Lifesten Health, a Rwandan health and wellness start-up, emerged as the winner of the 2022 Hanga Pitchfest competition held on 10 December 2022 in Kigali.
Organised by the Government of Rwanda, through the Ministry of ICT and Innovation and Rwanda Development Board (RDB), together with UNDP Rwanda, Hanga Pitchfest is an annual technology and innovation showcase for tech-entrepreneurs and creative talents from all over the country.
(TOP: Peace Ndoli of Lifesten Health – centre – receiving the 2022 Hanga Pitchfest award).
The competition was a 3-month long journey with over 400 start-ups applying to participate in the competition in September. The contestants shared a wide range of innovative solutions meant to address current global challenges. After a series of pitching events and workshops across the country, the entrepreneurs were guided by experts and coaches on how to package their solutions in order to attract funding for implementation and scaling.
The top 45 start-ups were then selected after which the 25 most innovations were shortlisted to proceed to two-week bootcamp. From the bootcamp, judges chose the 2022 top 5 finalists which pitched to an excited audience at the BK Arena. The five are:
- Lifesten Health: Lifesten Health offers programs for incentive-based health and wellness, creating experiences that empower individuals to achieve their health goals in a fun, exciting and rewarding manner. Represented by co-founder, Peace Ndoli, the company won the $50,000 Hanga Pitchfest grand cash prize; a Rwf 5 million contribution to their Ejo Heza long term saving scheme account by the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB); workspace and connectivity access, mentorship and coaching, and website development for 1 year from BK TecHouse and advisory services for capital raising and valuation from BK Capital.
- Paying Tone: PayingTone is a digital micro-lending platform that provides Rwandans with access to essential goods and services on credit. The company won a $20,000 cash prize and Rwf 2.5 million contribution for their Ejo Heza long term savings scheme account from RSSB. It was founded by Ignace Turatsinze, Brenda Munezero Uwase and Eddy Sheja.
- SchoolNest: SchoolNest is a digital platform that automates school processes and offers flexible learning to students. The start-up is also introducing SchoolNest Pay to drive cashless payments in Rwandan schools. They won $15,000 and Rwf 2.5 million contribution for their Ejo Heza long term savings scheme account from RSSB. SchoolNest was founded by Karegeya Jean Marie Vianney.
- Mulika Farms: Mulika Farms is building an app that will be connecting farmers to markets, reducing supply chain lead times and increasing value in the process. They won $12,500. It was founded by Girihirwe Uwayo Herve and Leon Karekezi.
- Huuza Quest: Huuza is a gaming start-up that promotes interactive learning of Rwandan and African history and culture. They won $12,500. Huuza Games was founded by Marie Grace Iradukunda, Kamugisha Yuhi Joshua and Alfred Wanjau.
The 2022 Hanga Pitchfest also saw one the top 25 companies, Vizion Bot, recognised for its impact in improving the lives of communities, thanks to their digital walking stick for the visually impaired. They received the Community Impact Award from RSSB.
Another first was the Hanga Public and Corporate Innovation Awards for public and private institutions that rolled out innovative solutions that have improved citizen satisfaction in recent years.
Rwanda National Police was recognised for its Road Safety Enforcement Cameras commonly known as Sofia, winning the 2022 Hanga Public Innovation Award while Mobile Money Rwanda by MTN took the Corporate Innovation Award for its mobile money product.
Hanga Pitchfest 2022 also featured a technology exhibition including a robotics Lego League competition and electrifying performances from Rwandan artists and Djs who included Kivumbi King, Bukuru, Prudence D. Dube, and DJ Ira.
Speaking at the finale, Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire shared a message from President Paul Kagame to the start ups. “This journey you’ve started is the way of life for you now to imagine. To think of new ways that are needed and new ways that shape the society in a globalised world. Everyone of you has the possibility and potential to succeed to grow beyond what anyone has ever imagined,” she said.
Itzhak Fisher, the Board Chair, RDB, noted: “The purpose of this event is to create an ecosystem for Rwanda as the start up nation of Africa. By cultivating a start up mentality and helping entrepreneurs, Rwanda will become innovative in many areas like health, IT, retail and food.”
On her part, Varsha Redkar Palepu, the Deputy Resident Representative at UNDP Rwanda said: “Africa, and particularly Rwanda is thinking big on digital transformation. For Africa to produce more of what it consumes, we need digital technologies to unlock the new pathways for inclusive growth.”
In addition to the cash prizes and contribution to the Ejo Heza saving scheme by RSSB, the following support will be provided to the 2022 Hanga Pitchfest participants:
- Subsidiaries of BK Group Plc, BK Tec-House and BK Capital will provide this year’s winner, Lifesten Health with workspace and connectivity access, mentorship and coaching, website development for 1 year and advisory services for capital raising and valuation.
- BPN Rwanda will provide one year of business development support to the top 5 finalists which includes training, coaching and networking opportunities.
- The African Management Institute (AMI), together with the Mastercard Foundation will provide 4-month entrepreneurial courses through AMI’s Growth Network to this year’s top 45 start-ups.
- The German Development Corporation (GIZ Rwanda), through its Digital Solutions for Sustainable Development program, will provide the top 45 start-ups with its Digital Transformation Center Voucher Services and space to organise hackathons and trainings
- Kudi Books will provide this year’s top 5 and top 45 start-ups with 6 months of free access to Pro and Basic packages of its finance and accounting software respectively.
- Pindo, an instant communication platform for businesses, will provide a 20% discount to all Hanga Pitchfest 2022 participants and $50 to each of this year’s top 5 finalists.
- Pesa Choice, an HR-Enabled fintech company that offers employees access to their salaries in real time will provide free onboarding for this year’s top 5 finalists and 50% off for all the top 45 start-ups.
- BAG Innovation, a finalist in last year’s Hanga Pitchfest, will provide a 50% discount to this year’s top 45 startups to access its job simulation platform and free access for a year and talent recruitment to the top 5 finalists.