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Pivot East 2013 Winners


January 26, 2013

After long, intense and exciting two days of pitching and several months of planning, East Africa’s premiere mobile startup’s pitching competition and conference came to an end today.The competition kicked off early this year with outreaches across East Africa. Today, we are pleased to present to East Africa the winners of Pivot East 2013. The winners are:

Mobile Society category


Irene Kagwa of Uganda Communications Commission awarding the Kytabu Team, Dr. Ndun’gu and Tonee Ndung’u

Kytabu: A micro-leasing textbook subscription application that enables students to get just the material they need to learn, when they need it, wherever they are and pay for just that piece of content while they have it. From Kenya

Mobile Enterprise category

Ivan Lumula Of Microsoft awarding Mikul Shah and Johann Jenson of Sleepout

Ivan Lumula Of Microsoft awarding Mikul Shah and Johann Jenson of Sleepout Web and SMS-driven booking process connects both commercial and peer-to-peer hosts with guests and agents. From Kenya

Mobile Entertainment category

Kola Studio's Team

Kola Studio’s Team

Kola Studios: Matatu, is a two-player card game based on the popular Ugandan game played with a pack of cards.The game can be played on Mobile (Android) and on Facebook. From Uganda

Mobile Finance category

Erik Hersman giving Geoffrey Ndosi of Go Finance the trophy

Erik Hersman giving Geoffrey Ndosi of Go Finance the trophy

GO Finance Company Ltd: GO, leverages business value chains & technology to provide MSMEs at the base of the pyramid. From Tanzania

Mobile Utility category

Agatha Gikunda of Intel with Laban Okune and Mark Ngetich of Ma3Route

Agatha Gikunda of Intel with Laban Okune and Mark Ngetich of Ma3Route

Ma3Route: Ma3Route, crowd-sources for traffic and transport information from locals in order to provide users with up-to-date information that can inform their movements. From Kenya. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE FINALISTS AND WINNERS!!!

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m:lab East Africa Outcomes – Two Years Later


January 26, 2013

It is two years since the official launch of m:lab East Africa. Much was anticipated with regard to the m:lab’s contribution to the regional mobile ecosystem. The sheer interest and attendance by industry stakeholders at the June 2011 launch in Nairobi pointed at great expectations and an implied mandate for the m:lab to stir up the mobile ecosystem to progress. A seed grant totaling $725,000 given to the m:lab by the World Bank’s infoDev program also solidified expectations of stakeholders across the board.

Launch Cutting Tape 3

Official opening ceremony of the m:lab in June 2011

Key findings of an outcome and impact study by University of Nairobi of the m:lab’s two year activities were reported at the third edition of Pivot East – the m:lab’s annual regional mobile startups pitching conference. The study which was conducted between April and May 2013 focused on  3 key activity areas at the m:lab namely (a) mobile entrepreneurship training (b) Pivot East regional competition and (c) the incubation program. Below are some of the findings. The m:lab has attracted major partnerships, sponsorships and brand associations with industry players across the board. Besides infoDev, the m:lab’s key partners over the two years have been Samsung, Nokia, Microsoft, Qualcomm, inMobi, Intel and Mocality International Holdings (MIH). Other key partners that have sponsored the m:lab’s ecosystem building activities are Mercy Corps, USAID, CGAP, Omydiar Network, Uganda Communications Commission, National IT Authority – Uganda, Kenya ICT Board. Mobile network operators such as Tigo, Safaricom and MTN have also contributed financially and in kind to the m:lab’s activities over the last two years. Other private institutions such as Equity bank and Craft Silicon also contributed generously to the m:lab’s programs. Mobile entrepreneurship training: The m:lab held five waves of mobile entrepreneurship training programs each lasting over four months. A total of 125 trainees were recruited with 103 individuals completing the program. In the study, technical training, business skills , pitching skills and business networks were rated as the most beneficial aspects of the training program by the program beneficiaris as indicated in the chart below
training benefits 500

Benefits of training according to trainees

75% of the train ing participants were found to have been college graduates and 64% were youthful (21 – 24 years). A male to female participation ration of 4:1 was observed in the program. About half (55%) of the trainees had never run a business prior to being in the program.  The study also found that among alumnus of the program, 72% continued to be involved some form of entrepreneurial activity by the time of the study. 16% of the alumnus were found to to be working at their startups on a dedicated full time basis. Key recommendations of the study regarding the training program were :-
  • To extend the training’s business support period
  • To formalise entrepreneurial support beyond the training
  • To diversify the mix of participants by gender, professional background and citizenship
  • To enhance the business training component
  • To integrate the training with mentorship
  • To create a knowledge loop with past graduates

The regional mobile startups pitching conference – Pivot East: The annual competition and conference whose first edition was in 2011 has gone on to be a strong regional brand. The competition has evolved from focussing on great mobile appsto great mobile entreprises according to interviewees in the study. The study found out that most (80%) Pivot finalists in 2011 and 2012 had registered companies. The study also found that 75% of the founders in previous finalist startups were still continuing to work at their startups. Most of the founders (90%) of the companies reaching the finals were male and most (86%) had a computing background. According to the study, the most valuable benefits to finalists of Pivot in 2011 and 2012 were acquired pitching skills (87%), visibility (74%), training and coaching (68%). The finalists found least benefits in Pivot’s outreach activities and meetups (27%) and getting investment (37%). An expectation gap was found among the previousfinalists in that for some, anticipation to meet partners (38%) and attract investors (14%) was not fulfilled. The most largely met expectations of the previous finalists were visibility (67%) and business skills (64%). The study found that 75% of previous finalists stated that their businesses had been growing. 19% of them had suspended their business.

