Yale Africa Startup Review hosts first in-person event, unveils annual list of 30 African startups
Alumni, editors, entrepreneurs and members of the Yale entrepreneurial community convened for the reveal of the startups selected for YASR30 2023.
Benjamin Hernandez, Contributing Photographer
The Yale Africa Startup Review unveiled its 2023 list of 30 African startups on Thursday at its first in-person event since the digital publication was founded by students at the School of Management in 2021.
YASR is an initiative headed by students and alumni at SOM to attract interested investors to the African startup ecosystem. Every year, the review publishes a list of startups to highlight, selected through its extensive review process. This year’s list features early-stage companies from Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda and Tanzania. In partnership with the School of Management, the review hosted a reception in the Snyder Forum at SOM on Thursday for the reveal of the startups that made the list.
“When we compare the level of investment and venture capital in other regions of the world to Africa, it is still very small, but it’s growing,” said YASR editor-in-chief Fanta Traore SOM ’24. “So that speaks to international strategies evolving and recognizing the value of putting money behind technology, putting money behind innovative ideas that are coming from the African diaspora … and also a recognition that there’s a huge market here that’s untapped that should be tapped into.”
Samuel Kitara SOM ’20, editor and co-founder of YASR, said that he is excited for the review to host an in-person event because the publication started up during the pandemic, involving virtual collaboration from team members in locations such as South Africa, Brazil and San Francisco.
Kitara added that the event will be hybrid, allowing those unable to reach New Haven to still join in on the reception, including the entrepreneurs of the winning startups.
“It’s really just a celebration of community, ” Kitara said. “When we think about the mission of SOM and Yale in the world, it’s very global facing, and [YASR] is emphasizing the Africa part of that global mission.”
According to Kitara, selecting which startups to include in the review’s final list involves four steps. YASR first makes a call for nominations sent to accelerators, incubators, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to ensure that as many of the 55 African countries as possible are represented in the nomination pool. After nominations, the editorial team screens all of the companies through a survey assessing the unique aspects of their products in both a local and global context, before then selecting 50 to 75 finalists. The review then recruits a panel of 10 to 15 judges to cull this group down to the final list of 30 startups.
Kitara said the judges on the panel are selected based on three sets of criteria: namely, that they have a background in venture capital with experience on the African continent, collectively represent the diversity of the different regions on the continent and demonstrate a genuine interest in supporting the Review.
“At the core, it’s really about having a very grassroots-driven process, in the sense that the list starts from folks that are embedded in the ecosystem — as VCs and as entrepreneurs — and ultimately ends with them,” he said.
Kitara also said that the prizes which the review awards are designed to address barriers that the startups face.
Although most of the prizes are non-cash, such as access to partner resources like Amazon Web Services which provides credits to the startups to help cover the costs associated with eligible services, they are intended to help solve any critical barriers to access for the startups.
“Our goal is to create access and get out of the way [to] try and not be an extra gatekeeper,” he told the News.
Lina Kacyem SOM ’21, an editor and co-founder of YASR, said that African startups do not receive an adequate amount of support, financially and otherwise.
She noted, however, that the work of the review aims to shed light on their potential and grant them access to further support.
“What we try really to show is that when you’re thinking about a startup, when you’re thinking about tech, when you’re thinking about development, and changes coming in coming out, these places also matter, these African entrepreneurs matter,” Kacyem said. “So even with that little support, look at what they are able to accomplish. So if we were to turn our gaze a little bit more towards these entrepreneurs, they could accomplish even so much more, because right now, they’re only working with limited resources.”
Now that the list of 30 startups have been selected, they will be matched with teams of two to four students from leading business schools across the globe in a six-week virtual lab known as the African Startup Ecosystem Lab where students will collaborate directly with the founders to work through the challenges of bringing their products to market.
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Correction 4/3: A previous version of this article misidentified Fanta Traore.