Start-ups and Mobile in Emerging Markets: Issue 2

This blog is the foreword from the latest edition of our regular publication, Start-ups and Mobile in Emerging Markets: Insights from the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator.

The beginning of the year is always an exciting time for the mobile industry, when most stakeholders join the crowds at Mobile World Congress in late February. This year was no exception for our programme, as we were joined by our partners from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Australian Government, mobile operators and 13 of our current portfolio start-ups to announce our second cohort of Innovation Fund start-ups.

With 15 new additions, our portfolio now comprises 24 start-ups from 15 countries across Asia Pacific and Africa. They cover more sectors and business models (‘agritech’ in particular—see the section on ‘Mobile technology for the SDGs’) and a wider range of innovative uses of mobile technology as SMEs look to solve local problems. We hope this will in turn help us to identify and highlight more ways these start-ups can collaborate with mobile operators to boost their reach and impact.


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Some of the start-ups featured in this report have already reached significant scale. Agritech start-up Twiga Foods in Kenya now delivers 350,000 bananas daily to food stalls in Nairobi, with most of the payments across the value chain processed through M-Pesa. Ruangguru in Indonesia has just passed the 7 million registered users mark and launched a joint data plan with local mobile operator Telkomsel. Such stories confirm the value of integrating mobile technology and working with mobile operators, which is becoming more and more relevant to start-ups. Meanwhile, mobile operators are gearing up to be better partners, for instance, by launching new funds or collaborating across regions.

Building on this momentum, we have launched our third call for applications to the Innovation Fund. The core eligibility criteria remain unchanged (post-revenue, socio-economic impact, willingness to engage with operators, matching funding), and we are more open than ever to new and innovative uses of mobile technology (e.g. big data, IoT) and models. Applications are open until 15 April, and we count on your support to refer promising start-ups in your markets to the Fund.

As always, we welcome your feedback on this publication and appreciate you sharing these stories with your network.

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