The search for women-led businesses is back with the announcement of the fourth cohort of the Women in Tech 2020 program, an initiative of @iBizAfrica-Strathmore University and Standard Chartered Bank Kenya. The call for applicants is now open for women led SMEs leveraging on technology and new business models to drive change and grow communities.
The online launch which took place in mid October showcased how @iBizAfrica and Standard chartered bank have supported and guided over 40 female led startups in Kenya through training, mentorship, coaching and funding over the last three years through the Women in Tech program.
The program theme for this year,“Accelerating the Digital Economy through Women Owned Businesses” reinforces the importance of scaling the gains of female focused entrepreneurial programs and expanding their mandate in bridging financing and industry gaps for early stage ventures.
Key guest Standard Chartered Chief Operating Officer, Peter Gitau, said: “Since the launch of the Women in Technology Program in 2017, over 1,100 entrepreneurs have applied to be a part of the program, 120 start-ups have been shortlisted with 30 taking part in the incubator program. 15 outstanding start-ups have benefitted from the seed funding of Kes 1 million each to grow their businesses. To date, over 75% of innovations in different cohorts have attracted additional funding from both development partners and equity investors ranging from $50,000 to $150,000, and their businesses have grown revenue and sales in double digits”.
As a bank we are committed to supporting small business through provision of finance, especially during this pandemic, and most importantly with the necessary business management skills through our Financial Literacy programs, added Gitau.
“Over the last three years we have seen a large number of women led businesses apply for the Women in tech program. Last year alone we had over 700 applicants showed interest in the program. This combined with applications from cohort 1 and cohort 2 shows the appetite and demand for such support framework for women owned businesses. These Women-led business have received support in the form of training, mentorship and coaching at Strathmore University through our supportive network with Standard Chartered Bank. This year with the Fourth Cohort we want to focus on scaling women owned businesses who are building technology apps and technology enabled solutions, ranging from but not limited to Internet of things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Augmented and Virtual reality, 3D and 4D Printing, Cloud Computing, Big Data, Blockchain and Biometrics and other IT areas,” said Dr Joseph Sevilla, Director of @iBizAfrica, Strathmore University.
Globally, studies show that sub-Saharan Africa boasts the world’s highest rates of women entrepreneurs, at 27%. But female-led tech startups still have some of the lowest numbers across the continent, despite technology firms led by women experiencing a 35% higher return on investment.
Ms Linda Kwamboka, Entrepreneur in residence, @iBizAfrica-Strathmore University mentioned: “The Women in Tech Incubator reinforces the importance of scaling the gains of female focused entrepreneurial programs in Kenya. There is an urgent need to bridge the financing and mentorship gaps for early stage ventures across the country. It is important for African enterprises to digitize and tap into enormous opportunities offered by technology adoption. Sectors like education, health, trade, food delivery, events and conferencing have experienced an unprecedented demand for technology. The special focus on women owned businesses in technology recognizes the enormous potential for leveraging emerging technologies and new business models that will drive the economic growth and development post COVID-19.”
Apart from the Kshs 1 million seed funding each of the top five participants receive, the teams are taken through a 12week incubation mentorship and training through the Bank’s Employee Volunteering program. Through the incubation, all the entrepreneurs are offered expert training in the areas of idea conceptualization, strategy formulation and marketing which is key in moving the businesses from incubation to sustainable ventures.
The Women in Technology Incubator program is Africa’s leading women in tech incubator, that supports local tech businesses and calls for more diversity in the Information technology landscape by providing opportunities for women to develop entrepreneurial skills and leadership excellence.
The launch of the Women in Tech Fourth Cohort provides an opportunity to reflect on the representation of women entrepreneurs and determine pathways to enhancing their participation in the ecosystem.
The program is an initiative of Standard Chartered in partnership with Strathmore University’s @iBizAfrica to provide startups with the right support to grow their businesses to international standards.
@iBizAfrica is the business incubator of Strathmore University, a private University in Kenya. The incubator has since 2012 provided a nurturing environment that builds on the potential of the youth to develop innovative solutions and businesses that work for the common good in society. @iBizAfrica over the years has provided over 400 startup companies with training, advisory, mentorship, coaching, networking opportunities, access to seed capital and investors.