Ecosystem Accelerator Compass: Insights on Start-Ups and Mobile in Emerging Markets, Issue 5

This blog is the foreword from the new Ecosystem Accelerator Compass: Insights on Start-Ups and Mobile in Emerging Markets, Issue 5 publication, which is our refreshed version of the previous Start-ups and Mobile in Emerging Markets: Insights from the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator series.

As our latest quarterly publication — in its new format — is going to press, the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator team is returning from the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019 in Barcelona. Given the magnitude of this event, we took the opportunity to gather over 25 of the Innovation Fund portfolio start-ups for our annual bootcamp. Combined, these events provided a packed eight-day agenda for the start-ups, split between one-to-one networking meetings with investors or mobile operators, over 30 pitch sessions and speaking opportunities on the stages of MWC and 4YFN, as well as workshops with our team and business meetings with potential partners.

This gathering prompted us to look back and reflect on the journeys of these 35 start-ups. In terms of impact, 1.8 over million beneficiaries have been reached by the various projects funded by the Ecosystem Accelerator programme, while the equivalent of £2.5 million of additional income has been unlocked collectively through direct revenue increases for individuals and local businesses, savings and productivity gains. In terms of investment, two-thirds of the start-ups have raised follow-on funding totalling £35.7 million. 96 per cent of this “crowding-in” is commercial funding, which is both a validation of the start-ups’ business models and a positive indication of their potential to scale.

Some of the start-ups’ success is attributable to partnerships with mobile operators, 18 of which have already been established with support from the programme. Supporting collaborations between mobile operators and start-ups is, more than ever, at the heart of our work, and we are proud to share three examples (section three of this report) of these partnerships in this report. Whether an SMS and USSD API integration (GiftedMom and Orange in Cameroon), a partnership on connectivity and mobile money (Sehat Kahani and Jazz in Pakistan) or a strategic investment (Lynk and Safaricom in Kenya), these collaborations are game changers when it comes to scaling mobile solutions.

Scaling a mobile solution in Africa or Asia Pacific is intrinsically linked to the capacity to reach users and customers. Our “deep dive” in this edition (section one) specifically looks at “low-tech” mobile channels like SMS, USSD, IVR and mobile money. While these are not deep technological solutions, they are mature, easily accessible and truly ubiquitous communication and payment channels in emerging markets. Enabled by mobile operators, low-tech channels can allow start-ups to push educational content over SMS to hundreds of thousands of children (Eneza Education, Africa) or to facilitate financial transactions with verbal instructions for those who are illiterate (Hishab, Bangladesh).

In this context, the work done by mobile operators to support and collaborate with local start-ups is essential, and we are thrilled to see our map of mobile operator and start-up initiatives (section two) becoming increasingly crowded.

We hope you find this new edition interesting and, more importantly, that it is relevant to your work. We encourage you to share your feedback with us.

Read the report

The Ecosystem Accelerator programme is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian Government, the GSMA and its members.

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