Archives For Startups

Cherae Robinson

This past weekend I attended Diaspora Demo Day, the inaugural startup competition organized by the people at TipHub and held at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.. The day was not without its hiccups but for a first-time event really exceeded my expectations.

As the name implies, Diaspora Demo Day is an event where the best companies founded by Africans or targeting Africa are invited to pitch their concepts to an audience of attendees and esteemed judges (which included myself). Oddly, the judges didn’t judge anything, the audience choose the ‘winners’, we were there just to offer our opinion’s and advice on each companies presentation and business model. However, as the founder of The Appfrica Fund, the trip helped me survey new investment opportunities.

Overall, I was impressed by the quality of pitches but three really stood out when rated on three criteria: the organization of the deck, their ability to succinctly explain their business, and the viability of their business. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Hello Tractor

Description – A company that combines software with hardware to build affordable ‘smart tractors’ that they sell to small scale farmers in rural parts of Nigeria (and later the rest of Africa). I like to call them ‘the Tesla of tractors’.

Opportunity – As pointed out in the majority of the African continent is touched by the agricultural sector. This is huge market and getting even bigger as more of the world comes to depend upon Africa’s exports.

Risks – What business are these guys in? Are they making and selling hardware or software? Are they in the business of financing farming equipment or selling to third-parties who can handle distribution? I think the fact that they (seemingly) are trying to do it all is a huge potential risk for the company.

2. Tastemakers Africa*

Description – TSTMKRS Africa is like meets Lonely Planet meets Conde Nast. It focuses on style and exclusivity. Travel in Africa has been done to death, but a focus on luxury experiences and hip nightlife in Africa (Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically) feels fresh and timely.

Opportunity – The African continent has some 300 million people rapidly ascending into the middle class which means expendable income and free time. Where will they spend that money? They increasingly don’t want to live like their parents and grandparents who came from rural parts, rather they want to live the lives portrayed in shows like An African City or any number of Western pop culture shows and music videos. Likewise, millennials around the world do not travel like their parents. They want to meet people, have a great time clubbing (no matter where they are on the planet), and enjoy the finer things. My prediction is that African countries become the home of the world’s next *must* visit travel destinations…because, well, have you been to Europe lately?

Risks – Although travel trends are rapidly changing, public perception and bias against the African continent (and its people) is a much tougher enemy to conquer. Tastemakers biggest risk is that it’s too early to market and that the world may not be ready for that penthouse vacation suite in Kenya for another 20 years.

3. Afritrade

Description – Like Scottrade for the Nigerian stock market. Buy, sell, and manage a portfolio of listed Nigerian companies.

Opportunity – Of the 22 stock exchanges on the continent, the Nigerian Stock Exchange is one of the most vibrant and attractive. By focusing on Nigeria first, Afritrade have ensured that they have both demand for their product and a healthy supply of inventory (attractive stocks) to sell.

Risks – Afritrade is in a great space. Africa’s private equity markets are screaming for more efficiency, transparency and accessibility. However, it’s going to be a long haul to get there. Right now users of their product have to essentially be savvy investors in the NSE already. They need a broker, they need to do their own due-diligence, they need to have navigated the countries regulatory framework etc. If AfriTrade can figure out how to make all of this “push button” simple then they are a clear winner with a huge advantage. If they can’t there’s still an opportunity to be a niche product for savvy investors.

* I’m currently an advisor to, and a potential investor in, Tastemakers Africa. Other portfolio companies in attendance were Market Atlas (via my other fund) and Upstream Analytics (which couldn’t make the event).

Diaspora Demo Day

Ethel Cofie

Over the past few weeks it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know Ethel Cofie a socially minded programmer, serial entrepreneur, and YALI/Washington Fellowship Fellow. She will be temporarily working with us with us from August to September.

I met Ethel a few weeks ago when I was invited to speak at Yale to address the Mandela Washington Fellowship YALI Fellows. They asked me to talk about my own personal journey from starting Appfrica in 2008 to what I’m doing now across various ventures and projects. When asked to go deeper about what we actually do here at Appfrica, rather than talk about tech, I choose to talk about our work in areas of investment like Market Atlas, The Appfrica Fund, and how to deal with failure as an investor and as an entrepreneur.

