Archives for posts with tag: CTIC Dakar

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On a daily basis at CTIC Dakar, we are questioned about our model, how we get funded, who is the “boss”, why incubated companies have to pay us, how did we started, etc.?

To answer few of these questions, I would like, in this article, to discuss the pros and cons of the various forms of governance for technology incubators and accelerators in Africa, using the lense of CTIC Dakar, which is a public-private partnership and non-for-profit organization, aiming at being financially sustainable after 5 years (2 years left, damn !)

Type of support provided

First of all, it is very, very important to distinguish the various form of support provided to the entrepreneurs and set what I mean by “incubator” or “accelerator”. What you aim to do as a strong influence on your overall budget and thus on the ideal governance model for your tech hub. For me, an incubator or accelerator is an organization, non-profit or for profit, which provides a physical place and an intense, hands-on support to entrepreneurs in order to foster their growth. Their first and often only mission is to create sustainable fast growth companies. The quality of the support provided is highly dependent on the quality of the team members and thus this type of organization requires important operating /human resources costs. They generally employ 5 to 10 people plus occasional mentors and consultants and their building has to be large enough to ideally provide individual office spaces to at least 7-10 small companies.

On the other side, other tech hubs like fablabs and coworking spaces have for primary mission to create and animate tech communities and thus their costs structure is mostly made of community management and events’ organization. You can start with a small or medium-size open space and one full time employee along with the hub manager.

Market size and deal flow

Secondly, you have to ask yourself: what is the size of your market as an incubator? I believe that in most sub-Saharan countries except south Africa you don’t have enough high growth companies to sustain a fully private funded model for incubators, no matter what revenue model you use (equity, revenue sharing, etc) except maybe if you only do space rental (no added HR costs).

Moreover, since there is not enough fast growing SMEs at the moment, at least in Senegal, I think that we have to build a pipeline of promising startups by investing a lot of time and resources at very early stages, including at university and school level. We do this a lot at CTIC through various workshops and events, including TEKKI48, a 2 days startup accelerator we launch in various cities in Senegal every 4 months.

Doing this we hope that 1 out of 20 of the projects we support and identify will finally become an interesting startup and enter our programs. We had two beautiful example this year with TongTong.sn, a group buying platform and Genius Family, a company developing financial management software and apps for illiterate shop owners. Both companies started from scratch at CTIC in 2013, got grant funding through one of our public partners, and are now profitable and able to pay around 10 salaries each at the end of the month. The first has more than 100 recurrent customers and the second around 60.

In a nutshell, if you don’t have enough mature SMEs in your country or market, you will for sure need some government or international donor’s money at some point unless you have very strong private investors behind you (case of the amazing MEST in Ghana). The idea here is to do like we do at CTIC, use this money to trigger the engine, grow the pipeline and then generate revenue from your own client companies.

Governance, decision making and innovation

This is obviously the largest drawback of public incubators. If you support entrepreneurs, you absolutely don’t want government people managing the entire thing. However, if you want those people to give you money, they will want to be involved in some way. It is a tricky, very delicate power balance you have to deal with. The way we handle it at CTIC is to have the most relevant of them in the incubator’s management board but to make sure the latter remains headed by the private sector (IT Business association). Other private partners are also strongly represented (the Telco Orange for instance). It is also important to note that none of our international donor partners (World Bank, GIZ, EU) is involved in the management board. So far, we have been able to manage the ambitions of our public and international partners, driving them towards the realization of our own vision and model, but we feel that the pressure is increasing as we gain good results, recognition and TV appearances!

Access to market and finance

Let’s be realistic: In a lot of African countries, Government are relatively powerful compare to the private sector. Thus, the best advantage of having local public and/or private partners involved in a close relationship with your hub is the opening of doors. Indeed, once they believe in your mission and understand the concrete value you provide to help them fulfil their own objectives – which most of the time they have no idea how to reach – they can help you and your startups a lot by involving them in public projects or by providing seed funding for startups. For instance, last year, we secured around USD 150,000 from the Senegal Telecommunications Regulator, directly granted to 8 startups. This type of public or grant funding can be harmful for your startup business model – as it has been largely discuss recently – but I believe that if you couple this money with a business oriented support by an incubator, it works.

