Early April, the SeedStars Summit took place at Swiss Tech Convention Center in Lausanne. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend it in person. Luckily, a tech and startup enthusiast of my network, Elliot Morisod, was able to jump in and report it here… So thank you Elliot for sharing your experience participating to SeedStars Summit!
You can discover the complete list of SeedStars Summit Startups here.
Seedstars is a Swiss-based group with a mission to impact people’s lives in emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship, with a particular focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Through a variety of worldwide events, acceleration programs and competitions, including the largest startup competition in emerging markets (Seedstars World Competition), Seedstars aims at fostering impact investing and impact entrepreneurship over the world.
Organized in the form of boot camps and conferences, the Summit was divided into 4 intensive days. This year, more 77 startups were showcased during the event, training and working on their pitch. Finally, the top 12 most promising startups were selected to pitch at the event.
After arriving at the SwissTech Convention Center, I received a warm welcome from the Seedstars team, who showed me around the venue.
The afternoon kicked off with Alisée De Tonnac, CEO of Seedstars World, introducing the Summit conferences and the various pitches.
Her team visited more than 80 countries and received more than 800 applications from all over the world, leading up finally to 12 startups pitching to potentially win $500’000.- in equity (plus other prizes).
The first conference, presented by Amar Inamdar and Maanasa Mendu was about CleanTech. Around the world, more than 1 billion people still do not have access to electricity! Entrepreneurs are trying to fight it. This is a clear problem that needs to be solved. Moreover, 80% of the energy we consume every day comes from non-renewable sources. Solutions like solar panels are great, but it only represents 5% of the global energy production around the world, mainly because it needs intense sunlight to function properly.
The “AgriTech Hour” followed, presented by Ines Hamida Mestiri, who explained the importance of water worldwide, especially for irrigation systems and farming. Then it was the turn to the first startup finalist to pitch, Cowtribe, Africa’s first last mile animal vaccine delivery platform, which is delivering safe vaccines to farmers in rural areas.
HealthTech was next, introduced by Tania Douglas, professor of biomedical engineering in Cape Town.
She explained that half of the world lacks proper Healthcare, and that high technology can be a solution to solve this problem. There is a tight link between healthcare and high technology (Kinect being used in hospitals for example). The major problem faced is that usage of this kind of technologies are often not taught well enough to people who will use them (maintenance and repairs for example), especially in emerging markets. Those technologies need to be implemented in the ecosystem seamlessly.
Following was Bluewave Insurances, a microinsurance startup from Kenya, Africa.
The first prizes of $10’000 were then awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation:
- Seedstars Malaria Award was given to Medsaf, from Nigeria;
- Seedstars Vaccine Challenge to Iyeza Health, from South Africa.
Freddy Vega, CEO of Platzi (which is an effective online education in Latin America for the tech space, with 1’000’000 students worldwide and a 70% completion rate), introduced the EdTech session by analyzing teaching in Latin America, specifically for the tech space. His conclusion was that technology is evolving way faster than human adaptability. And therefore we need to teach digital and tech skills more intensively. Nowadays, we cannot assume that our diplomas will be sufficient: we simply cannot stop learning.
The session was then followed by a pitch from Blended, which aims at improving communication between schools and families in Latin America via an online platform.
The EdTech award, worth $50’000, sponsored by HEG Fribourg and Trecc, was then handed to Schoolap, from Congo.
The next hour was about FinTech, introduced by Luis Rodrigues, CTO of Quickcheck.
2.5 billion people lack proper financial services, and 1.7 billion adults lack a bank account worldwide. Banks in developed countries only take deposits, and pay very low interests. They do not help people at all. But, in emerging markets, people usually have a mobile phone, so mobile phones could represent a solution to this problem. Which is – obviously – what Quickcheck does: leveraging technology to give access to proper financial solutions in Africa and Asia.
Next, Paysence’s CEO Prashanth Ranganathan talked about the importance of investing in emerging markets. 80% GDP growth comes from emerging markets, as well as 80% of the world’s population. In his opinion, it’s critical to invest in emerging markets, as these markets will drive the next wave of tech disruption.
The final hour, and the conclusion of the event was about global Innovation. There have been comparisons between Silicon Valley and Emerging Markets, which are two very different markets with big differences regarding scaling, time, and convenience. In Silicon Valley for instance, people spend money for convenience, which is not the case in emerging markets. You cannot copy/paste the Silicon Valley model in Emerging Markets.
Before handing the final prizes, Seedstars announced that they are launching a $100M sub-Saharan Africa venture fund in partnership with First Growth Ventures’ founders Tamim El Zein and Maxime Bouan. The fund will focus on early-stage investments from USD 250’000 to USD 5M in the most promising innovative ventures across sectors and countries.
- Public prize, sponsored by Canton de Vaud: YNMO, from Saudi Arabia;
- Innovation prize, sponsored by Tag Heuer: Wobot, from India;
- Life Sciences Prize, sponsored by Merck: Oxpecker Labs, from Hong Kong
- Empowerment prize, sponsored by Rising Tide Foundation: 7Keema, from Egypt
- Seedstars Global Prize of $500’000: Blended, from Argentina, the leading school platform in Latin America. Blended improves communication between schools and families with a simple technology.
The event was a great opportunity for the world to see that emerging markets have a lot to offer. They foster great entrepreneurial mindsets that truly want to provide disruption in their community. As an endnote, we can cite this quote from Shailendra Singh (Sequoia):
In the emerging markets, you’re in a maze. There is less strong incumbents & more white space that you can go after. So be fast & mutate a lot.
Discover the complete list of SeedStars Summit startups here.
And finally, the after movie: