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Traditional Accelerator Models Don’t Work in Africa

Accelerator programmes for African tech startups are slowly moving away from the batch-based “Silicon Valley approach” in favour of on-demand, needs-based, and corporate-supported models. The classic accelerator model, established in Silicon Valley and Europe by the likes of Y Combinator and 500 Startups, sees acceleration firms take significant stakes in startups in exchange for some advice, mentorship, connections and, in some cases, a small amount of funding. They typically see large numbers of startups take part in short, batch-based programmes that conclude with a demo day. Yet this “spray and pray” approach has not really worked in Africa. 88mph, which ran programmes in Nairobi, Cape Town and Lagos, closed its doors after minimal success, and increasingly accelerator programmes on the continent are more niche-focused like, say, Injini or AlphaCode, look at later-stage businesses, like Knife Capital’s Grindstone, or choose different models altogether. Alina Truhina is chief strategic officer at Founders Factory Africa, which launched in Johannesburg in 2018, from where it plans to design, build and scale 100 disruptive tech startups across Africa over the next five years in partnership with corporates such as Standard Bank and Netcare. She says the traditional accelerator model does not work in Africa because entrepreneurs on the continent require “concrete and tangible support” in building their product, tech, talent, growth solutions and their business as a whole.