Team management & retention

Finally, I believe that the largest drawback of not-having a fully private model is that at some point, if your management team and business developers are entrepreneurial enough – which is what you want in the first place – they will leave after 3 to 5 years to do their own thing. Whereas, if you have a private model, it is either your own baby or you can hope to get some equity in it or at the very least drive it wherever you want. As far CTIC Dakar is concerned, our first Director Omar Cissé left after 3 years – as he always announced – and we were lucky enough to have him succeeded by our very own former business developer Regina Mbodj, who helped us accomplish a very smooth transition.

In summary, there is obviously no one-size-fits-all model for technology incubators. I believe that the markets for purely private funded – and sustainable – incubators is not here yet for most sub-Saharan countries and we have to grasp the opportunities which lie in involving public and international development partners. But again, in the field of technology entrepreneurship in Africa, it is only a matter of leadership and balance of influence.

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Interview réalisée par Samir Abdelkrim et paru originalement sur le blog startupbrics.com

 Interview cette semaine avec Yann Lebeux, mentor et innovation catalyst au CTIC Dakar. Créé en 2011, le CTIC Dakar est l’un des incubateurs les plus importants et performants d’Afrique de l’Ouest : plusieurs dizaines d’entreprises accompagnées (PME et startups TIC) dont plusieurs sont devenus des pépites régionales, près de 1000 jeunes porteurs de projets sénégalais coachés, une soixante d’évènements organisées, etc. Deux formes d’accompagnement à CTIC : tout d’abord un programme d’incubation pouvant aller à 3 ans pour les jeunes startups nouvellement crées. Ensuite un programme de coaching sur 3 mois destinées aux porteurs de projets encore au stade « idées » : challenger le modèle économique, former les équipes, fabrication et optimisation du business plan, etc. En croissance de chiffres d’affaires cumulés pour ses entreprises incubés, le CTIC Dakar au participé à générer près de 2 milliards de Francs CFA de revenus sur 3 ans, soit une croissance de + 249% entre 2011 et 2013. Un engouement qui ne se dément pas : depuis 2011, un peu moins de 700 prospects et candidats ont été identifiés par le CTIC Dakar.

Hello Yann ! Peux-tu nous présenter le CTIC Dakar ?

Le CTIC a été créé en 2011 à la suite d’une forte impulsion du secteur privé qui souhaitait accélérer le développement des TIC au Sénégal. Différents partenaires publics-privés ont rejoint la boucle notamment la Banque Mondiale ou encore Orange RSE. Nous sommes d’ailleurs l’un des premiers incubateurs francophones soutenu par la Banque Mondiale.

La vision du CTIC est de faire émerger du Sénégal des entreprises TIC au rayonnement international. Pour maintenir notre vision entrepreneuriale et être indépendant des bailleurs, nous bâtissons un modèle économique viable en prenant un pourcentage de la croissance du chiffre d’affaires des entreprises que l’on accompagne. En gros, on regarde la différence de chiffre d’affaires entre l’année 1 et l’année 2. S’il n’y a pas de croissance, la startup ne nous paie pas, s’il y a de la croissance, le CTIC perçoit un pourcentage de la croissance (du delta). Nous partageons vraiment le succès mais aussi l’échec avec nos jeunes pousses. En termes d’incubation en Afrique, ce modèle est vraiment original, car nous ne faisons pas de prises de participation dans le capital des boîtes mais nous ne sommes pas dans le gratuit non plus !

Ce modèle est mieux adapté aux entrepreneurs africains souvent réticents à l’idée d’ouvrir leur capital. Nos résultats après presque 3 ans sont assez intéressants: pour les entreprises incubées au CTIC, la croissance du chiffre d’affaires a été de +85% en 2012 et 37% en 2013. Ce qui prouve qu’avec un minimum d’accompagnement et de structuration, ces entreprises survivent et ont une forte croissance. Nous avons également pu soulever plus de 100 millions de FCFA (150 000 euros) pour nos startups en 2013, majoritairement auprès d’investisseurs privés ou publics locaux.