It was this focus on capital markets and investment that sparked Ethel’s interest as she gets her own accelerator started. Before I could make my way out the door she let me know that she would definitely be working with us one way or the other. Here’s what Ethel had to say about that encounter:

I went up to Jon after his talk and asked him if there was a possibility for shadowing him and the Appfrica team as part of the Washington Fellowship.

The Washington Fellowship implementation team approved and today I start shadowing the Jon Gosier and Appfrica team for 8 weeks. I will be learning how to create a venture fund and learn how to run a virtual accelerator whilst launching my accelerator program at the same time.

I bring my special attitude of getting things done, my technical skills and passion, to make a difference on the Appfrica Fund and Appfrica’s D8A and Market Atlas projects. I will be contributing my expertise as much as I will be learning. This is going to be a fitting end to my summer and to my time in the Unites States under the (Mandela) Washington Fellowship.

The great thing about the five-hundred YALI Fellows is that they aren’t ‘interns’ or ‘apprentices’ in the traditional sense. It’s more like the White House has flown some of the brightest most accomplished people from across the planet to be embedded in various multinational companies operating in the U.S., from big ones like Coke-A-Cola to little ones like us. This means the companies housing them should be open to learning as much from them as they might expect to learn from us.

It’s with great pleasure that I look forward to the coming weeks with Ethel, learning from her, working on the great things that will result from our time together before she returns to her home in Ghana! You can read more about Ethel Cofie’s background here.

Jon Gosier is the Founder of Appfrica, a serial tech entrepreneur, and partner at Third Cohort Capital, an early-stage investment fund.


Is it insole charges for shoes that power your mobile device? A virtual assistant for blind people? Or perhaps solar powered irrigation systems for small scale farmers. At The New York Forum 2014 three Investors and three young entrepreneurs got together to discuss the next big thing in Africa. Some presented concepts like ‘data nationalism’ while others presented new products. In a later session inspired by the TV Show Shark Tank, the entrepreneurs pitched investors for immediate ‘yes/no’ commitments.

The Investors

Tutu Agyare, Managing Partner and Chief Investment Officer, Nubuke Investments (Ghana)

Shashi Buluswar, CEO, Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies (USA)

Jon Gosier, Founder, D8A Group, and Founder, Appfrica (USA)

Rob Leblanc, Chief Investment Officer, The Awethu Project (South Africa)

The Entrepreneurs

Abdou Maman, Founder and Director, Télé-Irrigation (Niger)

Anthony Mutua, Founder and CEO, Am-utua Technologies (Kenya)

Khaled Saleh, Co-Founder and CTO, Mubser (Egypt),

The Judges

Yariv Elbaz, Founder and CEO, YCap (France)

Stefan Heilmann, Managing Director, IEG Investment Banking Group (Germany)

Next week 40 of Africa’s finest startups will descend upon Nairobi, Kenya for the second annual DEMO Africa 2013. DEMO Africa has quickly risen to become the must-attend event for investors, entrepreneurs, tech media and others looking for Africa’s “next big thing”.

On Wednesday, October 23, we here at Appfrica and our partners at VC4Africa are hosting an invitation-only investor reception. If you’re an investor interested in early stage companies coming from emerging markets I encourage you to contact either our team or to see if there are slots left. We couldn’t be more excited to be working with the V4Africa team who have truly pioneered a platform that I can only describe as ‘the AngelList’ of Africa!

What’s the purpose of the reception? Ben described it best on his blogpost earlier today:

Part of this year’s activities will include special networking events for investors. This is in the continued effort to foster a culture of investing in innovative early stage companies that have the potential to become Pan African if not global success stories. In addition to well known firms like Intel Capital, Jacana Partners, eVentures Africa, Fanisi Capital and The Blue Mirror Fund, there will be a growing number of ‘new breed’ angel investors mixing in the crowd. Take for example Jerome Kisting, the backer of Kenyan based m-Kazi, or Pule Taukobong, an investor in 7 companies including Wabona and Enzi. These individuals represent an emerging class of investor now coming up across the continent. They provide a critical link for entrepreneurs looking to break rank and they offer entrepreneurs much more than their cash, often sharing critical insights and a rolodex of valuable contacts entrepreneurs would struggle to gain access to otherwise.

