Founders Factory expands its corporate-backed accelerator to Africa

Founders Factory out of London is a startup accelerator and incubator which has taken the older US-inspired startup acceleration model and put a European slant on it by going in deep with corporates, who often flounder in the space. After some success out of the UK you would expect them to expand to big markets like the US or Asia, but instead, they have skipped the obvious route and are now branching out into the emerging markets of the African continent.

It’s now partnering with Standard Bank, the largest African bank by assets across 20 African countries to bring the model to Africa.

Founders Factory Africa says it will design, build and scale 100 disruptive tech startups across the continent over the next five years, initially with five early stage startups and co-create two new companies every year within the incubator. To execute the project, they are partnering with Roo Rogers, a former partner of design agency Fuse Projects and CEO of the UK and US governments backed emerging market accelerator SPRING.

Standard Bank will not be the last partner. As FF has done before in the UK, it will bring in other corporates, where each invests several million pounds to grow the project across African markets.

Founders Factory, co-founded by Brent Hoberman and Henry Lane Fox in London in 2015, has so far secured over £100m in funding for its 70 startups and implemented 60 pilots with its corporate partners with 30% securing enterprise contracts and five closing direct investments, they say.

The accelerator will grow existing businesses through a bespoke six-month programme, whilst the incubator will build completely new businesses focused on addressing key issues on the continent. It will be based in Johannesburg and will hire over 40 full-time specialists locally, covering all aspects needed to scale its startups including product development, UX/UI, engineering, investment, business development and, growth marketing.

Henry Lane Fox, Co-Founder and CEO, Founders Factory, said: “The time for Africa is now. As the world’s best partner for founders, we are excited to help empower a new generation of African entrepreneurs to build market-defining technology products.”

Roo Rogers, Co-Founder & CEO Founders Factory Africa, said: “Having worked in Africa for over a decade, I believe success is underpinned by strong collaboration. By harnessing the resources of Africa’s greatest startup entrepreneurs and combining with the operational might of corporates, we will deliver scaled solutions to sub-Sahara’s 1 billion consumers and establish Africa as an attractive destination for global investment.

He told me by phone from Sout Africa that there were huge logistical and infrastructure issues which make Africa a tricky place to scale in, but that he is confident that the corporate-backed accelerator model will succeed where other attempts have failed. “You need existing incumbents here to partner with. But this is not going to be a top-down approach, we will build locally with local teams and local partners in every case.”

Started by Brent Hoberman and Henry Lane Fox, Founders Factory has received investment from Marks & Spencer, L’Oreal, easyJet, Guardian Media Group, Aviva, Holtzbrinck and CSC.

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