En 2 ans nous avons accompagné 16 entreprises incubées qui génèrent déjà du chiffres d’affaires et qui pour certaines sont déjà internationalisés dans des pays de la région. En plus du programme d’incubation nous avons développé et mis en place un modèle d’accélérateur, BuntuTEKI (la porte su succès en wolof), dont le but est de prendre des startups au stade produit (pas forcément légalement constituée) et on se donne 6 mois pour donner vie à la startup et lui permettre de devenir une structure viable. Après les 6 mois, les startups les plus solides peuvent entrer dans le programme d’incubation. Nous avons accompagné 34 de startups en accélération à ce jour, principalement dans l’internet, les applications mobiles ou le logiciel.

Quand on parle d’innovation ou de startups en Afrique, on cite souvent le Kenya ou l’Afrique du Sud. Quid du Sénégal ?

Le Sénégal est un pays intéressant sur plusieurs points. De nombreuses entreprises internationales sont présentes ici à Dakar pour couvrir l’Afrique francophone comme Google ou Microsoft qui ont des bureaux ici. En effet, le Sénégal est un pays test intéressant pour couvrir les marchés de la région car il est assez en avance sur certains points : en termes d’éducation, en termes de classes moyennes, de connectivité, d’infrastructures, etc.

Donc pour tester des produits avec une stratégie sous-régionale derrière, le Sénégal est idéal pour se positionner.  Notre vision au CTIC est vraiment de positionner le Sénégal comme un Hub numérique pour l’Afrique francophone, et pour faire du offshoring aussi : les boîtes françaises sont de plus en plus intéressés à développer de l’activité ici plutôt que de partir en Chine. Finalement, la qualité de vie, très bonne à Dakar, joue beaucoup dans l’attractivité du Sénégal.

Peux-tu nous donner quelques exemples de Success Stories qui sont passées par le CTIC Dakar ?

Bien sûr ! Je peux citer par exemple :

People Input, qui est maintenant l’une des agences digitales leader en Afrique de l’ouest (ils ont notamment réalisé l’application d’Expresso Sénégal, un App store pour le compte d’Orange Cote d’Ivoire ou encore l’Application mobile de Jeune Afrique). Ils ont maintenant une trentaine d’employés et sont installés dans 4 pays dont le Sénégal.

Seysoo, dans le développement logiciel, a une quinzaine d’employés dont la moitié au Gabon sur un gros projet de l’état Gabonais. Ils ont aussi développé une solution pour les cabinets de radiologues, dentistes et médecins.

Niokobok.com, le site de e-commerce qui permet à la Diaspora d’acheter des produits de grande consommation a leurs proches restés au pays. L’entreprise a déjà une base de clients solides et commence à générer un chiffre d’affaire assez intéressant. Ils sont maintenant dans une phase d’expansion pour pouvoir grandir leur modèle sur d’autres filières et peut être d’autres pays.

Xtreme Sénégal, une startup fondée par des ingénieurs ayant vécu 15 ans aux USA et qui développe des solutions logicielles et mobiles pour le secteur à forte croissance de l’hôtellerie en Afrique. Leurs solutions sont déployées dans plusieurs hôtels.

Nelam Services qui est derrière le site numéro un du Sénégal pour la culture et les événements, agendakar.com. Ils ont une équipe de 20 personnes. Ils gèrent également la présence digitale de plusieurs groupes ainsi que NoSmokeRevolution, une campagne digitale de grande envergure financée par une fondation américaine dans le but de faire passer une loi anti tabac au Sénégal – et ça marche !

start-up Afrique

Article paru dans Les Echos Business le 7 avril 2014

 Positionnés dans plusieurs pays, les structures d’accompagnement financées par des grands groupes internationaux jouent un rôle majeur dans l’éclosion des start-up africaines.

