MEST Cape Town and Innocircle Welcome Airbus #Africa4Future Accelerator

Lundie Strom, Wednesday May 22nd 2019

From May 3-15, 2019, MEST and Innocircle hosted the Airbus BizLab #Africa4Future Accelerator, in partnership with GIZ Make-IT in Africa, at the MEST incubator in Cape Town. For almost two weeks, ten aerospace startups gathered for interactive workshops, informative speaker sessions and business skills development activities surrounding UAVs, artificial intelligence, and computing.

The impressive group of innovators ranged from bespoke drone building company Lentera Limited, founded by Moses Kimani, to Mamabird, a company that aims to bring maternity care packages to places with limited medical resources via drone -  founded by Thomas Lauzon and Eugene Maseya. The list of participants also boasted:

  1. Edmond Nonie, Track Your Build
  2. Jaco du Preez, WiPo (Wireless Power)
  3. Tizzita Tefera and Fassika Fikre Hailemeskel, Maisha
  4. Boubacar Youssouf Keita, MAP Action
  5. Kush Gadhia, Astral Aerial
  6. Arnaud and Leon Malan, Elemental Numerics

You can read more about the companies here.

For the first week, the program led the startups through trainings on topics spanning from product market fit to financial modeling and growth strategy. Workshops included "Realising the Business Potential: positioning the company for investors" led by Andrea Böhmert and Keet van Zyl from KnifeCapital, and "Market Positioning and Messaging" led by Catherine Young from ThinkRoom.

The program’s second week culminated in three events that brought the startups together with fellow entrepreneurs, startup founders and VCs to provide further opportunities for collaboration. The VIP Launch on Thursday, May 9, facilitated networking and an informal long-table discussion surrounding the program’s three key topics: investment in Africa, smart cities and villages, and food security.

Ellen Fischat of Innocircle, who led the evening's activities, told us, "The diversity of the group resulted in robust and passionate debate around the topics. Despite the diverse perspectives, the shared vision of potential solutions and partnerships for these challenges was very encouraging, and set the tone for a positive and engaging spirit for the following Summit Days."

Thursday's conversations led seamlessly into Friday’s Summit Day on May 10, which welcomed renowned speakers from the aerospace industry to contribute their expert insights. Following a thoughtful all-female panel discussion, the #Africa4Future startups were given the opportunity to present their solutions to some of Africa's major challenges to the audience.

Read more about our key takeaways from the Summit Day here.

Kush Gadhia, Astral Aerial

Saturday, May 11, finally brought the group to the Cape Academy of Maths and Technology in Constantia for a day of prototype showcasing and learning activities. Student learners from Cape Academy joined groups of startup founders and relevant ecosystem players to return to discussions around the three key themes of investment in Africa, smart cities and villages, and food security.

When asked what the biggest takeaway of the program has been for him, Co-Creator of Bizlab’s #Africa4Future, Rey Buckman, said, “The biggest success of the overall program for me, which became real here in Cape Town, is the collaboration potential among the startups. One of the ideas that emerged is a sort of ‘drone for future consortium,’ - looking at how the startups among themselves can create links across Africa that they can use to network, exchange knowledge, lobby together, and attract funding.”

MEST Africa's Director of Global Operations and Programs, Celine Duros, agreed. “I feel like we’re really building an alumni network that is actually going to have an impact - this could be the next group of people lobbying to actually transform how aerospace technology is used, [and] the regulations around it. I also loved the involvement of the students here today, because while I think we were able to help raise awareness [about STEM] for them, they were actually the ones teaching us.”

Perhaps the most resounding takeaway for the facilitators and startups alike, however, was the human aspect of the program. Co-Founder of Innocircle Karen Eksteen told us, “For me, personally, learning about what is happening in each delegate’s country and getting more intimate insight to the challenges faced in each country is so interesting. It was not just skills development for them, but skills development for me as well.”

“People are such an incredible resource,” Stephen Burke, Airbus Bizlab coach, added. “We’re all incredibly different, and to have a situation where you can meet people from different communities and have open and honest discussions can teach you an enormous amount. There is an incredible power to be had in diversity.”

To learn more about the incredible work the #Africa4Future startups are doing for Africa’s aerospace industry, click here. We look forward to seeing what they all go on to accomplish!

Tizzita Tefera and Fassika Fikre Hailemeskel