Uganda's Innovation Village to launch startup fund


The Innovation Village, a hub and incubator in Kampala, is launching a startup fund. Dubbed The 97, the fund will focus on startups that find it hard to get early stage investment.

"For a long time, a standard approach to nurturing innovators has been through innovation competitions and award ceremonies," writes the Innovation Village. But, these "focus on the top 3 winners out of 100 submissions".

"In trying to answer what happens to the 97 ventures, we built The Innovation Village to be a destination they call home."

The fund, thus, will continue with that vision of giving support to that group.

"The entrepreneur we are looking for is one whose venture or idea might not get to see the light of day if we don't intervene," says Japheth Kawanguzi, founder of the Innovation Village.

The fund is at formalization stage. Though they are already having conversations with investors, and one has committed. The fund will have a combination of individual and institutional investors.

Usually, funds have a size or a target they look to raise. The 97 is different, for now. According to Japheth, they are leaving it open-ended. "It is an open-ended fund, not your typical $10M to $20M fund. That is because it is our first fund and we are experimenting a lot."

As an early stage fund, the funding they will provide will go towards those at idea or prototyping. They will thus be looking to write ticket sizes not more than $100,000.

The Innovation Village launching a fund is not an exception. Instead, it is becoming the rule across the continent. Especially as hubs are being forced to create an ecosystem around themselves.

There's is, therefore, a growing blurred line between a hub, an accelerator, an incubator and an early-stage investor.

Nigeria's Co-creation Hub and Ghana's MEST are among the hubs to adopt this arrangement. The former launched a growth fund three years ago which has invested in LifeBank, Riby, Edves and more.

While MEST invests up to $100,000 per startup that it incubates. This year, they invested a total of $700,000 into 7 startups that participated in their accelerator program.

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