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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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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.”

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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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Note : this article is the original version of an interview given to the great site Human IPO and first published under the title :  Senegalese accelerator secures $150k for startups this year –   Thanks @ Tom Jackson

– What is the idea behind CTIC, and how does it work?

CTIC is the first accelerator and incubator for IT entrepreneurs in Francophone sub-saharan Africa. Created 2 years ago as a public-private non-profit organization, CTIC’s vision is to support the best IT entrepreneurs based in Senegal but having a global or at least regional reach. We have been supported from the start by great partners like the World Bank Infodev program, the German cooperation GIZ, the European Union, the Senegalese Government, the operator Orange and other smaller local private partners. The big idea is to have the government involve to provide facilities, electricity and also to facilitate access to public markets for our SME, but it doesn’t interfere with CTIC’s the business-oriented management style. Our business model is based on a percentage of the revenue growth of the companies we support – if they don’t grow, we don’t get paid. We have two programs: the incubation for existing companies already generating revenues which goes up to 3 years, and the accelerator for innovative startups teams which last 6 months. We don’t take equity so far in the accelerated companies, the accelerator being more for us a way to increase the pipeline of venture and to select the best for our incubation program. We have a team of 8 full time employees.

– Do you provide incubation?

Yes – we provide private office spaces to our companies (but also support larger companies having external offices), business development and contract negotiation, financial and fiscal management, media partnerships, community management, dedicated events if you want to showcase your product and of course access to finance. We now have few local partners directly seed funding our companies and startups.

– How are you funded?

We started with grants from the WorldBank / IFC, Orange, EU and the Government. After 2 years of activity only, we are now able to cover 45% of our annual budget with the revenue we generate from our companies and few business development services like consulting and events. We hope to be fully sustainable by 2016.

– What potential is there in the Senegalese tech space?

Senegal has for us a tremendous potential. Of course the market is small (13 million inhabitant) but Senegal has been traditionally the entry door to Francophone sub-Saharan Africa, which represents a +350 million people market. For historic and administrative reasons, 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. Third, Senegal has a very good higher education system, with more than 200 institutions and several international campus. The country attracts a lot of students from other francophone places which created a large talent pool to tap in if you are starting your business. Finally, the IT infrastructure and connectivity is good and the mobile penetration rate is close to 90% now. 3G is well used and 4G is in its pilot phase. Last but not least, the quality of life and security is one of the best on the continent – and that also is important for a tech ecosystem!

– What is holding it back currently?

We need more private investment at the seed stage. We now have several VC based in Senegal or looking closely at it, but we need 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 of 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 (but not for CTIC’s ones!)

– Does Senegal have the potential to compete on a global scale through ICT?

Surely. At least we work night and day at CTIC to achieve this! 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. We also believe that with the internet penetration rate growing rapidly, Senegal starts to be an ideal place to test business models and products for the francophone and global market. We now need to attract more international private investments (and not only from France!), but we are sure that with the political stability and the recent visit of Barack Obama, US investors are closely searching for a way to enter this region.

– What achievements can CTIC point to so far? Any high points?

We have graduated our first company, People Input, which is now the largest digital agency in Francophone Africa with around 30 employees and a presence in 3 countries. They of course have a great team but we did a great job together structuring their business development, getting access to public commands and gaining international partnerships and visibility. We have so far incubated 16 companies which are all still in business and 30 startups teams. The average revenue growth of our companies was 85% in 2012, up from 33% in 2011. In 2013, we have been able to secure around $150,000 in innovation investments for our startups and one of our incubatees received a series A funding from an international VC.

– What does the future hold for CTIC?

We are glad to have reached an interesting level of national and international recognition in only two years of time. CTIC is now involved in all major discussions at the top level in Senegal regarding ICT and entrepreneurship which helps us lobby for our entrepreneurs. The demand being high, we hope to move into a bigger building soon and thus we now need to better structure our team and internal processes to be able to scale rapidly. We want to develop better our soft landing program to facilitate entry in West Africa to foreign tech companies. We are also working with our original partners to replicate CTIC’s model to other regions of Senegal and to other countries. Niger incubators is already launched and Mali and Gabon are on the way. We will also keep on structuring the IT angels community and hopefully once we will have enough of them we could try to develop an equity based model for our accelerator program. Indeed, still a lot to do, but thanks to Human IPO, we’ll keep you posted!

