Norway) and the Norwegian Embassy in Kenya. The startups participated at 100Pitches, met investors and partners and played a key role during the Kenya Day side event at OIW 2019. Here’s what they had to say about their experience.

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Photo credits: Oslo Innovation Week/Julie Hrncirova.

What was your experience at Oslo Innovation Week 2019, did you make any partnerships?

ESCON Leather Creations: Oslo Innovation Week was an eye opening experience for our business. Through it, we initiated talks with two investors interested in our business and they would also like to visit our workshop in Kenya.

“At OIW 2019, we connected with an entrepreneur who owns a gallery in California that sells an assortment of accessories from Africa. We’re in the early stages of kick starting a business agenda with the gallery.”

— Victor Nzau,Co-founder, Escon Leather Creations

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Ahead of OIW 2019, you were on BBC Africa, how was it being interviewed on BBC Africa?

ESCON Leather Creations: The BBC interview was insightful because we have been able to get some orders through the said interview. One surprising thing that arose from the interview, is that we are receiving a big number of groups that want to be trained on tanning and dying organically.

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Paul Kimani, CEO, WorkPay Africa pitching at 100Pitches during OIW2019

How was it pitching at Oslo Innovation Week?

WorkPay Africa: It was a good platform and a learning experience on how to speak the language of the international market.This is important because as we scale, we need to have different markets understanding us and how our product can fit into their market. Also, most of the companies pitching were around environmental sustainability, which is an under disrupted area in Kenya, meaning there are a lot of opportunities to tap into.

What did you learn from the Norwegian startup ecosystem?

The Norwegian startup ecosystem is advanced and they are addressing a different set of challenges compared to Kenya. They put an emphasis on quality delivery from the caliber of entrepreneurs to the type of investments and investors they attract which is a strong learning point for Kenya’s ecosystem.

“There is a huge opportunity for startups to create networks with investors and entrepreneurs from the Nordic region who might be interested in working with startups in emerging markets.”

— Paul Kimani, CEO, WorkPay Africa

Did you meet any investors?

WorkPay Africa: We met potential investors, including Business Angels Norway, the national association for angel groups in Norway. We were enrolled into their Nordic Business Angels Competition and we will be interacting with 200+ investors. We will be reaching out to these investors in our next fundraising round.

ASSEK, the Association for Startup and SME Enabler’s in Kenya, is supported by IKT Norge and the Norwegian Embassy in Kenya. The Association is a national association that brings together the startup ecosystem in Kenya. The Chairperson, Bernard Chiira, was at OIW 2019, here's what he had to say about the experience.

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Bernard Chiira joins a panel discussion during OIW 2019

Did ASSEK meet any interesting partners?

Bernard Chiira: We met the Norwegian Minister for Digitalization, Nikolai Astrup and also had a meeting with the Director of International Development for the Norwegian Government where we discussed the possibility to support local hubs on disability inclusive Innovation programs.We also met the founder of Kids to Code and gained a lot of insight on how ASSEK can champion and support further uptake of coding skills for Kenya’s younger generation.

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From L to R: Jonas Tesfu, CEO of Pangea; Nikolai Astrup, Norwegian Minister for Digitalization; Bernard Chiira, Chairman of ASSEK and Anne Salim, Board Member of ASSEK

How does this partnership with Norway benefit ASSEK members?

Bernard Chiira: We met with the organizers of Oslo Innovation Week and we plan to explore how we can bring an even bigger Kenyan delegation to Oslo as ASSEK next year.

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Celebrity singer, songwriter and rapper, STL, meets with startups and partners during OIW 2019.

Also, we’re really excited about the work with IKT Norge where we work to develop a code of conduct to strengthen the ecosystem and overall engagement with ASSEK members. IKT Norge is an interest group in the Norwegian ICT industry and we share similarities.

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