Entrepreneurs from across the continent who are in attendance who might be interested in our own Apps4Africa Acceleration program, are encouraged to look for Appfrica staff onsite at DEMO where they’ll be scouting. In case you want know what goes on at DEMO, check out this mini-documentary which our team shot last year called Inside DEMO Africa 2012. You can find similar video at

We extend a special thanks to our friends at DEMO Africa, Lions@frica, the U.S. Department of State and AfriLabs for their support of another awesome event!

Cheetah Trailer 45 from Jon Gos on Vimeo.

Why aren’t there more of a focus in books or film, about African innovations in business?

Not about its colonial history, its artists and musicians, its Dictators and tribes, its poverty and wars, its animals and wildlife…but work simply about doing business in Africa?

That was the question I asked myself before undertaking THE CHEETAH CODE. After spending several years living and working in the continent, it dawned on me that there were few resources available to those interested in doing business in, or with, the continent.

THE CHEETAH CODE is the culmination of several years of research in my time as a technologist, small investor, and activist. The book is about Africa’s young creative class, its expanding technical capacity, and entrepreneurs.

It is not a about philanthropy, poverty, or scapegoating foreign corporations. It is about contemporary business, economics, societal trends, and technology that happens to be told from the African perspective. It will be made available as a documentary film, and book.


If you find the above concept compelling, you can help make this project a reality by backing it on! Those of you interested in the project who live abroad, email me privately at


The following is an excerpt from a recent interview I conducted with discussing business, entrepreneurship and opportunity in developing countries.

The International Startup Festival is a 3-day event July 11-13, all about the business of Startups. Held in the historic Old Port of Montreal, Canada, the event brings together industry veterans and fresh new faces, creative thinkers, experienced entrepreneurs and technologists from around the world. This year’s speakers include people like Dave McClure (500Startups), Liza Kindred (Third Wave Fashion), Cindy Gallop (, Graham Hill ( and many more.

I’ll be speaking at Startup Fest giving an inside glimpse into how data platforms are changing nations, and how this vision of human and machine collaboration is driving a new generation of tools to cope with today’s information flood.


The most common mistakes most young or first-time entrepreneurs make are completely avoidable – if only they knew what to avoid. Obviously, this is the role that advisors and mentors play to young companies. By sharing their experiences, these mentors help save entrepreneurs the time, the stress, and the money that it would otherwise take to recover.

In fact, this is the main reason I blog at all. When I was starting out, finding information on doing tech business anywhere, much less in Uganda or Africa, was non-existant. I want to help ensure that’s not the case for the next generation of disruptors and thinkers.

This is why recently I launched a new podcast called GosTalk is a show where I share my own business experiences, advice, and tips, to hopefully help others do (or not do) some of the things I have. In my own career I’ve started two companies (Appfrica and MetaLayer), joined another early-stage startup (Ushahidi) as they hit their peak growth period, and invested in a number of other early-stage companies (HiveColab, Abayima). All three were very different experiences and hopefully those experiences will prove useful to others seeking to learn.

If you think you’ll like the show, Subscribe on iTunes here. You can find two episodes below to give you an idea of what to expect.

GosTalk Episode 3 “Getting Things Done” How to stay productive as an entrepreneur and beat procrastination.

GosTalk Episode 5 “Hack the Press!” Jon is in Moscow! In this episode we discuss how to hack PR to make the press you get more effective.

Appfrica is the organizer and facilitator of the second annual Apps4Africa competition which rewards African technologists for developing creative solutions to some of the continent’s most challenging issues. 2011 was the second year we’ve done Apps4Africa, the first year culminated with this congratulatory message from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Last year the theme of the competition was Climate Challenge, which means all the entrants should have focused on solving climate change and adaptation issues that affect their local communities. Over the course of 7 months our teams are going to over 15 countries to support the competition, answering questions and hosting workshops. Since we’re now two thirds through the competition, I wanted to share descriptions of the 6 winners from the East Africa and West/Central regional competitions.

