How should I assess whether my company is at the right stage for the Savannah Accelerator?

  1. Do you have a product in the market with some traction and need more resources and partners to scale your ambitions for a long term and global company?
  2. Do you lack the connections, and social proof/validation to talk to tech focused investors?
  3. Do you want to partner and learn from other entrepreneurs who have done it before and tap their networks for advice so you don’t repeat the same mistakes others have?

If all the answers to these questions is yes, we encourage you to apply.


How many companies do you accept per session ?

We plan to do between 3-5 companies per batch- we deliberately do small classes so we can provide maximum attention on each and scale classes accordingly as our team grows. Currently, Erik and Mbwana work with startups during the accelerator on the ground out of Nairobi and Paul provides advice and appropriate Silicon Valley and global introductions- we also enlist associates in Finance, Marketing and other technical or functional help as appropriate to help.


Why do you take 12% of the company ?

We will take 12% common equity in the companies we invest, this is currently lower  than our original 15% for the first 3 classes between 2012-14 and most angel investments done in Africa and is commensurate with the risk we are taking, we also put in significantly more work and provide a number of advantages to comparable accelerators in Africa

  1.  Office space in the iHub during the acceleration program
  2. Legal assistance and incorporation help if required.
  3. Marketing , Product and Operational help.
  4. Connections to potential investors, Silicon Valley and structured mentoring (we have connections, inc. our fund investors to leading global tech investors inc. 500Startups and Draper Associates (founder of DFJ) from silicon valley.)
  5. Connections to iHub resources inc. UX design lab, iHub research
  6. Fundraising readiness and advice whenever it is needed.
  7. Ability for Savannah Fund to co-invest in follow on rounds and with other investors in a syndicate.
  8. Finally, we are experienced team of entrepreneurs and Ecosystem builders who have built tech companies before and have invested in companies (e.g. i/o ventures and our sister fund in South East Asia, Golden Gate Ventures)- who have helped companies raise over $75M in follow on financing, and lead 4 companies to exit. Built products and/or organizations in Africa (Ushahidi and BRCK). As of end of 2014, Savannah Fund investee companies have raised over $12.5M in equity funding.

The key is that we are aligned with the founders of the company for the long term.

What do you mean by common equity?

We act like a true angel investor in companies in the accelerator and try align the rights of founders along side us whilst leaving enough room for additional investors to come in with equal impact on dilution of both the founders/employees and Savannah Fund. We don’t require taking a board seat but rather work with the companies to align them with the right investors and board members for Seed and Series A level investment. More formal VCs will take preference shares in later rounds and exert control and advice at the board level- we don’t believe many Startups in Africa at this early a stage are ready for this and nor do they particularly need it so early on vs hands on tangible help on product, operations and strategy to ready them for possible VC investment or other partnerships.


Can you talk more about the Program itself- and the mentors

Through our connections we build a curated curriculum of mentors in 2+ hour sessions roughly every week throughout the 3-4 months- so startups can expect to see over 12 mentors dedicated over 30+ hours of mentoring across all the startups face to face at the iHub. Some of the mentors provide technical assistance and can become partners in your business to help you market, sell or connect with right customers. We bias the mentors to those who have preferential experience building local or global tech companies or bring in functional expertise. We also provide links to specific resources, such as the UX design lab to help improve the design or usability of applications.


What kind of startups do you look at?

We look at anything the internet touches from e-commerce to the “internet of things”. The key ingredient is that there is a strong team in place (technical orientation and business/sales cofounder). We tend to like to work with companies that want to partner with us to build high growth companies together. We will use coding tests to further assess technical competence.


Do you invest in Social Enterprises?
We look at the market and team potential first- we don’t filter specifically for social impact. We believe growing the economy, incomes and jobs (i.e. the private sector) is direct social impact enough. Empowering an entrepreneur to realize their true passion, whether its making games or selling products to Africans, is of utmost importance.
We will typically do double the diligence to ensure there is a clear market need in areas such as mhealth where the industry is flooded by free money or subsidized products by the aid industry or Government. But if you feel there is a compelling need for a product or service and can make money whether BOP or not, we are interested.


Do we have to Move to Nairobi? Can I join another accelerator?

Yes. We feel the most benefit you can get out of our startup accelerator program happens when you are here with us face to face. This includes interacting with all the mentors and speakers we have come through the door. Plus you get to network with the fellow Savannah Fund companies as well as the iHub network. That being said, if you are coming from afar, its important to asses the impact to your business- only the main founders should move to Nairobi given cost and business constraints. We also recognize there are other accelerators happening and “double dipping” in multiple accelerators at the same time is not something we support.