pivot company status - 450

Status of startups pitching at Pivot in 2011 and 2012

Through the competition, every year 25 startups have pitched to an audience of investors and industry players.  Five category winners were awarded a $5,000 prize each in 2011. In 2012, five winners were awarded a prize of $10,000 each. In 2013, five winners of Pivot East will be awarded a $5,000 grant and a $5,000 investment option. Among the previous finalists, 47% had began generating revenue according to the study.
finalist startup revenue status - 500

Financial status of previous Pivot finalists

The study found areas of improvement as follows :-
  • There was a mismatch of interpretation of purpose of PIVOT between the finalists and the organizers
  • There’s a need to ensure that everyone who got to finals was a winner in some way
  • Follow up mechanisms beyond competition were required
  • There’s need for increased incubation capacity
  • There’s a need to bridge the apparent  gap between investor and start-up expectations
  • Attract skilled business people into start-ups
  • Tiered competition levels

The on-site incubation program The m:lab’s onsite incubation program has had 8 startups incubated. These are Kopokopo, MTL systems (MShop), Uhasibu, Mfarm, MedAfrica, Whive/CrowdPesa, Zege Technologoes and Mprep. Among these, Kopokopo. Three of the startups (Kopokopo and MedAfrica) graduated from the program within the 12 months of being there. Expectations of the startups with regard to the incubation program are depicted in the chart below

incubation benefits 450

Expectations of startups incubated at the m:lab

According to the incubated startups, the m:lab was most helpful in giving visibility (62%) and access to business networks (50%). The least helpful component was in pitching to investors (38%) and Technical skills (12%). The study also found that the moste useful aspects fo being incubated at the m:lab were office space (75%), shared meeting rooms (75%), internet connectivity (75%) and coaching (50%). The study also found out that 7 out of 8 incubates perceived their businesses to have grown. Areas of business growth as perceived by the startups were :-
  • setting up own offices
  • positive cash flow
  • evolution of business and products
  • Growing customer numbers
  • Growing visibility
  • Partnership commitment
  • Signing on investors

Of the 8 startups incubated, 4 of them had signed on new investors according to the study. The greatest challenges expressed by the incubated startups were scaling businesses, fundraising, and arriving  as a business model. The study recommends the following as areas of improvement

  • more personalized coaching and mentorship
  • creating stronger investor networks
  • bridging the investor – startup expectation gap
  • Support on going to market.

The m:lab  is hosted by a consortium comprising iHub, eMobilis, The World Wide Web foundation and University of Nairobi

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Pivot East 2013 – Calling for applications


January 15, 2013

Mobile phones have transformed East Africa, not just from a social and cultural point of view, but access to and use of mobile phones and applications is also shaking up the region’s entire economic system.  m:lab East Africa has organized editions of its regional mobile startups pitching competition and conference dubbed Pivot 25 and Pivot East respectively in the past two years. In this years competition there will be a paradigm shift from focusing on mobile applications and developers to startups becoming sustainable enterprises according to organizers who held a briefing session for media on Tuesday 12th February. Pivot East is about catalysing the growth of mobile start-ups, with an aim to amplify and consolidate the gains of East Africa’s Mobile developer and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The final pitching conference will take place in Kampala Uganda from 25th – 26th June 2013 A key objective for Pivot East 2013 is “to facilitate discovery of the next wave of high potential mobile start-ups”. Other objectives include;

  • To consolidate recent gains of the regional mobile ecosystem and help direct the thinking from mobile applications to mobile entrepreneurship.
  • To sustain the push towards mobile innovations being high in the agenda of regional governments, corporates and development agencies
  • To raise the quality of mobile startups in the region and to improve their investability

DSC_0346  DSC_0355 Organizers giving a media briefing at iHub. From left: Moses Kemibaro (Pivot East 2013 producer), Ken Mwenda (eMobilis MD), Erik Hersman (iHub Founder) and John Kieti (m:lab Manager) The competition has five categories as follows :-

  1. Mobile Finance – including mobile payments, banking, insurance etc.
  2. Mobile Enterprise – including management of human capital, the value chain, marketing, production, customers etc.
  3. Mobile Entertainment – including gaming, social networking, magazines, music, video, photography etc.
  4. Mobile society – including education, agriculture, health, governance and other social development themes.
  5. Mobile Utilities – A catch all category including applications for enhancing the usability and versatility of mobile devices.

In previous years, Pivot East has received support from various organizations both in cash and in kind. Sponsors supporting Pivot East this year are Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, Nokia, Qualcomm and Facebook among others. Tech hubs Outbox and Hive Colab, based in Kampala Uganda, will be  Co-hosting the finalists event in Kampala. Other partners and sponsors are encouraged to join Pivot East to help in growing the Region’s mobile startup scene. Local institutional and angel investors are also invited to explore the deal pipeline that Pivot East presents. During the media briefing a few issues were raised, why there are so many pitching competitions in the region. This is because techpreneur are not taught how to pitch their products to investors in school. Pitching competitions gives them a platform to learn about how to talk about their products to investors. Its important to have enough competitions to build our capacity and companies” Pivot East organizers will conduct information workshops across the region in the next four weeks for mobile developers and entrepreneurs. The first information workshop will be held in Nairobi at iHub on 23rd March 2013 10:00 – 12:30pm. Subsequent information workshops will be held in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania respectively – more information on the venue and dates for these will be given through the Pivot East blog. Entries to the competition are to be submitted through the startups information platform on  The deadline for submission of applications is on 15th April 2013. Applicants are encouraged to start building their startup profiles early and to source for the required information pieces

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