The East Africa winners were announced on January 14th, 2012 at Villages In Action in Kikuube, Uganda. The West/Central Africa winners were announced on December 8th, 2011 in Durban, South Africa at the COP-17 Climate Change Conference.

East Africa Winners

1st prize of $15,000 – The Grainy Bunch by Eric Mutta (Tanzania)
The Grainy Bunch is a national grain supply chain management system that monitors the purchase, storage, distribution, and consumption of grain across the entire nation. It was developed with the understanding that selling “the effects of efficiency” to actors in the grain supply chain is much easier than selling “the effects of climate change”.

Grain is nicknamed the “white oil” which lubricates the engine of Tanzanian growth. Even short-term disturbances in its supply chain adversely affects hundreds of thousands of people. To ensure both food security and economic security for all Tanzanians, a system is required to both monitor and facilitate the supply chain of grain, from the soil to our plates.

2nd prize of $7,000 – Mkulima Bora – Stepheno Maleche, Gerry Nandwa, Joseph Onginjo and Oliver Otieno (Kenya)
Mkulima Bora enables farmers to input the type crop they wish to plant into an app, then it cross-checks meteorological data to determine if the crop is suitable given the timing and location. Mkulima improves farmer yields, saves them time, and money

3rd Prize of $3,000 – Agro Universe – Oliama Brian, Daniel Mumbere, Nabuto Josephine, Bossa Alex, Sanya Duncan, Olwenyi Victor, Kato Charles, Masaba Kizito, Kalema Moses, Namuyiga Winfrey (Uganda)
Agro Universe allows farmers with agriculture products or livestock to alert the app’s community so that they can buy and sell goods from each other. It works on both mobile and the web. The aim of Agro Universe is to create a regional marketplace where products can be sold that may have no demand in the user’s immediate area but that might in areas farther out.

West/Central Africa Winners

1st prize $15,000 – HospitalManager by Victor Ogo Ekwueme (Nigeria)
HospitalManager is a web-based application that helps hospitals and health organizations prepare for disasters such as floods and storms. More frequent heat spells, rains, and floods are leading to heath emergencies, both due to the event itself, and later to water related disease. HospitalManager will help hospitals in Nigeria, and potentially throughout Africa, identify patterns in patient visits following rains and floods, so that staff can better prepare for these situations and save more lives. Hospitals can anticipate incoming disease and emergency patterns using real time climate forecasts. On longer time scales it will allow policy makers to plan locations of new hospitals.

2nd prize $7,000 – Eco-fund Forum by Assane Seck, Guillaume Blandin and Markus Faschina (Senegal)
Eco-fund Forum is a web-based community organizer and geo-localized data exchange tool to help individuals and communities working on sustainable resource management throughout Africa to share their own experiences on best practices. Thus they will better understand and respond to the climate change challenges impacting each specific local context. For example, coastal communities in Senegal that suffer from erosion can learn from neighbors that are successfully and durably overcoming the same problem by regenerating and preserving a littoral forest. Furthermore, the Forum will give those communities a voice which should alert political decision makers to address climate change challenges in time.

3rd prize $3,000 – Farmerline by Alloysius Attah and Emmanuel Owusu Addai (Ghana)
Farmerline is a mobile and web-based system that furnishes farmers and investors with relevant agricultural information to improve productivity and increase income. Lack of information about weather patterns and about which crops grow best in a changing climate hurts rural farmers’ yields. Cell phone use is growing rapidly throughout Ghana, including in rural areas. This mobile tool can help farmers in Ghana to get information about agricultural best practices down to the farm level, including choosing crops best suited for their specific location, and how to prepare for changes in the weather (including dry spells, changes in seasonal onset, and extreme events).

