ARM Labs Lagos Techstars have opened applications for their 2023 accelerator program. The global program seeks to invest up to $120,000 in early-stage startups based in Africa focused on FinTech, Mobility, E-commerce and TalentTech.
A lot has been documented about the failure of startups globally and even in Africa. A 2022 report revealed that 80% of businesses under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in Africa fail within five years of establishment.
According to a 2020 Businessday report, the startup failure rate in Nigeria stood at 61%. In essence, only 39% of startups in Nigeria survive. Across Africa, startup failure rates range from 75% in Ethiopia and 74% in Ghana to 58.3% in Senegal and 60% in Somalia. Kenya has one of the lowest startup failure rates with 58.7%.
Some major reasons that have been attributed to these failures are lack of funding, lack of process, corporate structure, and business acumen. These problems restrict the businesses to one man shows, ensures that they never grow to employ more labour and outlive their founders. These are the problems that Techstars are trying to solve through their accelerator program.
Techstars is a global investment business that provides access to capital, one-on-one mentorship, a worldwide network and customised programming for early-stage entrepreneurs. It was founded in 2006 in Boulder, Colorado.
Techstars startup network is made up of 8,000+ founders, 5,000+ mentors, 300+ corporate partners, thousands of investors, and 54 programs in 14 countries.
Since 2015, when the accelerator program started admitting African startups, it has backed over 50 tech startups across various countries including Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. Techstars first launched its first African program in Cape Town, South Africa, however the program became inactive in 2017.
In 2022, Techstars, the world’s largest Pre-seed investor, launched the Lagos Techstars Accelerator Program in partnership with ARM Labs Lagos. It also selected its first batch of startups the same year and graduated the cohort in March 2023
Alongside Benjamin Dada, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Bendada.com; Oyin Solebo, Managing Director, ARM Labs Lagos Techstars and Banky Alao, Co-founder and CEO at Peppa, (a participant in the last cohort) we examined how startups can get into the accelerator program during the latest BD Talks.
Why startups should consider joining ARM Labs Lagos Techstars
Speaking on why they applied to the accelerator program, Banky Alao said, “When you are on a startup journey, and you understand that what you are building is bigger than yourself, you should look out for accelerators to help you straighten out your ideas, value proposition and business.”
Also, Banky said one thing he loved about his three months program at the accelerator was “mentor magic”. Mentor magic is a two-week session during the program where startups meet about 100 mentors.
Like a speed date, participants are going to meet with different mentors every day for two weeks talking to them about business, and help them flesh out their business propositions, test it and form mentorship relationships.
“Techstars curate their mentors by looking for people who can add value to the founders,” Solebo said. These people are typically ex-founders, operational experts, and people who believe in the philosophy of giving back.
During the inaugural cohort, some of the impressive people who joined the line-ups of speakers were Amandine Loebelle, COO at Paystack; Adedeji Olowe, Trustee at Open Banking in Nigeria; Olugbenga Agboola, CEO of Flutterwave and many others more.
Moreover, startups get post program support from the accelerator program. Banky Alao said, “Techstars rallies round you, especially Oyin Solebo and her team, to open doors to you. There is a thing in Techstars community globally that you just need to ask for whoever you want to reach.
Someone somewhere will know somebody who can open that door to you. That speaks to access within a broad network. There are also regular catchups and networking session for alumni.”
Six months after you graduate you officially get handed over to Techstars portfolio services team which sits at Techstars headquarters. This team support the startups with fundraising, network access and investors profile. So beyond the three months, it’s a lifetime access to a global community of like-minds.”
What ARM Labs Lagos Techstars is looking out for in startups
Acording to Solebo, what ARM Labs Lagos Techstars is looking for in startups is team, market, product, traction and then
“The team might change the product slightly or pivot into something else entirely during the accelerator or the startup’s journey. The key thing is that is it a really strong team? Are they really passionate about the problem they are solving? Are they coachable? Is the team an executor?”
In addition, Techstars is interested in the market the startup is operating in. Is the market a growing market? Can the startup demonstrate a real understanding of the market?
They also look at Traction. Can the startup show that there’s a market willing to pay for their product? Are they able to prove that they can execute?
Also, the product is another essential thing to look out for. Is the product defensible, or is it something that is copyable? The product should be something different from what is in the market? How you are planning to use technology to scale the product?
Another thing is the unique economics. This means, do you have a solid business model? Do you have a solid way of making money? What is your recurring revenue model which will be able to demonstrate your ability to survive in a downturn? How are you able to acquire customers?
What is the funding startups stand to get at Techstars
“The funding startups get from Techstars is equal regardless of region, product or industry,” Solebo said. Startups that get admitted into the accelerator program receive funding up to $120,000.
On the equity side, Techstars provide $20,000 upfront which is 6% of the companies stock upon their next fundraise which must be more than $250,000.
There’s also an offer to take up $100,000 in convertible notes. That is the standard for all startups in ARM Labs Lagos Techstars.
Is ARM Labs Lagos Techstars sector specific
Techstars Lagos partner, ARM Labs, is focused on pensions real estate and fintech, so startups who are solving problems in these areas were those selected last year.
However, startups who will be selected this year will be selected from a larger pool. According to Solebo, “This year, we will look at companies from all sectors, such as Fintech, e-commerce, mobility, logistics, supply chain, and talent tech (Edtech & HR tech).
Timeline for 2023 ARM Labs Lagos Techstars application Applications have started since May 30th, and it will close on August 9th. After that, there will be a series of interviews, after which a screening process to be led by a 15-man committee will follow.
Applicant founders will present and take questions from this committee. Qualified startups will be notified, probably around October, and the program starts on November 13th. Demo day which is the completion of the program will hold on February 15th, 2024.