What’s the eligibility criteria?
Do we have to be incorporated in Africa?
No. We understand that incorporating in other jurisdictions, such as the US, may be more favourable for investors, you just need to have a presence in Africa.
Do you only back African startups?
Yes. We are a tech accelerator for Africa. We don’t mind if your target market is outside the continent, as long as you are based in Africa and are led and run by an African team.
Can we apply with just an idea?
We prefer to see tech-oriented startups that have built a minimum viable product (MVP) and have some early traction. If you are at the idea stage, you should at least have validated market demand for the product or service. The validation can be in the form of sign-ups from users, a client waiting list that can be verified, offline purchases and other types of evidence confirming that customers are willing to pay for your product.
Do we have to be already incorporated as a company?
No, we can help with the incorporation process.
We have been operational for a while now, would you still consider us early stage?
We understand that it may take time to figure out your product and/or market, what we’d want to see is a business model that has the potential to scale rapidly and achieve strong returns. We also typically prefer being the first investor after family and friends.
Do you only work with startups that build software?
No, we will consider any startup that uses technology to solve crucial problems around them. We are open to other tech-enabled solutions such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) as well as using other existing technology tools to create efficiencies.
Do you focus on any specific sectors?
We are mostly sector agnostic with a preference for sectors that have the potential to create impact i.e. we would unlikely invest in sectors such as gambling, alcohol etc.
Are non-profit organizations eligible for the accelerator programme?
Unfortunately not, we only work with for-profit organisations.
Do you work with solo founders?
Yes, we generally prefer teams to solo founders but are still open to applications from those who don’t have co-founders.
We don’t have a technical founder but our solution works, is this okay?
It’s important to have the ability to build your product in-house and we would want to see this. Having a technical founder is not mandatory but we like to work with a founding team that has the relevant experience and knowledge in their respective field/sector.
We build custom software and websites for companies, can we apply?
At the moment, we can only back tech-creating or tech-enabled businesses with the potential to scale. This would usually not include agencies that provide custom website/app development or digital marketing services.
What makes a strong application?
How do we assess startups?
We consider the following questions internally when assessing whether we will accept a startup into our programme:
- Market knowledge and domain expertise: Does your founding team have a deep understanding of the market you are operating in? Are you aware of customer behaviour and trends?
- Ability to execute: can your team hit the ground running and get things done?
- Grit: building a company is not easy, does your team have the passion and focus to get through the hard times?
- Team dynamic: are you (and your co-founders) intentional about building a great culture that can attract top talent and enable employees to feel engaged, motivated and empowered to grow?
- Purpose-driven: does your team have a clear vision of the kind of impact they’d want to make?
- Revenue generation: has your startup clearly identified the revenue streams; both today and in the future?
- Traction: is the product uptake promising? Are the business key metrics (such as user sign up, GMV etc) growing?
- Scalability: can you replicate your success in other geographical or vertical markets?
- Unit economics: is your business financially sustainable; i.e. profitable or have a clear path to profitability?
- Simplicity: is the product intuitive to your users? Does the product clearly solve a problem and is this obvious to users?
- Clear roadmap: is your team aware of what you need to improve and the features/offerings that you would want to add?
- Data-driven: is your team proactive in collecting customer feedback and updating their features/offerings based on the data that is available to them?
- Market size: is the available and obtainable market significant and growing?
- Market trends: What are some key trends that would favour your startup? What are the risks in this market and how is your team hedging against them?
- Competitive landscape: who are the other key players in the market? How is your startup uniquely positioned when compared to these players?
The Baobab Network Factor
- Fit: are we excited to work with your startup and team? Do we think your startup will be a good addition to our network?
- Timing: Is this the right time for us to engage with your startup?
Can I talk to someone in the team and see if my application is okay?
We receive thousands of applications and unfortunately don’t have the capacity to provide feedback before receiving your application. If you meet the eligibility criteria, we highly encourage you to apply. You can use the above questions as guidelines to strengthen your application. We try our best to provide feedback during the shortlisting process.
How does your application process work?
What language can I apply with?
Applications and all documents (pitch decks and financial projections) should be in English. We understand that not everybody’s English is their first language, but sending applications in English will ensure all team members can review them. For language translation, you can use Google translate.
What time of the year should I apply to the programme?
Our programme intake is on a cohort basis. You can check here to stay up to date on when we are taking applications for each intake.
I don’t have some of the information that you require in the application form, can I still complete my application?
Most of the information we require is really useful for us when considering your application. The more of the application form you can complete, the better since this will help our review process, a completed form will make the strongest application. However, if things are in working progress, let us know in the form.
Should I apply again after being rejected?
Definitely yes! You are welcome to apply more than once if your company meet our eligibility criteria. Most of our successful founders make significant progress on their business, re-apply and get accepted to upcoming cohorts. It is advisable to check the reasons we sent for rejection and work on them before applying; this will give you a competitive edge over other applicants.
I have applied and haven’t heard back! When will I get an answer?
We receive thousands of applications for our cohorts. Our team reviews applications personally, and it may take up few weeks to get feedback. It takes between 4 and 12 weeks on average, and we will reach out to you within this time on the next steps.
What are our terms and conditions?
Do we take equity in the startups that we work with?
We take 12.5% equity in each startup in exchange for the support and services offered throughout our acceleration programme along with the $100,000 USD investment.
Are our terms negotiable?
We have a standard deal for every startup that we accept into the programme.
Do we disburse your funding in tranches?
We inject the $100,000 USD funding into each startup in one lump sum at the beginning of the accelerator programme.
How does the accelerator programme work?
When does the accelerator start?
We have several cohorts every year, please check the website regularly or follow us on our social platforms to stay up to date on the dates.
Where is the accelerator programme based?
Each accelerator programme starts with 2 weeks of intensive consulting from The Baobab Network, followed by 3 months of hands-on support from our venture partners and our network of partners/experts. The programme is remote to ensure founders are not taken away from their businesses for extended periods of time.
What is a venture partner?
Venture Partners are individuals with relevant startup experience across Africa. They are responsible for managing the startup’s acceleration programme and work remotely to provide strategic advice and hands-on support. The Venture Partner will help leverage the skills and experience of the wider Baobab Network team and our global network of corporate and investment partners.
Do you take a seat on the board of startups you work with?
No, we don’t. We provide as much advice and support as we can but at the end of the day, we trust our founders are best placed to steer their companies.