Kenyan operator Safaricom, mobile financial service M-Pesa Africa, and global trading and business investment company Sumitomo Corporation are to launch the Spark Accelerator, a programme to support early-stage start-ups in Kenya in their efforts to grow and scale their businesses.
The three partners say they will work together to identify quality start-ups and provide a blend of mentorship, funding and go-to-market support.
“Our goal is simple yet powerful: to empower start-ups with the access they need to succeed. We are taking an ecosystem-based approach to provide a platform for bold and visionary founders to grow and scale their businesses,” says Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom.
The partners cite studies indicating that entrepreneurs in Kenya face major challenges, with a 30% lifetime survival rate for start-ups. The main obstacles to success appear to be the inability to secure funding for growth, limited access to market and a gap in the knowledge and skills required to scale a business.
The Spark Accelerator will be launched within this financial year. It will leverage a team of founders and experts to accelerate product innovation across different industry verticals.
As we reported at the time, the Safaricom board and shareholders approved the restructure of its Spark Fund in July this year, when Safaricom said it was planning to set up two venture capital firms with the aim of buying into promising technology start-ups – an operational shift from the Spark Fund grant that Safaricom unveiled in 2015.
The Spark Accelerator programme will seek to provide shortlisted start-ups with access to market, access to capital, and access to technology and product development support. Previously, the Spark Fund only offered capital injection. However, so far, as Reuters points out, the companies have not disclosed how much they plan to invest in the new programme.