Applications mobiles, ingénierie informatique, logiciel libre … dans le secteur du numérique, les start-up africaines poussent comme des champignons. Pour Karim Koundi, directeur associé responsable Afrique francophone au sein du cabinet conseil Deloitte, la prolifération de ces jeunes pousses tient notamment à la création de structures d’accompagnement pilotées par de grands groupes informatiques ou télécom. « Cela concerne surtout les pays où l’activité Telecom est déjà développée comme le Gabon, la Côte d’Ivoire, le Sénégal, la Tunisie ou le Maroc », précise le consultant. Ces incubateurs locaux vont fournir une assistance comptable, juridique, marketing … et donner un coup de pouce financier. Une aubaine dans des pays où les investisseurs se font rares.

Orange, Microsoft : des groupes en soutien

A Dakar, le CTIC d’Orange a vocation à mettre en œuvre un modèle et un écosystème favorables à l’émergence et au développement d’entreprises dans le secteur des TIC. Le groupe français possède une structure similaire à Tunis. Dans cette ville, Microsoft s’est associé avec l’opérateur Tunisiana pour lancer dès 2007 une pépinière de start-up d’où sont déjà sortis 60 projets innovants.

A Accra au Ghana, un pays où le taux de croissance atteindrait 8% en 2013, deux incubateurs spécialisés dans les applications mobiles ont déjà vus le jour. Fondée en 2011, l’association mFriday est spécialisée dans l’accompagnement d’étudiants locaux tandis que Mobile Web Ghana prend en main des ingénieurs et des créateurs de start-up avec des programmes de coaching.

D’autres structures de ce type existent au Nigéria où l’on compte 75 millions d’abonnés mobiles. Ailleurs, sur le continent, il y a d’autres lieux de soutien en cours de création comme la nouvelle pépinière d’entreprises de Niamey (Niger), dédiée aux TIC et aux énergies renouvelables et soutenue par Orange.

Senegal’s location and infrastructure an opportunity for startups – CTIC

note : article by Tom Jackson originally published on HumanIPO

Senegal’s position as an entry into Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa as well as the level of technological development mean the country’s startups have great potential, according to accelerator programme CTIC Dakar.

HumanIPO reported yesterday on CTIC Dakar, the first accelerator and incubator for IT entrepreneurs in Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, which has secured US$150,000 in investments for its startups so far this year.

Yann Le Beux, catalyst at CTIC Dakar, told HumanIPO that though the market in Senegal was small – the country has only 13 million inhabitants – it had great potential for firms as an entry into the rest of the region, with Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa having a population of more than 350 million.

“Senegal has for us a tremendous potential,” said Le Beux. “For historic and administrative reasons, it is pretty easy for a company based in Senegal to access this regional market. Furthermore, a large number of international corporations or NGOs are headquartered in Senegal for west and central Africa.”

He also said Senegal has a good higher education system, with more than 200 institutions and several international campuses which attracts students from other countries and creates a large talent pool.

“Finally, the IT infrastructure and connectivity is good and the mobile penetration rate is close to 90 per cent now,” Le Beux said. “3G is well used and 4G is in its pilot phase.”

HumanIPO reported yesterday the latest Ookla Net Index, reporting average broadband speeds based on individual IP tests, placed Senegal in 14th place.

Le Beux said all these factors mean Senegal has an opportunity to make a global impact through ICT.

“We work night and day at CTIC to achieve this,” he said. “Senegal is already taking advantage of its very high level diaspora to boost global Senegalese companies. They start businesses back home and bring a lot a business and technology practices and then use their international connections to scale globally.”

He said with the rapidly growing internet penetration rate, Senegal is an ideal place to test business models and products for the francophone and global market. He said what was needed now was for the country to attract more international private investments.

“We need more private investment at the seed stage,” Le Beux said. “We now have several VCs based in Senegal or looking closely at it, but we need a few more business angels to really help the startups get off the ground. A public innovation fund could be a good tool to trigger the angel industry, by a match-making grants system for instance.

“Also, like many other countries in Africa, Senegal lacks good graphic designers who can work with engineers – this is really holding back the mobile apps industry. The cost of electricity is also still a break for young companies.”