ORGANIGRAMME-copie-1024x768Amorcée depuis les années 90 aux Etats-Unis, la fièvre de l’entrepreneuriat TIC et des startups technologique est maintenant présente aux quatre coins du monde. Récemment, l’Afrique à rejoint le mouvement et de nombreux espaces co-working et quelques incubateurs ont commencé à émerger dans la plupart des pays et surtout au Afrique du Sud, Kenya, Ghana, Nigéria, Sénégal et Côte d’Ivoire. Leur but de ces organisations est de dynamiser les « écosystèmes technologiques » (communautés de développeurs, grandes entreprises, universités, etc) et/ou d’accompagner les porteurs de projet ou entreprises déjà établies dans leur croissance. Ces modèles nouveaux d’accompagnement entrainent la création de nouveaux postes, en général très centrés sur le relationnel et la connaissance des phases de développement d’une entreprise technologique. La double compétence TIC et Business est en vraiment recommandée. Voici une liste non-exhaustive de ces nouveaux métiers. Gardez à l’esprit que ces organisations se comportant la plupart elle-même comme des start-ups, les limites de ces postes sont larges et les personnes restent en général très polyvalente. Le poste de « Catalyst » que l’on trouve dans certaines structures par exemple, est souvent un mélange des trois profil ci-dessous.

 

Community, Digital et Event Manager

Personne en charge de gérer la présence de l‘incubateur et de ses entreprises sur les réseaux sociaux – les plus pertinents en Afrique étant Twitter, G+ et Facebook – et sur le web en général. Cette personne anime la communauté « online » mais il est très important qu’elle le fasse également « offline », en allant à la rencontre des gens et communautés de développeurs, des entrepreneurs et des décideurs du secteur TIC. Cette personne par ailleurs doit en organiser des événements (compétition de startups, panel de discussion sur l’entrepreneuriat, témoignages d’entrepreneurs, etc).

Qualités requises : grand sens du relationnel, connecté 24h/24h sur les réseaux, compétence de développeur est un plus, très bonne organisation et capacité de gestion du stress importante pour les événements.

 

Business Developer

Profil plus présent dans les incubateurs et que dans les co-working spaces. Personne en général senior ou junior plus et ayant un très bon carnet d’adresse. Cette personne est en charge de trouver des nouveaux marchés aux entreprises accompagnées par l’incubateur. Elle prend et accompagne les entreprises pour leur rendez-vous avec des prospects et aide à la négociation des contrats. Son rôle est ensuite de former les équipes commerciales des entreprises pour qu’elles puissent le faire d’elle-même. Ce poste est vraiment clés pour la croissance d’une entreprise car en général les fondateurs ont un profil technique et structurent assez mal leur déploiement commercial. Cette personne peut selon les organisations s’occuper aussi du business development de l’incubateur et lui trouver de nouveaux clients (entreprises à accompagnées), organiser des formations ou certification payantes ou négocier des prestations de conseil auprès de nouveaux incubateurs, qui seront réalisées par plusieurs personnes de l’équipe.

Qualités : carnet d’adresse, business focus, connaissance général des technologies, talent négociation

 

Hub manager et directeur d’incubateur

Ce poste varie grandement en fonction de l’organisation mais en général cette personne gère l’équipe et le développement de la structure, la recherche de financement et supervise ou gère la comptabilité. Elle aide à la visibilité locale et internationale de l’organisation et tisse des partenariats avec d’autres incubateurs, des réseaux, des universités, des bailleurs, des multinationales dans plusieurs pays. Elle peut également faire du Business Developement pour les entreprises et les conseille sur leurs modèles économiques, levées de fonds ou appel d’offre. Elle gère ou supervise également la création de nouveaux programmes d’accompagnement et d’événements. Cette personne travail enfin à la conceptualisation de l’offre de service de l’incubateur et réfléchis sur son modèle économique.

Qualités : très bon manager, carnet d’adresse, connaissance de l’entrepreneuriat TIC et du métier d’incubation, esprit entrepreneurial, talent négociation, capacité relationnelles et de présentation en public.

