Q: Please tell us about yourself and the path that led you to Demo Africa.
Hare: Having been working in the technology industry for many years, I interacted with many tech entrepreneurs and year after year we kept on seeing and discussing the same challenges faced by entrepreneurs and the need for having an effective ecosystems. These were Access to finance, marketplace credibility, exposure to potential investors and technology buyers. Most bank lending systems were not favorable to unestablished businesses, there were few or no mentors in some cases and information was very limited on how to navigate the markets - That is when DEMO Africa was born.
Q: What is Demo Africa (what does it provide, to whom and who created it)?
Hare: DEMO Africa is a launchpad for technology startups with innovative products and solutions. We provide a platform for technology start-ups across Africa to launch their products and services to an audience of Investors (Angel and Venture Capitalist), technology buyers, policy makers and the media. The aim is to have technology entrepreneurs innovate and produce products that are best suited to the various needs across Africa. We believe that Africans best understands their challenges and requirements and are best suited to build technology solutions for them. But this does not me that these solutions cannot benefit other parts of the world as well.
So DEMO Africa, therefore, provides start-ups on one end with a platform to launch their products infant of investors and technology buyers, and on the other hand provide investors and technology buyers access and opportunities to invest and/or adopt technologies developed by high potential startups.
Q: Why Demo Africa?
Hare: DEMO Africa is rising because Africa is rising. There is a crop of talented technology savvy African entrepreneurs who are hungry to get out into the market and show what they have and drive investment into their startups. We provide that space for them to get the exposure to show the world what they have. There is also an increase of investors interested in investing in African startups, be them tech or otherwise. Since the debut, DEMO Africa has grown to be one of the largest technology platforms across Africa. In its short history, DEMO Africa has earned a reputation for consistently identifying new innovations with potential to disrupt the markets and change the way technology is used. Each year we engage top players in the tech and business industries across Africa who help to select the best innovations. We have already launched 150 companies over the last four-year with these managing to raise over US$ 11 Million in investment and/or business value. We see this increasing rapidly in the next few years.
Q: Please tell us a few words specifically about your last conference: Demo Africa 2015.
Hare: The DEMO Africa 2015 event was hosted in collaboration with the Federal Government of Nigerian through the Ministry of Communication Technology and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), in collaboration with the LIONS@frica partners. The partners include Microsoft, AfDB, VC4Africa and the US State Department to name just a few.
We launched 30 startups from 9 African countries. These were selected from a list of more than 600 applications from 30 African countries. We had more than 400 visitors including investors, technology buyers, policy makers and the media. Most importantly we had more than 100 investors from both within (local from Africa) and outside the continent (from Europe and the US). This year we had the highest number of angel investors as a result of the co-location with the African Business Angels Network, an organization that we are proud to have co-founded.
Out of the 30 companies that launched, more than 50% are inactive investment discussions with different investors. One of the companies ZeePay, a mobile payment system based out of Ghana has already closed a seed funding round of US$200,000, this is very exciting, just three months after their public launch at DEMO Africa. We estimate that this year’s cohort would raise about US$5 million in the next 12 months.
Q: Finally, in your opinion what is the importance of technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and investment in the African economic development?
Hare: Technology and Innovation has now permeated every aspect of our lives - be it business and/or pleasure. This provides an opportunity for technology innovators and entrepreneurs to tap into this massive opportunity to generate revenues, create wealth, reduce unemployment by creating more sustainable jobs and improve people’s lives. Isn’t this what economic development is all about? I see entrepreneurship in technology based on products and services that are created to solve our problems, read, local solutions to local problems, as the best possible chance that Africa has to stamp its authority at the global marketplace.