Lagos-based accelerator and Venture capital firm Itanna on Friday held its first Demo day. The event was a culmination of a four-month programme for “text-enabled, for-profit” African startups.
Itanna is the venture capital platform for Nigerian conglomerate, Honeywell Group, that began operations in August 2018. Four startups, chosen out of 200 applications from around the continent, made up Itanna’s first cohort companies. These four startups received training and mentorship from leading industry experts in the form of UI/UX Sessions, legal and HR workshops, classes on technology, business and marketing, reviews of revenue/pricing model and operational metrics, mentorship sessions and guest lectures from some of Nigeria’s most renowned entrepreneurs and business icons.
The startups, Accounteer which provide online accounting services for SMEs across Africa, KoloPay , a cashless target savings mobile and web application, Tradebuza, an online platform for managing and brokering commodities sourcing and outgrower scheme, and PowerCube, providers of affordable power supply using renewable energy, all made pitches to Honeywell Group’s network of investors. Each startup also receives $25,000 in investment from The Honeywell Group.
A step in the journey of Honeywell Group’s reinvention through its new innovation strategy, Itanna’s Demo Day also hosted a panel of leading players in the Nigerian tech and business ecosystems, who discussed the role of corporate Nigeria in achieving win-win collaborations with tech startups. Panelists included Deji Oguntonade, Head Fintech & Innovation, Guaranty Trust Bank, Lola Ekugo, Head Digital Innovation Lab, First Bank, Obi Emetatom, Managing Director, Appzone and Seun Faluyi, Managing Director, Uraga Power Solutions.
Honeywell Group’s Executive Director, Obafemi Otudeko, expressed his satisfaction with Itanna’s first accelerator programme, while also revealing plans to extend its influence beyond Nigeria. “Itanna has exceeded our expectations as we look to cement our position as a facilitator and impactor of growth in key sectors, including tech within Nigeria and across Africa” he said.
Plans are already underway for the second cohort intake in the second quarter of 2019. Itanna is hoping to invest in more developed tech startups looking for growth capital with its direct investment arm, with the hopes of harnessing Honeywell group’s extensive network and industry expertise. Director of Itanna, Tomi Otudeko, who’s also Head of Sustainability at Honeywell Group, said the accelerator programme of Itanna is looking ignite other sectors of the economy in the country in its next cohort. She said the accelerator programme isn’t looking for numbers, but as long as startups have “fantastic founders who have pan-African potential and already some level of attraction and have everything in place.”
Itanna’s partners include MEST, First Registrars, Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie and Hans and Rene. Itanna’s directors expressed their satisfaction for how the programme has been able to bridge a gap between tech startups and corporate Nigeria. “Over the last four months, the entire team at Itanna, along with our strategic partners and the Honeywell Group, have committed to creating a professional environment where businesses can learn from experts in their field and build innovative and dynamic businesses of the future,” Tomi said.
Tony Idugboe, Vice President, Head of Investments at Itanna concludes, “Our Cohort have shown true enthusiasm and entrepreneurs – which investors search for. In preparing to secure investment, they have learned to plan, be patient and show flexibility and of course, showcase phenomenal pitching skills, Demo Day has given them the confidence to embark on the next stage of their entrepreneurial journey. We wish them all the very best”.