Agriculture Automation Startup Wins The Day At Seedstars Nairobi Event

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Nine Kenyan startups got the chance to pitch their businesses to a jury with hopes of being crowned winners of Seedstars World Nairobi. Other than being crowned the winner, the top startup also gets the chance to go to Switzerland to represent their startup and country at the global finals. The final is a week long event which not only gives them the chance to meet with investors, network and grow their business, they can also walk away with up to $1.5 Million in equity investment.

The local event which happened at the iHub on 2nd October brought together group of brilliant minds with growing businesses together, in hopes of getting investors and partners on board. The jury at the pitching event was made up of industry leaders including Aaron Fu, Managing Partner for Africa at Nest VC, Josiah Mugambi, Executive director at iHub  Veronica Ogeto-Tchoketch, Head of Innovation at Safaricom , Mercello Schermer, Regional Manager for Africa, Seedstars World among others.

Here is a breakdown of the top founders and startups that pitched to the jury on Friday;

Totohealth

Marketing Director at Totohealth, Malele Ngalu
Marketing Director at Totohealth, Malele Ngalu

Totohealth’s purpose is to help reduce maternal and child mortality rates and detects developmental abnormalities in early stages of a baby’s life. They use community health volunteers in counties to register parents to the platform in order for them to start receiving timely text messages tailored to the stage of pregnancy or age of the child and schedule and send reminders on appointments. Using the platform, a parent can also perform some diagnostics on a child to know whether to rush to a clinic immediately or perform first aid on the child. So far, they have over 15,000 parents registered on the platform with hopes of getting more and more parents on board across the country.

According to their marketing director Malele Ngalu, they have recently developed a kit for the parents that comes with basic supplies to be used by the parent in the care of a new born baby with the aim of reducing mortality rates from preventable causes. They were seeking investment opportunity to put the kit in production and recruit more people to help expand and register more parents. They were placed third in the pitching event.

Lynk

CEO Adam Grünewald, Lynk
CEO Adam Grünewald, Lynk

Lynk saw a problem in the informal sector. According to CEO and founder Adam Grünewald, the relationship between households and informal workers (i.e. cleaners, plumbers, electricians) is broken. He says that a household owner can have problems getting someone they trust to do a task around the house, especially if they are new in the area. On the side of the worker, job security, fair wages and a safe work environment is a problem that they face. Many at times, they would sit outside in hopes that someone would hire them without prior knowledge of them or their quality of work. He says that Lynk is a platform that is designed to address the these and more issues, therefore creating a network of professionals that grows over time.

They want to plug in to the referral networks that exist currently to grow the application. From this, it is clear to say that the competition they face is the status quo. When you need a fundi, you will probably ask your friend who had some work done to refer you to the fundi or cleaner they used. Getting people to use the application for the same purpose is one of the hurdles that they face. However they seem to be doing well so far with 35,000 users signed on. They make money on commission. The average cost for a job is Kshs 280, where they charge 10% commission. They hoped to win in order to raise funds to branch out into other cities in Kenya, and eventually in major cities in Africa, but only manage to come in second at the pitching event.

Lipa Card

Very charismatic CEO, Lipa Card, Victor Mutua
Very charismatic CEO, Lipa Card, Victor Mutua

Victor Mutua’s pitch was no doubt the most energetic and genuinely captivating pitch of them all. This and his wonderful product got him the public’s vote. As described by the charismatic CEO, Lipa card, a tech startup founded at the beginning of last year, provides for a cashless transaction platform for students. It uses NFC technology for the cards and incorporates mobile money into the solution. According to Victor, the card is meant to solve the inefficiency and uncertainty giving students pocket money without being completely sure of where it is being used.

Currently, merchants in school canteens are given NFC enabled devices in order to accept payment from the student’s cards. Cards are loaded by the parents using mobile money. For now, the students in schools using this system are getting the cards for free and can only use them in their school canteens. However, Victor says that there are plans to start charging a small fee for the cards and allowing the card to be used in many other different schools especially during events where students from different schools meet each other at various locations, commonly referred to as ‘funkies’. They face competition from services such as Paykind so it will be interesting to see how they  will fair in this space.

Illuminum Greenhouses

Taita Ngetich (left) being handed his ticket to Switzerland by Regional Managers for Africa, Seedstar World, Marcello Schermer and Gregory Pepper (right)
Taita Ngetich (left) being handed his ticket to Switzerland by Regional Managers for Africa, Seedstar World, Marcello Schermer and Gregory Pepper (right)

Perhaps the major contributor to our country’s economy, farming is still riddled with a lot of inefficiencies leading to widespread loss of capital invested in farms, under-utilization of farm resources and general mismanagement of production. With many small scale farmers depending on agriculture, many are looking towards making this process more efficient and productive.

Illuminum Greenhouses have come up with a variety of products to make farming a cost effective venture for whatever size of farm the farmer has. From drip irrigation products to greenhouses that use sensor technology to regulate the moisture content in the green houses, Taita Ngetich, Head of Operations and Engineering said that they have helped farmers reduce the amount of water used in their farms as well as seeing a significant increase of crop yield since the use of their products.

With hopes of expanding to Asia and having the ability of cutting costs in production, the chance to win some equity investment offered through Seedstars world would go a long way. Therefore it was fortunate for them to have emerged the winners last Friday and have the chance to travel to Switzerland to present his company and get investors on board and grow. This was a startup that I was indeed excited about because of the potential of the impact can have by using technology in farming.

Other startups that got the chance to pitch at the event included Sufuria, which is a company that is aiming to cut down time spent in preparing a meal and also removing the guess work by giving you proven and tested recipes with easy to follow instruction according to CEO Njuru. He also said that they plan on selling and delivering meal boxes with pre-prepared ingredients for any chosen recipe.Tech Republic also got to pitch with their plans of expanding the content and resources the need in their innovation camps. Amanda a co-founder of Tech Republic, reiterated her passion and dedication in teaching and cultivating kids’ interest in STEM subjects. Jared Babu, founder and CEO of Adlink also got to present on his startup, a company that allows SME’s and individuals to book their offline ads, online. They seek to manage your offline ads for example on noticeboard around the city for you, allowing for a wider reach. Finally there was Mobidawa, a startup that seeks to help distinguish genuine medication from counterfeits among other features and Pythias, a company that uses links your social media identity with several of your service providers allowing you to inquire for services using natural language among other features.

The top three startups will also get 3 months of technical assistance from Founders Hive, 2 months of Short Code keywords, USSD shared channels, Virtual phone numbers and Usage credit from Africa’s Talking among other in-kind prizes. We wish Illuminum Greenhouses all the best at the week long event next year.

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