East Africa Honorable Mentions

CoHeW – Geno Juma, Nicholas Mugah
The CoHeW program is designed as an aid to the community health worker (CHWs). The program will have a two pronged approach; it gives stop gap solutions to the respondent and serves as an information gathering tool for the CHWs. The ministry of health and other health administration planners need a source of information on likely occurrences of diseases and projected disease outbreak periods.

AgriRight (Plant it Right) – Nyambura Muhia, Wamahiga Grace, Njeri Winnie, Harun Mwangi
AgriRight is a mobile app that helps farmers plant crops that are right for a particular area.Many farmers, plant crops which are not sustainable for a particular area, which leads to a waste of resources (time, money, energy). They often incur huge losses, reaping very little or no crops at all.

West/Central Africa Honorable Mentions

An application that allows residents report issues like bush burning and deforestation in real time via SMS. It’s a citizen reporting and preparedness project that allows the public to alert the greater community of emergency events.

Mobile Agri Business
Mobile Agribusiness is an agriculture application for farmers to have information, skills and to connect them to available market in real-time in DRCongo. The project aims to create a mobile market place for farmers in Congo.

What’s next for Apps4Africa? Well it’s too soon to say but the Climate Challenge will begin in the Southern Africa region in a few short weeks. Bookmark this post and come back in early April to find out who the Southern Africa regional winners will be! If you’d like to get involved with Apps4Africa or the winners, please email us at Many of the entrants are choosing to open source their code which you can find here on GitHub.

Apps4Africa Reboot!

Jon Gosier —  September 16, 2011 — 2 Comments

Well, it wasn’t a graceful relaunch. Our site went down, a web app we use called JotNote suffered at DDOS attack, and there were other complications, but after 24 hours of debugging and troubleshooting Apps4Africa 2011 is almost underway! Beginning October 1, 2011 the contest will kick off in 5 countries in West Africa, before moving to East Africa (October 20, 2011), ultimately ending with the Southern Africa competition early next year.

apps4africa 2011

The press release from this morning:

As part of our engagement with emerging African partners in addressing the challenge of climate change, the U.S. Department of State will sponsor Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge, a public diplomacy program comprised of three African regional competitions to address local climate change challenges through the use of mobile technology.

In coordination with software developer Appfrica International, the U.S. Department of State will bring civil society, academia and private sector organizations together with African technology innovators to develop applications that address local climate change adaptation challenges. In doing so, we seek to raise African public awareness of climate change adaptation and U.S. involvement in Africa on these issues; support the development of civil society and private-sector networks; and highlight African solutions to local climate change adaptation challenges.

The 2011 competitions are linked to three African regional climate change workshops organized by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State. The workshops are part of the broader Adaptation Partnership, which brings together practitioners and policy-makers to address key adaptation challenges in their region. Climate change issues identified at these workshops will be used to inspire ideas for mobile applications for the competitions.

The Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge builds on the success of the 2010 Apps4Africa: Civic Challenge in which civil society challenged program developers to find innovative technological solutions to everyday problems on issues ranging from transparency and governance to health and education. The 2011 competition begins in Western and Central Africa in September, with Eastern and Southern Africa to follow. Winners will receive prizes, including cash awards. Private partners, including TED and Indigo Trust, are contributing technical assistance, prizes, and follow-on support for the new partnerships created by this platform.

For more information please visit or contact Marissa Rollens, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs, at 202-663-0531 or

This is really exciting for us, as with this contest, Appfrica and HiveColab members will visit a huge portion of the content, to answer your questions and help facilitate local events. Plus we’ll get to meet many of the great minds out there doing great work! Regional outreach events will be held in the following countries.

In West Africa/Central the outreach area will include: Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, DRC and Ghana. In East Africa the outreach area will include: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. In Southern Africa, the outreach area will include South Africa, Botswana, Madagascar and Angola.

Got feedback for us? Share it in our Google Group.

The Grid Launches in Nigeria

Jon Gosier —  November 2, 2009 — 4 Comments

cell_phone The Grid is a geographically aware social network launched in South Africa that allows you to share photos, videos, and information with friends based on where you are. Over the weekend, Vincent Maher announced last week’s launch in Nigeria and a pending launch in Tanzania.

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