Ghana’s AgroCenta Bags Seedstars Global Winner 2018 Award

Francis Obirikorang joined by friends jubilating after the result was announced (Photo: Africa Link)

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Agrocenta, founded by Francis Obirikorang, which is to create an online sales platform that could connect smallholder farmers directly to an online market that has wider geographic size to sell their commodities has won the Seedstars Global Winner title and $500,000 cash prize in equity investment at the Seedstars Summit 2018 edition held in Lausanne, Switzerland on 12 April 2018.

The Seedstars Summit is an annual event started five years ago to provide opportunity for stakeholders in impact investment, tech and entrepreneurship in and from emerging markets to network and profit from a unique hands-on growth experience.

Sixty-seven Startups participated in a two-day bootcamp where the 12 finalists were selected. The finalists later met with investors in one-on-one sessions in a process to select the winner by a jury of three panelists namely:Benjamin Benaïm from Seedstars, Nikunj Jinsi and Theta Capital Group who selected the Agrocenta from Ghana.

Pierre-Alain Masson, co-founder at Seedstars, commenting on the result said: “Agrocenta won this prize because of the disruption they are creating in the farming industry. It’s very important that investors know that talent is everywhere and that the way startups and tech entrepreneurs in emerging markets are addressing the underlying social challenges in their home countries, be it agriculture or access to finance, basic education, healthcare or energy supply is a tremendous business trend and opportunity.”

Francis Obirikorang commenting on the prize said: “Winning at the Seedstars Summit will have an enormous impact in my company’s growth and success for the next years. I am sure that, just like other previous winners, it will open funding, learning and growth opportunities. In emerging economies, we lack not only the infrastructure, but also access to some fundamental tools like networking and mentoring. Seedstars team is spreading the word about our talent and ideas to their international network dedicated to impact investment and I know I’ll be able to profit from this,” adding that he could not “wait to start building on this momentum!”

$500,000 cheque is presented to Francis Obirikorang (Photo: Africa Link)

The 12 finalists selected out of the 67 are:
• GiftedMom from Cameroon
• Agrocenta from Ghana
• Medsaf from Nigeria
• EMGuidance from South Africa
• CMED from Bangladesh
• Celcoin from Brazil
• Junkbot Robotics from United Arab Emirates
• Redcapital from Chile
• Payit from Mexico
• Eve.calls from Ukraine
• KarGo from Myanmar
• SayurBox from Indonesia

Among the 12 are four from Africa, and one of them is the Seedstars Global winner.

Other winners and their prizes are:
• EDVES, from Nigeria, was awarded the Transforming Education Prize, by TRECC (Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities) and School of Management Fribourg (HEG Fribourg), winning access to the Seedstars Growth Program worth $50,000.
• Finchat Technologies, from Singapore, won the BBVA Open Innovation Prize, receiving an opportunity to participate at their annual BBVA Open Summit in Madrid and network with the most relevant players from their international fintech network.
• Solar Freeze, from Kenya, was the winner of the Africa Energy Prize by Enel X, which rewards the startup for its innovative solution to provide solar-powered cold storage units to smallholder farmers with no need for grid connection in Sub-Saharan Africa. Solar Freeze won access to a three-month programme worth $50,000 in acceleration services.
• EMGuidance, from South Africa, was awarded the Health Tech prize by Merck. The prize combines joining Merck Accelerator with financial support of up to €50,000 and office space at the Merck Innovation Center, mentoring, and coaching.
• TAG Heuer, Seedstars World official time keeper, decided to partner with Seedstars Summit to highlight the role of women entrepreneurs in their own ecosystems and awarded Medsaf, from Nigeria, the Best Woman Entrepreneur prize.
• Alquilando, from Argentina, won the Time Saviour Prize, by TAG Heuer, for their solution to simplify rental process, minimize risk and guarantee rent payments on time, considered to be the one which allows users to save more time of their lives.
• Innovation Prize, also by TAG Heuer, was awarded to CMED, from Bangladesh.
• Public Prize: one of the highlights of the day is when the public gets to vote for its favourite startup. This year, the Office for Economic Affairs (SPECo) has decided to power it by bestowing the winner, Junkbot Robotics, with a premium gift from Veuve Clicquot, a company from Switzerland and all the support from Canton de Vaud in the future.