Les Métiers de l'Entrepreneuriat TIC – CTIC Dakar – Mars 2014 from Yann LE BEUX

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A few weeks ago in a small former colonial town north of Senegal called Saint-Louis, Tekki48, a two-day startup event organized by local tech hubs CTIC Dakar and Jokkolabs in partnership with the local University, was launched.

The purpose of the event, designed and created by CTIC Dakar, is to take the best of the StartupWeekend model and adapt some aspects to the needs of local entrepreneurs. This raises the question: Should African tech communities, incubators and accelerators create and brand their own events and programs instead of replicating proven international concepts? Of course there is no easy answer to this question, but I will try to outline a few of the pros and cons associated with each choice.

The Benefits of Localizing Your Tech Event

–        Events like StartupWeekend or accelerator programs like TechStars and Y-Combinator have been designed for startup ecosystems in the US or more precisely for some US tech-savvy cities.  However, when you implement such a program in a different geography or context, you may see that several things do not fit. It could be the stage of the companies supported, their needs in terms of support, the availability of the mentors and investors, the pitching capabilities or the young entrepreneurs, etc.

For instance, after organizing the first StartupWeekend in francophone sub-Saharan Africa in Dakar, and hosting another in Saint-Louis, CTIC decided to stop using its entire team and their resources to deliver this model. Why? Because although we may have been successful in terms of attracting media and stakeholder attention, we did not create startups mature enough to integrate into our acceleration and incubation programs. Furthermore, the governance structure of StartupWeekend stipulated that only one person from the community could serve as the entry point in Senegal, which made it difficult for CTIC to include the event in its strategic plan.

As a result, we started thinking about creating a new event more adapted to our environment. A few months later, we had a “minimum viable product” that we launched in Dakar as the first Tekki 48, a two-day startup accelerator event where companies are selected in advance and the culmination is a combination of the final pitch and several deliverables the teams have to produce during the weekend. These include financial projections, communication materials, a customer base description, an action plan and a business model canvas. For CTIC, Tekki 48 has two core objectives: to raise the awareness of local decision makers of their tech ecosystems, and filter motivated and promising startups. However, Tekki 48 will continually evolve, because as the creators of this event, we don’t have to ask permission to transform it as long as we learn and our ecosystem evolves.

–        Another reason to localize your events and programs is to encourage the natural adoption and acceptance by your tech community and sponsors. For example, using local names, concepts and ideas makes it easier for people to relate to your effort, and reduces the belief that foreign influence is too significant. However, taking this path can be more difficult at the beginning when you have no track record of success. But once one or two of your local events have worked, you start creating a brand that people recognize and belong to – and that’s a terrific victory. In our case, we named our event, Tekki, which means “success” in Wolof, the national language of Senegal.

The Challenges of Localizing Your Tech Event

–        On the other hand, an internationally recognized brand and concept is easier to present and to pitch to partners, especially if you don’t have a long history as an event organizer. It also gives you the time to build the skills of your team by using an existing concept, because you follow the canvas the international organization has developed for you. This helps you get to implementation quickly because you can focus on the logistics, which can be pretty difficult to manage in Africa on a small budget, and pay less attention to the model and program.

–        The second beautiful thing about global models like StartupWeekend is the community and international recognition. Organizing such an event can put your city “on the map”. Even though it’s just an event, it seems sometimes as if a country with no StartupWeekend is a country with no tech ecosystem, so it helps you be visible and build links at a global level. This international community will then help you learn and grow.

In conclusion, I would advise you to carefully think about what your ecosystem and organization need before involving your hub brand, team and partners in large-scale events. I believe that we need many more events in our countries in order to see entrepreneurs blooming everywhere. This includes events like Startup Weekend and barcamps, because they are fast to implement and have a clear value in building communities and raising awareness about entrepreneurship and technologies. But we also need events and support programs precisely adapted to the need of our organizations and ecosystems, and which belong to our communities. Our goal as hubs is to empower people, so let’s empower ourselves first.

NOTE : this article has been co-written with Tayo Akinyemi, Director at Afrilabs, the pan-africain network of incubators and tech hubs – and first published on the afrilabs’ blog – Thanks Tayo !

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