Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Africa program has graduated 35 startups since it kicked off in early 2018 – five of them South African. At a dinner hosted by Google recently, the South African alumni sat down with media to discuss their experiences in the accelerator, mentorship, and life after Launchpad.
One of the five South African companies to go through the program, Pineapple, shared its learnings on valuing a startup in Africa. Founder Marnus van Heerden says the program gave Pineapple insight into how startups should be valuing themselves, reflecting that South African companies tend to value themselves beyond the 5% acquisition threshold of the largest organisations in any given field. He argues that if a startup is going to be bought, the company doing the buying will look to spend a maximum of 5% of its overall value and/or market share in that space. The program, van Heerden says, helped give Pineapple a global perspective on this important issue.
For most startups, a standout part of participating in the Google Launchpad Africa classes was working with mentors, not only because of the global nature of the mentors, but because the accelerator takes a holistic approach and looks at all aspects of the start up – from people, to tech, to business processes.
As Preeva team member Améry Winter put it: “We thought we had a tech business and needed to solve our tech problems. After the first few days at Launchpad we were asking if we actually had a viable business at all. Going through the program and working with our mentors helped us realise the problems we had weren’t tech problems, they were business problems, and as a result we’ve been able to fix these issues and grow.”
Voyc.ai founder Lethabo Motsoaledi commented that the input the mentors provided was invaluable to her business as well. She says her company was able to get actionable feedback from mentors and implement it immediately.
The five South African companies that have graduated so far operate in the agritech (swiftVEE), fintech (Pineapple), edutech (Preeva and Zomila) and customer experience (Voyc.ai) sectors. Aside from the tech mentorship, they all agreed the program enabled them to connect with other entrepreneurs who could share expertise and market insights, and potentially facilitate access to other African markets as well.
Since graduating, Pineapple has expanded its product offering in South Africa and has spent the last few months working with a global partner to offer its services in the US. Voyc.ai is currently in public beta, and is working with 11 large call centres in South Africa. SwiftVee has sold the first bulls online in South Africa using streaming video Webcast, and just recently won an award from the FAO (United Nations) this year as the best E-Agriculture Platform. The company has also just completed a funding round.
Google’s first regionally-based startup accelerator program, Launchpad Accelerator Africa runs out of a dedicated space in Lagos. Announced in 2017, Google has committed to training 60 African startups over 3 years, representing over $3-million in equity-free support, working space, and access to expert advisers from Google, Silicon Valley, and Africa. Participants also receive travel and PR support during each three-month programme.