As more and more organizations direct support to African startups in their various growth trajectories, Africa is becoming a central hub for startup development globally. Following the same trend of many big tech companies like Amazon Web Services, Oracle, and Google, Microsoft has announced its Startups Founders Hub that will enable new initiatives by the Africa Transformation Office. The Founders Hub will remove traditional barriers that startups face when building a company, and give them free access to technology, coaching, and support to move from one milestone to the next.
The self-service hub aims at providing startups in Africa with a wide range of resources, including access to mentors, skilling content, and tools like Microsoft Azure and GitHub, as well as go-to-market and business support. Through the hub, startups hope to be able to sell to Microsoft’s corporate and enterprise customers. This will offer early-stage startups an opportunity of finding new customers, and also assist with geo-expansion plans and execution, as startups can scale easily by selling to customers in new geographical areas.
Summarily, the hub is expected to offer African startups:
- Access to technology: Through the provision of cloud credits and developer and productivity tools like GitHub to access to Microsoft’s traditional partner ecosystem, technical support and enablement, startups are enabled with the right technology tools to engineer growth. This also includes contact with Microsoft’s engineering and product teams for the purpose of co-innovation.
- Access to markets: With the opportunity of co-selling with Microsoft from the SME Marketplace and the ability to partner with Microsoft on expansion activities, together with access to relevant enterprise and government partners, startups can enlarge their geographical market spread. Microsoft will empower startups to scale to new levels through geographical expansion into new countries and co-selling opportunities.
- Access to investment: Microsoft’s partnerships with venture capital investors will provide qualified startups a greater access to funding.
- Access to skilling enablement: Microsoft will offer startups an easy-to-use, self-contained platform for high-quality upskilling content. From a single interface, startups will be able to access multiple technical, self-paced training, workshops, instructor-led sessions and virtual training.
Speaking about the new development, Gerald Maithya, Startups Lead, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office, says,
The Founders Hub allows Microsoft to engage with accelerators, incubators, and tech hubs across the continent. Our partnerships with key African accelerators provide crucial support to accelerate growth-stage startups with their business development and market expansion plans.
This new initiative of Microsoft under the Africa Transformation Office aims at accelerating the growth of over 10,000 African startups and helping investment to reach remote parts of the African startup ecosystem over the next five years. This follows the announcement of over $500 million in investment funding to help startups to achieve rapid scale. This objective is achieved in partnership with venture capital investors such as Banque Misr, Global Venture Capital, and Get Funded Capital.
Speaking further on the funding opportunities in the program, Gerald continues,
Our goal in establishing these partnerships with venture capital investors is to extend the network of potential partnerships between Microsoft, venture capital investors, and startups, thereby increasing the funding made available to eligible startups.
Through its Africa Transformation Office, Microsoft is partnering with accelerators and incubators like Grindstone, Greenhouse, FlapMax, and Seedstars to provide markets, technical skills, and investment opportunities.
This news comes just a few weeks after Microsoft had announced its partnership with Flapmax to help strengthen and scale Africa’s digital ecosystem with the launch of FAST, a startup accelerator. Startup founders based in Africa are set to join the program’s first accelerator cohort, starting this month, March 2022. FAST is designed to help startups that are building cloud technology and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled products and services supporting Africa’s communities, governments, and companies. Designed by Flapmax in partnership with Microsoft, the FAST program combines business development, technology integration, funding, and community building opportunities designed to enable African startups to scale more rapidly and sustainably. Program participants will work with Microsoft engineering team members on co-innovation projects ranging from product integrations to new offerings. Members of the Flapmax engineering team will help startups apply new technology solutions, including Measure, Coral Imaging, and Fast Portal. Participants will benefit from additional perks including up to $250,000 in Microsoft Azure cloud credits, access to Founders Hub, Dynamics 365, and Microsoft 365 (including Teams).
Without a doubt, greater opportunities across the continent are opening up for African startups to scale and grow. Microsoft is committed to enabling that growth, as with many other big tech companies that see Africa as the future. The Founders Hub program not only promises to help startups to get the needed tools for growth, it also offers them the very platform to experiment and utilize those tools in hacking their growth on the continent.
Startups in Africa can easily apply through the Microsoft platform HERE, for more detailed information.