A few months back, thecamp's Accelerator Village by CAAP team decided to go scout startups on the field in the areas of sustainable food and mobility. So they organized a Road Show Pitch Contest taking them to Italy, Senegal and France. Startup Program Manager Pashû Christensen tells you all about it.
Dive-in Dakar City Life
Waking up in Dakar was not what I expected. The sky was smoggy, most buildings under construction and the streets were buzzing with people, workers, students, children and women sweeping up the dust from their terraces at 7am. We arrived late at night the day before with Laetitia for a 2-day stay to host our Pitch Contest with the aim to recruit food and mobility radical entrepreneurs to join our 3 month incubation program Climb at thecamp.
The grey and smoggy skies quickly have given way to what is known here as ‘Terranga’, the capacity that every Senegalese seems to carry to welcome foreigners to their country.
We were as impressed by the entrepreneurs we met, the professionals supporting the startup ecosystem (our peers) as well as our jury members who happened to work for the government and for a University in Dakar. We could not hope for a better outcome from our visit.
The 30% robusta 70% arabica coffee served for breakfast gave us the needed boost for a successful preparation day before the D-day.
Some of the local organizations we visited during our stay:
As we headed for our first meeting with our host and partner Jokkolabs we came across Sup’Info a school training high school students and over to media, digital and coding with over 1200 students per year right here in the center of Dakar since 1992 which gathers the interest of major Silicon Valley companies who have joined program with the school and signed partnerships where they come visit the students everyway and provide some of the material (software and hardware). We mentioned our event the next day at JokkoLabs and they promised us to share with their students, which they did since we had the pleasure to welcome several of them the next day!
We headed to JokkoLabs, the ‘social-change hub’ led by two passionate and dedicated women: Fatoumata Niang Niox and Ndèye Yande Thiam. Between the two of them, they probably know and are known by the entire country startup scene, but not only. Fatoumata invited the minister of innovation and digital Affairs to join the jury, she also invited an eminent geography and agro professor at the University of Dakar. Jookolab is located in a 3 story building. The space is white and green with large windows everywhere, a collective kitchen, an outdoor patio and stickers of hundreds of international organizations which came through the space ranging from Google Ventures to Ashoka Foundation. As we prepared our slides and finalized the preparation with the entrepreneurs and jury members we enjoyed the friendly, cool and international atmosphere of the space until we heard people scream outside…Senegal is winning!! Even though this was (only) the qualifications, time stopped here and as we were on our taxi back to the hotel the streets were filling up with people screaming of happiness, waving Senegalese flags, wearing the soccer team T-shirt and smiling like it was one of the most beautiful day in their lives. Soccer means a lot here, I can’t even imagine how the city will turn if they win the world cup!
Located in the busy city center in ‘Le Plateau’ neighborhood, after passing the security gates, it’s a pleasure to discover a lush green garden with an outdoor amphitheater, restaurant, bookstore and local craft store. In Senegal, the Institut français participates in the sharing of French intellectual creation, promotes international artistic exchanges, supports Senegalese cultural development, and develops the dialogue of cultures.
D-day. Our event is happening on JokkoLabs’ rooftop. Our two partners, JokkoLabs and Sekou have gathered entrepreneurs, students, professors, corporates to join the Pitch Contest. We brief the entrepreneurs, meet the jury members and kick off the event. We were extremely fortunate and honored to have two experts joined the jury that day: Dr. LAbaly Touré, geographer-geomatician of Gaston BErger University / Founder of geomatica and Mr. Ousmane Thiongane, Special Advisor of the President of the Republic and coordinator of the digital unit of the presidency.
3 minutes per startup to present us their solutions followed by a 3-minute Q&A with the jury members.
What struck us the most was the human centered approach for each of the solution that were presented to us either in the food industry or the mobility sector. Each had a way to solve their local challenges and offer solution to improve the lives of other citizens in a very inclusive and sustainable manner.
Here is an overview of the startups who pitched:
- E-faitou: one the one hand, alleviate the work of women in rural areas thanks to agricultural mechanization, and on the other hand, generate additional income through solar-productive assets and appliances.
- Les Gourmets: the first online butcher shop in Senegal to sell fresh and local products at affordable prices.
- Walo Aquacole: an intelligent calculator to support farmers in their management and production techniques. The project also provides for the creation of a fish farm integrated in market gardening.
- Le Lionceau: value local products in baby pots with high nutritional value – bouye, fonio, millet...
- Agrobiz and its project AgroCare: reintegrate people with mental disabilities through eco-therapy. This therapeutic approach is based on the benefits of contact with nature.
- Paupuri: offer healthy snacks, made from local products – sorghum, millet, bissap, soursop ... And limit food losses such as mangoes with a very neat packaging.
- The EcoLand Farm: promote the employability of young people through agro-education, while ensuring a traceability from the farm to the plate – guaranteed without pesticides.
- Sunubus: the collaborative and predictive application for public transport users. This is the star application of the moment – it's true, we see everywhere!
- Andando: carpooling app adapted to the realities of Senegal, to make the trip safer and limit pollution.
- SenTicket: to be able to book your ticket for Casamance online. SenTicket then plans to expand to the train, plane, and even show tickets – this is addressing the challenges of traveling in the country, which are clear to anyone who spent some time there!
And the winners are…
Based on our 4 criteria, and the importance for us to recruit startups we can truly help we selected 3 startups which we will be presenting into our top 25 list to our mentors and jury members on July 18th.
>> Congratulations to Lionceau, Agrobiz's AgroCare project & Sunubus!
The tech scene continues beating as we take off
As we were heading for dinner with Fatoumata and Ndiaye before our red-eye back to Marseille, we were thrilled to hear about an event that was happening the following day at the Institut Français. The French Embassy has recently decided to recruit a dedicated person to focus on digital and innovation affairs, the French tech scene was all meeting for a networking event and speech from the French Ambassador on this specific topic. Another sign that Dakar is the place to be for all tech-related innovation.
See you soon Senegal, we will be back!
The startup scene is awesome but below is even more cool stuff about Senegal!
The pink Lake
Also known as Lac Retba, this shallow lagoon surrounded by dunes is a popular day-trip destination for dakarois and tourists alike, all coming to enjoy the calm and catch the lake's magic trick – the vibrant and otherworldly pink hues that sometimes colour its waters. The spectacle is caused by the lake's high salt content, which is 10 times that of ocean water. It's a beautiful sight but can only be enjoyed when the light is right – your best chance is in dry season, when the sun is high.
Ruled in succession by the Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, the historical, Unesco-designated Île de Gorée is enveloped by an almost eerie calm. There are no sealed roads and no cars on this island, just narrow alleyways with trailing bougainvilleas and colonial brick buildings with wrought-iron balconies – it's a living, visual masterpiece. And it is only 20 minutes boat ride from the city center of Dakar!
Delicious SeaFood at local restaurants
A picture is worth a thousand words :).