On April 6th, the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator team had the opportunity to participate in the Seedstars Summit in Lausanne, Switzerland. The summit was the final event of a start-up competition that took place in 62 countries with more than 8,000 start-up applications screened and 64 start-ups were selected for the finale. The event convened thought leaders, successful entrepreneurs, investors, corporate and community leaders in the tech industry with a purpose to share their experience, skills and insights. We share three takeaways from this unique event.
Mobile-first start-ups in emerging markets are tackling critical challenges
By 2020, emerging markets will represent more than 80% of the global unique mobile subscribers. More than ever, start-ups from Latin America, Africa, Middle-East, CEE and Asia Pacific are mobile-first. Most of the 12 start-ups that ended up pitching for the final round of the competition illustrated this trend:
- Mind Rockets (Jordan) has developed a mobile application that interprets text or speech and translates it to sign language using animated avatars. The technology can be integrated into any system to open a communication channel and deliver the content in sign language.
- Raye7 (Egypt) is a ride sharing mobile platform that aims to provide a solution for commuters in Egypt who are affected by the heavy traffic jam. Commuters can now connect with nearby colleagues and acquaintances to share their everyday trips.
- Kasha (Rwanda) sells women’s health products such as sanitary pads and contraceptives confidentially through a widely accessible mobile ecommerce platform. It leverages USSD, IVR and mobile money technologies to ensure the broadest coverage.
- Jamii (Tanzania) is a mobile micro-health insurance product for the low income and informal sector population at just $1 per month.
Each of these four start-ups is using the power of mobile technology to tackle critical challenges that affect majority of the population on a daily basis: inability to access online content because of deafness or hearing loss, lack of safe and efficient public transportation for daily commuting, difficulty to buy women’s health products; absence of health insurance for low income population.
As pointed out by Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom: “Businesses that have a purpose succeed better”. This applies well to most of the start-ups we heard pitching at Seedstars and that tackle several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The Ecosystem Accelerator team was invited to moderate a workshop that aimed at getting mobile operators and start-ups to discuss some of the key challenges that arise when they want to collaborate and identify solutions to these challenges.
Leveraging on some of the findings of our report “Building Synergies: How Mobile Operators and Start-ups Can Partner for Impact in Emerging Markets”, the five groups, comprising of both mobile operators and start-ups, under the leadership of exceptional facilitators (Bob Collymore, Safaricom; Raphael Rollier, Swisscom; Aurélien Duval-Delort, Orange; Karim Taga, Arthur D. Little; Alberto Perez, Democrance and Alena Kalibaba, ‘Chasopys’ Creative Space) were able to extract some great learnings to collaborate better going forward:
- APIs (Application Programming Interface) will become increasingly critical for mobile operators to leverage local start-ups innovation (see how mobile operator APIs are already powering local start-ups in emerging markets).
- In the big data era, operators in emerging markets could further unlock business models for local start-ups to use data analytics in a powerful manner.
- With revenues from traditional services being at risk, new business opportunities presented by start-ups could become essential for mobile operators. In that context, mobile operators would benefit from working with as many start-ups as possible, in order to drive potential volume for the future.
- Learning from global incubator and accelerator programmes (like Seedstars), mobile operators are in a position to play a stronger role in local ecosystems. This could see mobile operators becoming closer to a model of a “platform” for local start-ups.
- Going forward, it is essential to understand that mobile customers can give mobile operators more than just cash; customer data for instance.
- Having internal “champions” is a must for mobile operators willing to engage with start-ups, in order to facilitate the initial engagement.
Some of these points will be covered in our upcoming report (May 2017); a start-up’s guide to working with mobile operators in emerging markets.
Headquartered in the Philippines, fintech start-up Acudeen was selected as the 2017 Seedstars Global Winner, and received an equity investment of $500,000 from Seedstars and their partners.
The start-up promotes financial inclusion for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by providing them with an early payment option for their 30-to-90-day invoices using its mobile enabled receivable discounting platform. Acudeen currently works with four publicly listed companies who work with 250 SMEs. Acudeen works with financial sector partners (asset managers, family offices, pension funds, hedge funds and banks) to tackle local SMEs cash-flow challenges. Their market are the 99 percent of businesses in the Philippines that fall under the category of micro, small, or medium enterprises.
Congratulations to Mario Jordan “Magellan” Fetalino III and the broader Acudeen team !
We would like to end this blog post by congratulating and thanking the extended Seedstars team for this truly unique event and more specifically Michael Weber and Marcello Schermer for allowing us to participate.
The GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Programme is currently funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and supported by the GSMA and its members.