On Friday, 24th May 2019, fifteen Kenyan businesses pitched as they sought investment commitments from both local and international investors during the ShelterTech Kenya Accelerator Demo Day at ParkInn by Radisson. The jam packed event brought in 130 attendees including notable guests such as The Royal Norwegian Embassy of Kenya Ambassador, Elin Bergithe Rognlie and representatives from UN Habitat, Kenyan Government and private sector including multinationals and banks.
The day kicked off with businesses exhibiting and a simultaneous roundtable discussion. The roundtable brought stakeholders to discuss how to tackle the challenge of affordable housing and and ways to support innovations around it. Fueled by robust discussions, the round table culminated in an agreement to further interventions both from the Kenyan Government in addressing reforms and the necessary support needed from other hubs and accelerators.
The 15 businesses then pitched with seven businesses selected to initiate investment negotiations with investors. Investors to support the selected businesses include; Habitat for Humanity, Pangea Accelerator, through its Oslo Investor Program and local investment companies including Viktoria Ventures.
Kevin Chetty, board member of Habitat for Humanity International and Regional Director for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa for the Terwilliger Centre for Innovation in Shelter, expressed his thoughts on the lessons gained throughout the accelerator program in understanding market needs and the potential to further meet the challenges in affordable housing.
Darshan Chandaria, Group CEO of Chandaria Industries and a judge during the pitching session, agreed on accelerator programs as the necessary plug for speeding up innovation in the country.
Dr. Bitange Ndemo, ICT champion and former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) added in his address, that there was need to keep supporting initiatives that produce innovative solutions for the African market. He admitted that this was the time to drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Africa and position accelerator programs to further support and ultimately produce more innovation for Africa.
Dr. Tom Uhlman, Managing Partner of New Venture Partners, a New York-based venture capital firm, noted the output by Kenyan youth in innovation production. He believes that it can be scaled further if there is involvement by key stakeholders and those relationships properly managed. Further to this,Florence Kimata, SME Advisor for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, remarked on the need to have further government involvement seeing that the Government of Kenya has been working towards business reforms and seeking stronger opportunities for collaboration.
Lastly, Jonas Tesfu, CEO of Pangea Accelerator, highlighted the need to keep supporting businesses and startups especially from a startup ecosystem point of view including aligning policy to support startups.
Isaac Kamau, CEO of The Vlage was not only delighted but shared his optimism that this would herald further scaling of their business.
The ShelterTech Kenya Accelerator is a six-month program by Habitat for Humanity Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and implemented by BDO East Africa and Pangea Accelerator with support from IKEA Foundation and Hilti Foundation. The program has seen 30 businesses working in; construction technology and products, waste management, renewable energy and water and sanitation addressing the challenges around affordable housing.