 Merci à Céline Thiam, Directrice RH chez Africsearch, pour m’avoir pousser à écrire ces quelques lignes…

Note : contribution à un article du journal “L’Enquête” publié le 28 août 2013 suite à une visite de leur équipe au CTIC Dakar

Encore au stade embryonnaire au milieu des années 2000, le secteur de l’entrepreneuriat TIC (technologies de l’information et de la communication) est actuellement en pleine effervescence et expansion au Sénégal. Et devrait véritablement exploser en termes de génération de revenus d’ici 5 ans. Florilège d’exemples de réussites.

Les acteurs du secteur ne s’y trompent pas. D’ici quelques années, le secteur de entrepreneuriat TIC (création d’applications) va connaître un véritable boom avec une multiplication non seulement de sociétés mais aussi des revenus générés par le secteur dans son ensemble.

Aujourd’hui, néanmoins, c’est encore une autre histoire, même si de l’avis de quelques-uns, on commence à apercevoir le bout de tunnel.

A la vérité, entrepreneuriat TIC (technologies de l’information et de la communication) est parti de rien au Sénégal. ’’Les startups ont pour l’essentiel été mises en place et développées par des jeunes cadres désirant sortir de l’entreprise telle qu’on la comprend sous sa forme classique et voler de leur propres ailes. Ce qui veut dire que ce sont avant tout des initiatives individuelles. L’essentiel de ces entrepreneurs, j’irais jusqu’à dire les 2/3, ont entre 19 et 30 ans. Ils peuvent venir de tous les secteurs, certains d’entre eux ne savent d’ailleurs même pas coder’’, explique Basile Niane, journaliste et bloggeur spécialisé TIC.

Comment alors expliquer, vu la pluralité des profils, que le secteur marche si bien ? La question est d’autant plus importante que, s’il est vrai que des filières informatiques existent bel et bien, il n’y en a aucun qui se spécialise dans la mise en place de startups. Cela s’expliquerait, entre autres, par l’ouverture du milieu qui est par essence interconnecté. ’’Les startupeurs sont tous des férus de TIC, même s’il viennent d’autres secteurs. Interconnectés, ils se rencontrent régulièrement sur les réseaux sociaux ou utilisent d’autres moyens similaires pour entrer en contact et travailler ensemble, partager leur expériences, trouver ou développer de nouvelles compétences. L’Afrique brûle aujourd’hui les étapes et fait un travail extra en matière de TIC, c’est définitivement une filière qui a de l’avenir’’, ajoute le chroniqueur de l’émission Kenkeliba.

Si des Africains (dont des Sénégalais), font un travail aussi extra, c’est également parce qu’ils disposent de structures chargées de les accompagner : les incubateurs et co-working spaces. On en compte actuellement deux à Dakar : Jokkolabs (cowroking space) et le Centre incubateur des Tic (CTIC Dakar).

’’Nous avons ouvert en 2011. À l’époque, une forte motivation du secteur privé et de partenaires comme l’Optic ou la Banque mondiale avait conduit à la mise en place de la fondation des incubateurs du Sénégal. Notre mission se divise, aujourd’hui, en deux programmes phares. Il y a l’+incubation+, permettant aux entrepreneurs TIC d’apprendre à structurer leur entreprise et générer des revenus, notamment en termes de business développement, et l’+accélération+, qui est dédiée aux porteurs de projets prototypes et se traduit essentiellement par un accompagnement de ces derniers jusqu’à l’implémentation de leur idée’’, fait savoir Yann Le Beux, Catalyst du CTIC.

L’accompagnateur TIC en question, basé en centre-ville de Dakar, a déjà ’’incubé’’ une quinzaine de startups aujourd’hui économiquement viables et mêmes génératrices de croissance, à l’exemple des sociétés People Imput, Sama Event, Mlouma (une application destinée aux agriculteurs), Agendakar ou encore Xtreme (application d’hôtellerie). Concernant l’accélération’’, le CTIC accompagnerait une vingtaine de projet par an en plus d’organiser des événements ponctuels comme le ’’Tekki 48’’ ou le ’’StartupWeekend’’, rencontres annuelles permettant à des équipes de développeurs, graphistes et/ou marketeurs de monter leurs propres entreprises.

