The jury deliberation on Saturday afternoon was challenging. Altogether 12 start-ups pitched their innovative ideas in the social co-creation hub Jokkolabs during a half-day event, each presenting a unique way of solving unanswered needs of the Senegalese society. With focuses of projects ranging from improving healthcare, to agriculture, to solutions for informal business owners, the four jury members were faced with an uneasy task to select a winner who will fly to Geneva, Switzerland in February 2015 to compete for the final prize of up to $500,000 in seed investment against 30 other regional winners.
However, based on their previous experience engaging with the pitching start-ups, the jury members Karim Sy, the Founder of Jokkolabs and Vice President of the Senegalese Accelerated Growth Initiative (SCA), Abdoul Aziz, the project manager of the local tech accelerator CTIC Dakar and Aude Guyot, a consulting designer were able to provide revealing insights into the inner workings of individual projects and together with SSW’s Julien Berthomier selected the winner – IziTab, a tablet designed to provide solutions to informal and small business owners in Africa.
Costing $150, the tablet is equipped with a specialised all-in-one software that is able to manage the inventory of small business owners, boost their sales, manage on-line payment of taxes and provide them with useful statistics about their customer base. “Our main aim is to allow small, and not necessarily tech-savvy, business owners to manage their affairs more efficiently and optimise their resources through intuitive and simple navigation,” explains Ted Boulou, IziTab’s founder and CEO.
Striving to make it affordable for everyone, IziTab is currently in negotiations with private banks to provide SMEs installment loans which would allow business owners to repay the price of the tablet for as little as 10,000 CFA (€15) per month, while improving their performance at the same time. Considering the fact that over 60% of the Senegalese GDP is generated through informal business, the value of this tool becomes incalculable. “The whole logistics behind this product was interesting. Also, not only did the team members have an astounding background, but they were able to showcase their product directly on the spot during the event” Berthomier explains the choice of the winner. What also attracted the jury`s attention is the large opportunity for scaling. The product is currently targeting the Senegalese market but its potential is huge for other informal businesses across Africa.
The second place was awarded to Niokobok, an e-commerce startup allowing Senegalese diaspora to ship food packages to their relatives back home, a large market opportunity considering the Senegalese diaspora sends €1.2bn every year back home. The top three was concluded by Eco Santé, a medical monitoring service establishing a system for regular paramedic visits to the homes of patients in need.
Other strong pitches made the event very competitive; those included Mlouma, an e-commerce platform for Senegalese farmers to sell their good online for a fair price; Baobab Entrepreneurship, a fast-growing online platform for startups and investors in Senegal and Allimmov, a texting platform to help foreign students to find accommodation in Senegal.
Impressed by the quality of the pitches and the uncanny ability of start-ups to address the society´s most pressing needs, the next stop of the Seedstars World team will take place in Accra, with their flagship event being held on June 5th.