Announcing the 2012 Cameroon Startup Challenge

Press Release: Amsterdam – Mon, May 7, 2012 9:00 AM CET

Today, VC4Africa, the largest online community of venture capitalists, angels and entrepreneurs dedicated to building businesses in Africa, and Sanaga Ventures, an early stage investment firm with a focus on African tech ventures, launched the Cameroon Startup Challenge. The competition offers a cash prize of USD $5,000 for the most innovative web, mobile or hardware-based business venture in Cameroon. As an additional benefit, the winning venture is eligible to be incubated at ActivSpaces, Cameroon’s leading technology hub, and receive ongoing support, oversight, services and mentoring. An awards ceremony will be held in Cameroon at the close of the challenge with the top three startups, participants, judges, invited guests, a video crew and local press. Entries will be accepted from May 7th – July 6th, 2012.

“The purpose of this competition is to encourage innovation across the technology sector in Cameroon and showcase the talents of the country’s top entrepreneurs,” said Bill Zimmerman, co-founder of VC4Africa and principal in Sanaga Ventures. “We’re enthusiastic about this challenge and feel strongly that we’ll see some promising startups rise to the occasion,” he added.

Sanaga Ventures is coordinating the competition and providing seed money for the winning venture. The prize money is a one-time grant and is not in exchange for equity. Follow-on funding may be available to the founder of the winning venture if it demonstrates traction and social validation in the marketplace. Established in 2011, Sanaga Ventures is an investment firm based in the Netherlands which provides seed finance, coaching and support to mobile application developers, web startups and innovative ventures in West and Central Africa.

“We have seen so many innovations come from this space. VC4Africa has an outstanding technical team based in Buea and they are the foundation for one of the continent’s most entrepreneurial online communities,” said Ben White, founder of VCAfrica and principal in Sanaga Ventures. “Innovation can come from anywhere in the world, and the next global company might very well be from Cameroon. We want to do what we can to make that happen.”

Entry Criteria

  • Entrants must be registered VC4Africa members and post a venture in order to be considered
  • Entries must be submitted in English
  • Ventures must include a video pitch (1-2 minutes max length is recommended) from the founder(s) in order to be considered
  • Entries must be designed for deployment or currently operational in Cameroon
  • Entries must have a functional prototype or minimal viable product offering

How to enter

Entrants who do not have an account on VC4Africa may register for free by signing-in at VC4Africa.biz with Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. New members pass through a rudimentary check by site administrators. Once approved, proceed to the Ventures section and click ‘Start Your Own Venture.’ Proceed through the Plan Cruncher steps (be sure to include a logo or representative image), mark your location on the map and submit your venture. All ventures pass through a basic screening process and will be checked for completeness before being made available to the public. Please include the following documentation in the ‘Documents’ section of your venture (note that these are only visible to VC4Africa admins, competition judges and registered investors):

  1. Solution description
  2. Sustainability plan
  3. Pilot testing plan

The ‘Team’ tab on the published venture may be used to include links to the profile pages of key people involved with or contributing to the venture. All founders and team members are strongly encouraged to provide links to their social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter), if available.

Who is eligible?

Individuals, companies, informal groups and organisations whose primary base of operation are in Cameroon are welcome to enter the challenge.

Success criteria

The judging panel, made up of the principals of Sanaga Ventures, VC4Africa directors, representatives from ActivSpaces, AppsTech and special invited guests will assess the entries based on the following criteria:

  • Value to the potential user – What problem does your product or service solve for your customer?
  • Innovation – How does the entry use technology to provide creative solutions to existing problems? Which sector does it aim to disrupt?
  • Ease of use and deployment – How easy is it for a non-technical user to understand and benefit from your innovation? What is required to deploy the solution?
  • Stability and scalability – How easy is it to add increasing numbers of users or customers to the system?
  • Business case and revenue model – How viable is the long-term plan for meeting operational costs?
  • Viable pilot testing plan – What criteria will the founder(s) use to judge the success of the pilot test?
  • Team – Is the venture led by a single founder, or a team of individuals with complementary skills?

Prize

A one-time cash prize of USD $5,000 will be awarded to the winning entry. First and second runners-up will be recognized with smaller cash prizes.

Opening and closing dates

The startup challenge opens May 7th, 2012 and closes July 6th, 2012 at midnight CET.

Judging panel

These individuals have agreed to participate in evaluation and selection of the winning venture and the first and second runners-up:

  1. Rebecca Enonchong – CEO, AppsTech
  2. Georges Mpoudi – CIO, MTN Cameroon
  3. Al Banda – Community Manager, ActivSpaces Cameroon
  4. Edouard Tamba – Web Manager, Afriland First Bank Group
  5. Joel Nlepe – Founder, 9Ideas Conference
  6. Marcel Neutel – Investment Officer, Cenainvest
  7. Bill Zimmerman – Co-Founder, Sanaga Ventures
  8. Ben White – Co-Founder, Sanaga Ventures
  9. Arnout Kroezen – Director of Finance, VC4Africa
  10. Saskia Reus – Director of Investor Relations, VC4Africa
  11. Mieke Langenberg – Regional Coordinator, LiveBuild
  12. Raoul Kouamou – Financial Analyst, Morgan Stanley

Support Centers

The following support centers have agreed to open their doors to assist candidates with their business cases, sustainability plans, video pitches and so on:

  1. ActivSpaces (Buea, Cameroon) Email: info@activspaces.com / Tel: +237 33323554
  2. Jonathan Marks – Critical Distance Media Lab, video pitch coaching (Netherlands)
  3. Ecole Nationale Supérieure Polytechnique de Yaoundé (Yaoundé, Cameroon)
  4. Big Steps Outreach Network
  5. DESA
  6. AIESEC Cameroon
  7. INFINITY-Space

Entrants are encouraged to contact these partners directly.

Contact Information

Bill Zimmerman, bill@sanagaventures.com
Twitter: @billzimmerman

Ben White, ben@sanagaventures.com
Twitter: @zia505

Media

High-resolution logos and a multimedia gallery available:
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B0oyuAnjwFqFMEE0d0NnOHBLcTA