27 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Techies Gear Up for Jumpstart Challenge

Last year saw Zimbabwe's first ever BarCamp which culminated into one of the country's leading Internet Service Providers, Zimbabwe Online, putting in money and starting up the ZOL Startup Challenge that for the second year running will be making a comeback.

BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences focused around technology and the Web. They are open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is decided by participants.

The first BarCamps focused on early-stage web applications, and were related to open source technologies, social software, and open data formats. The format has also been used for a variety of other topics, including public transit, health care and political organising around the globe. The BarCamp format has also been adapted for specific industries like banking, real estate and social media.

The final of the inaugural ZOL Startup Challenge was held at Monomotapa Crowne Plaza on September 8, 2011 where Mukela.com walked away with the first prize of US$5 000 cash and US$5 000 in Internet services.

In what was a tight competition Sadomba-Mahari and SoftwareHouse were the two runners up. They each received US$2 500 in cash and the same amount in Internet services. The fourth startup to present on the day, Ribe Networks got a host of Internet services from ZOL.

The challenge is meant to motivate and reward participants who develop innovative, creative and original applications.

In a statement, one of the organisers of both events, Clinton Mutambo, said the Startup Challenge has been renamed to the Jumpstart Challenge. ZOL has agreed to sponsor the event once again.

JumpStart is a community driven initiative for mobile and Internet technology entrepreneurs, tech professionals, investors and other individuals and organisations involved in the information technology industry in Zimbabwe.

"This year's BarCamp will be held on August 24 while the Jumpstart Challenge will take place on the 25th. Both events will be held at the original venue of the Keg (Harare Sports Club). The BarCamp event is free to the tech community while a nominal fee for the Jumpstart Challenge is under review.

"Volunteer slots for both events are available and anyone interested can help out with logistics, getting the word around, tech accessories and so as well as any other support these events require. Prospective attendees are advised to sign up early," read the statement.

Mutambo said in August 2011, a group of techies and tech entrepreneurs in Harare organised the country's first BarCamp, an international event bringing together the tech community for a day of discussion, sharing, startup demos and general networking. The event culminated in what became the ZOL Startup Challenge, a challenge where startups pitched in a contest for US$25 000 worth of seed capital and some business mentorship.

"After BarCamp, the community of techies and entrepreneurs seeking to cultivate a more connected and active tech ecosystem founded a sustainable platform of common interest known as Jumpstart.

"There's been great measurable success with Jumpstart. Since its launch in January 2012, it has hosted a number of free events for the tech community and attracted some great minds, great startups and large tech companies to work with it. As we approach August 2012, a whole year after that first event, the Jumpstart steering team has already started organising this year's BarCamp and Jumpstart Challenge," the statement read.

Updates of the events will be broadcast via the JumpStart Zimbabwe website and also through Facebook and Twitter. More sponsors for these non-profit events will also be announced in due course.

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