In April, Techstars, in partnership with ARM Labs, a Lagos-based innovation program focusing on fintech startups, announced the launch of ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator Program which aims to invest in early-stage fintech and proptech companies based in Africa.
The Lagos program will run for three years, featuring three batches—each will have a minimum of 12 startups, that's at least 36 startups by the end of the duration.
Although Techstars CEO Maëlle Gavet said that the accelerator has been active in Africa since 2011, the Techstars' startup directory and local media reports indicate that Metro African Xpress (MAX) became the first African startup to be backed by Techstars in 2015 (New York City 2015 Fall class).
In partnership with Barclays Bank, Techstars launched its first African programme in Cape Town in 2015. Nine African startups were selected for the inaugural cohort of the Cape Town accelerator in 2016, however, the Cape Town programme was short-lived as it became inactive after 2017.
During a trip to Nigeria in July, Gavet said that "Africa in general and Nigeria in particular as a key market we [Techstars] wanted to be in. We really want to become part of an ecosystem rather than act as if we know better from afar. We believe there are hundreds, if not thousands of entrepreneurs here in Lagos that could be great investments."
Even as we anticipate the impact of the ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Acceleratornic, Program, let us look back on how far Techstars has come with its support for African startups. Based on data available on the Techstars startup directory, the global accelerator has backed over 50 African tech startups across various countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania, Ghana, Benin, Rwanda, Egypt and Uganda.
Meet the African startups backed by Techstars
Over 48% of Techstars' investment in Africa has been targeted toward Nigerian startups. Recently, three Nigerian startups—Torche, Vesti and Voyance—were accepted into the Techstars New York Class of Spring 2022 and another five joined the Techstars Toronto Class of Spring 2022.
Out of the over 40 accelerators run by Techstars across the world, available data suggests that aside from the Techstars Barclays Accelerator (that was held in Cape Town), more African startups are accepted into Techstars Toronto and New York.
Maëlle Gavet told TechCrunch that Canada has a more welcoming visa system for Africans compared to the other locations where the accelerator holds. "I think Canada has a very welcoming visa system for African founders. So it just makes it much easier for them to go to the Toronto program than it would be too many other Western programs," she said.
Find below a curated list of the most recent African startups that have been accepted into Techstars Accelerator and the two cohorts that participated in the Barclays Accelerator in South Africa in 2016 and 2017.
Techstars Toronto Class of Spring 2022
Seven African startups participated in the Techstars Toronto Accelerator Spring Cohort, namely:
- Emergency Response Africa (Nigeria)
- Gigmile (Ghana)
- Glade (Nigeria)
- Mycoverai (Nigeria)
- Blackcopper (Nigeria)
- Bongalow (Nigeria)
- truQ (Nigeria)
A total of $7.4 million was raised during the 3 months virtual accelerator programme, African startups raised $3.8 million —Mycoverai secured the largest African amount—$650,000.
Techstars New York Class of Spring 2022
Out of the 12 companies selected for the Techstars New York (Techstars NYC) Class of Spring 2022, three are African tech companies.
- Voyance (Nigeria)
- Vesti (Nigeria)
- Torche (Nigeria)
Techstars Toronto class of 2021
African startups made up 66% of the 5th class of Techstars Toronto.
- Healthtracka (Nigeria)
- OurPass (Nigeria)
- RentSmallSmall (Nigeria)
- Kyshi (UK-based Africa-focused)
- Payday (Rwanda)
- Lenco (Nigeria)
- Duhqa (Kenya)
- Talent QL (Nigeria)
Techstars Barclays Accelerator I
- Inuka Pap (Kenya),
- BimaAfya (Tanzania),
- Social Lender (Nigeria),
- Beyonic (Uganda, acquired by MFS Africa in 2020),
- tech4farmers (Uganda)
- Asoriba (Ghana)
- BenBen (Ghana)
- WizzPass (South Africa)
- Simba Pay (Kenya)
Techstars Barclays Accelerator II
- FOMO Group (South Africa)
- Byte Money (South Africa)
- Flexpay (Kenya)
- Howler (South Africa)
- Spatialedge (South Africa)
- eCOIDA (South Africa)
- The Sun Exchange (South Africa)