Charlie Graham-Brown, CFO of Seedstars, opened the Investor Day by reminding the startups that all Seedstars alumni created more than 2,000 jobs over the last 5 years. He also highlighted the fact that the startups are always selected on the potential of impact they can provide and on how sustainable their business model are.

Referring to the 18 UN sustainable development goals, Romulo Navarrete, COO of Seedspace, the entrepreneurs hubs network that was launched by Seedstars this year, pointed out that the selection must address any of these issues: No hunger, Good health, Quality education, Good job and Economic growth, Innovation and Infrastructure, and Sustainable cities and communities.

Representatives’ Remarks

LATAM representative: “Brazil is the biggest startup ecosystem in LATAM. We have HQ of giants from all other the world in Brazil. We want to change Brazil from mining to entrepreneurship and knowledge economy, because oil prices are too volatile. Belo Horizonte is the city that has the highest number of bars per person. But why is that important? [It is] for networking of course!”

African representative: “Kenya is the big K of the Eastern Africa”. While explaining that the startup movement is gaining steam in the region, “the three main African challenges remain the lack of infrastructure, the lack of education and skills, and a difficult access to capital”.
Asian representative: “Thanks to high manufacturing productivity in China. The strongest sector has been transportation in Asia”, mentioning the tremendous Indian and Indonesian growth over the past few years. “The number of mobile users compared to people is 133 %! The top 5 entrepreneurship countries to look for are: Singapore, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia."

MENA representative: "MENA is changing from an oil economy to an economy of knowledge. Most of the public sector in MENA is involved in the development and funding of startups ecosystems. E-commerce is at the forefront of such investment, counting 15% of all investment. A forecasting trend is the growth of co-working spaces, as the mentalities are slowing evolving toward a collaborative work. This is probably changing because people understand startups is about synergies”

CEE representative: "Economies of the countries of Eastern Europe were highly impacted by the political context of the Cold War at the end of the 90s. That's why CEE is famous for the great tech skills of the people there. However the region still lacks of business skills. CEE is leading new technologies such as blockchain, with “17% of worldwide ICOs coming from CEE”.

As a plan to foster the entrepreneurial ecosystems in all emerging markets, next year Seedstars will focus on building physical hubs to host all different kinds of stakeholders and strengthening the community through events and trainings. The whole Seedstars network is going to benefit from transmission of knowledge through the Seedstars App and the Seedspace hubs.
“Money is not a problem. There is money everywhere. We just need to propose the right projects to the right people who actually have the money,” Pierre-Alain Masson said.

Panel Discussion
Before the 12 finalists were announced, a panel made up of Shruti Chandrasekhar, Alisée de Tonnac, Olena BoytSun, and Ngozi Edozien discussed the obstacles that female entrepreneurs are faced with when building a startup.
"Considering failure rate, female co-founders appear to be more successful than men," they submitted.
The panel pointed out that female co-founder fundraising strategies appear less aggressive compared to the ones launched by men while investors present in the room expressed their willingness to have a more balanced ecosystem, with a more adequate proportion of women.

Marc Berrebi, Co-Founder and CEO of eDevice Inc, giving a word of advice to the the startups presented his own journey which he said was long and diversified entrepreneurial journey and lessons learned. Among numerous advices, he argued that entrepreneurs should “always keep fighting and listen to people, and sometimes refuse reality”. About the mentality on the entrepreneur’s journey, he stated that it is “not a sprint, but a marathon”.

At the end of the day 50 out of 67 startups got at least one investor from the over 100 investors present, and ready to invest about USD$9million.

Those who attended the summit included, stakeholders, startups from all corners of the world, and speakers like Gwendolyn Regina, Aliya Rozanova and Rebecca Enonchong.

Investor panel with Olena Boytsun from @OmidyarNetwork, Shruti Chandrasekhar from @IFC_org, Ngozi Edozien from Invivo Partners Limited and @aliseedt. #SeedstarsSummit

See gallery for more photos by Seedstars and Africa Link