’’Marché complètement vierge’’

’’Avec un minimum de structuration, je pense qu’il ne sera pas difficile de conquérir le secteur TIC sénégalais, surtout qu’il s’agit d’un marché complètement vierge. Notre expérience nous a permis de déterminer qu’une startup moyenne peut atteindre les 85% de croissance par an, les 4 secteurs d’activité les plus populaires étant le développement logiciel, la création de contenus web, les applications mobiles et le Community management (gestion de pages sur les réseaux sociaux pour le compte d’un tiers), soutient le Catalyst de l’Incubateur TIC de la rue Béranger Féraud.

Défaut de compétitivité, manque de soutien public

Ce dynamisme et cette ouverture du marché n’occultent cependant pas le fait que tout n’est pas rose pour le startup au Sénégal. On déplore un manque de compétitivité de ces startups en tant qu’entreprises, qui s’expliquerait par le fait que leurs créateurs, issus pour la plupart de filière scientifiques, ont souvent du mal à gérer les aspects business (administration, marketing, comptabilité).

Il y a aussi à leur égard une apathie apparente de la part des gouvernants. ’’En ce qui concerne l’État, ça bloque un peu car nombre de startups ont des problèmes avec les procédures administratives, même si des structures comme l’Apix (Agence pour la promotion des investissements et des grands travaux de l’État) facilitent les choses. En ce qui concerne les décideurs, néanmoins, il ne se passent pas grand chose : les annonces et les promesses faites ne sont généralement que du discours politicien’’, déplore Basile Niane. ’’Il nous manque avant tout une véritable stratégie nationale concernant le secteur TIC. Il faudrait en faire une qui dérive de celle du secteur privé, à mon avis. Il faut motiver les jeunes entrepreneurs afin qu’il aient plus d’avantages donc moins peur de se lancer’’, renchérit Yann Le Beux.

Et qu’en est-il des ’’startupeurs’’ eux-mêmes ? S’ils admettent que l’aventure n’a pas toujours été facile, aucun ne regrette vraiment de s’être lancé dans entrepreneuriat Tic.

’’J’ai commencé en 2009 avec le lancement du portail local d’événementiel. Autant dire qu’on est parti de zéro moyen, de surcroît dans un environnement peu propice. Monter une startup était alors quelque chose d’extrêmement compliquée parce qu’on avait presque de la peine à convaincre nos partenaires que ce qu’on faisait, essentiellement du service, était un vrai travail. Il était par exemple impossible d’obtenir un prêt bancaire alors qu’aujourd’hui ce sont de gros clients comme Tigo ou le British Council qui nous confient leur com’’, confie Alassane Deme le manager général de la startup NelamServices.

Ceux qui acceptent néanmoins de mettre les mains dans le cambouis expliquent leur choix par une logique de positionnement. ’’Je travaille dans le développement d’applications, notamment pour mobile. Et si je me suis installé à Dakar, c’est pour deux raisons : la première est que je voulais démontrer qu’il était possible de développer des programmes 100% made in Sénégal ; la deuxièmeest que je crois qu’il est possible de développer le marché potentiel de ma startup dans ce pays, plutôt que d’opter pour être juste en offshore. J’emploie 15 personnes, dont une équipe technique basée et formée à Dakar,et dont 4 membres disposent d’un CDI (contrat à durée déterminé), fait savoir Moustapha Ndoye, expatrié revenu vivre au Sénégal et fondateur de Xtreme.

Se battre donc, et être toujours plus performant : tel est le combat des startupeurs sénégalais, dont la majorité reste optimiste quant à l’avenir malgré les obstacles. ’’Le terme startup n’est pas encore forcément bien perçu mais nous travaillons à cela. Je crois en ce secteur et aux opportunités qu’il offre surtout en terme de BtoB (Business to Business). Il y a énormément de solutions à trouver, particulièrement en terme d’applications mobiles, ou de logiciels spécialisés. C’est à nous, startupeurs, de créer de la valeur ajoutée à nos logiciels’’, indique Moustapha Ndoye, lucide.

(Source : Enquête, 28 août 2013)