Safaricom, M-PESA Africa, and Sumitomo Corporation are thrilled to announce the launch of the latest edition of the Spark Accelerator in Kenya. The initiative aims to bolster early-stage fintech and content startups, propelling them toward accelerated growth.
Originally introduced in 2014, the Spark Venture Fund by Safaricom has been a driving force, investing in and supporting late-seed, early growth stage companies in Kenya. With an initial US$1 million fund, it successfully backed six Kenyan startups, including Sendy, Lynk, Ajua, Eneza, iProcure, and FarmDrive. The 2020 announcement of a second fund laid the foundation for the current collaboration with M-PESA Africa and Sumitomo Corporation.
In this exciting venture, the three-month accelerator program promises a dynamic mix of training, mentorship, funding, and go-to-market support. The overarching goal is to ignite the growth and scale of participating ventures, setting them on a path to long-term success.
This revamped program goes beyond mere capital injection, as highlighted by Peter Ndegwa, CEO of Safaricom, who stated, “The Spark Accelerator program is in line with our ambition to be a purpose-led technology company. We have restructured the program to address the challenges hindering early startups from growing to scale.”
Sumitomo Corporation, a Fortune 500 global trading and business investment giant, brings its extensive business experience to the table. Katsuya Kashiki, General Manager of the Smart Communications Platform Business Division at Sumitomo, expressed confidence that their contribution would foster innovative businesses and support the expansion of the startup ecosystem, ultimately contributing to the development of the African economy.
The program’s focus on fintech and content startups in their initial phase is complemented by an ecosystem-based approach. A team of experts well-versed in market dynamics and emerging tech will drive the identification and acceleration of startups, fostering a culture of continuous innovation.
Participating startups are in for a treat, gaining access and technical support to develop mini-apps embedded into Safaricom’s M-PESA Super App. This move empowers them to reach over four million customers using the app, tapping into M-PESA’s vast network connecting more than 60 million customers and five million businesses across eight countries.
Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, MD of M-PESA Africa, emphasized the unique opportunity for startups in Africa to grow and scale rapidly through the Spark Accelerator. “Startups will create innovations that connect customers and businesses on M-PESA to more opportunities while providing them with even more value,” he said.
M-PESA Africa will extend its support beyond the three-month program, offering expertise, market research, insights, and additional capacity support for startups eyeing expansion into other countries. With access to more than 60 million customers and five million businesses across M-PESA’s eight markets, the collaboration holds significant promise.
The accelerator program’s grand finale will feature an investor demo day, allowing startups to pitch for investment from Safaricom and partner venture capital firms. Serving as the implementing partner of the Spark Accelerator is iHub, a trailblazer within Kenya’s startup ecosystem and a subsidiary of Co-Creation Hub (CcHub).