22 November 2012

Ghana: SliceBiz Wins Startup Competition

SliceBiz Team, which came up with an investment platform to generate start-up capital for SMEs in Africa, has been adjudged winner of this year's StartUp Weekend competition organized by Youth Enhancement International and StartUp Weekend International.

The event was sponsored by Local Enterprises and Skills Development Programme (LESDEP) with a sponsorship package worth US$50,000,000.00

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 400 past events in 100 countries around the world.

The event held at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Accra, was led by the Regional Operations Manager at Startup Weekend, Brett Nakatsu, Stephen Gyasi Kwaw, CEO of Youth Enhancement International and Ernest Asiedu Caesar, Assistant Communications Manager, Local Enterprises and Skills Development Programme (LESDEP).

All Startup Weekend events allow anyone to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams build around the top ideas as determined by popular vote.

Start-up Weekend Accra brought together over 60 budding entrepreneurs including programmers, tech designers, and business developers to pitch a start-up idea, develop, test, and then launch their new business all in the space of just 54 hours.

The participants were given 54 hours for business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.

As inspiration to the 2012 participants, the event kicked off with a talk by David Osei whose company Dropifi not only won Start-up Weekend Accra 2011, but also went on to be named Start-up Weekend Global Winner, and number 3 'Top Tech Start-up in Africa' by Forbes Magazine.

About 20 participants took to the stage to pitch their initial ideas, and the best 14 were selected to form teams. Teams brainstormed their initial ideas, refined strategies to target customer segments, problem solved, mapped out revenue streams, competitors, and marketing strategies, as well as beginning to build their websites, apps and online platforms to demonstrate on Sunday.

The teams were ably guided by input from several experienced mentors, including Regina Agyare, CEO of Soronko Solutions, Eric Crowther , Director of Operations, Lumana Credit, Kwame Osei Owusu, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, LESDEP, Ian Ziddan, Product Planning and Development Manager, MTN Ghana and Mr. Ernest Asiedu Caesar, LESDEP, who helped participants think about the 'bigger picture' of scalability and sustainability, avoiding the trap of over-focusing on product details or features at the expense of sound business strategy and appeal to investors.

The teams then validated their ideas, building a minimal viable product, and writing their final pitch presentations. Working up to the last minute, the 54-hour time limit was up, and the moment to present their hard work had arrived.

The panel of expert judges including Ian Ziddah, from MTN, Richard Tanksley from MEST, Sammie Rayner from Lumana Credit, Michael Obeng from LESDEP and Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah former CEO of Commonwealth Telecommunications Union, listened to the pitches and chose the winners based on their customer validation, their execution and their business model.

In second place was Picrazzi, who pitched their photo-sharing phone app that uploads photos instantly to online albums without the need for user uploading. In third place was Agripro who designed an online and phone-based investment platform that links agricultural investors with farmers in Africa.

The top three teams would get the chance to pitch their ideas at the "Outlook of the Ghana Economy" Conference to be attended by President John Mahama and 200 of Ghana's top CEOs and win cash prizes as well as the opportunity to enter the global competition.

Some of the entries pitched for the competition included LetsTour, an online tourist information platform, with a focus on linking tourists in Africa to local tour guides, Waali Wireless: an ad-hoc wireless backbone to improve connectivity speed and access to online information in Ghana and ICT4C, a social enterprise that uses video tutorials to teach 8-18 year-olds about computer programming.

The participants interviewed said Start-up Weekend was undoubtedly a learning experience that all those who took part would hold on to and build upon in their future ventures

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