SIX RWANDAN FIRMS have been selected among 60 African start-ups to receive $100,000 (about Rwf100 million) each in the second cohort of a Google funding initiative. The equity-free funding is part of a $4 million-project, dubbed the Black Founders Fund Africa, which seeks to support early stage black-founded startups in Africa in an effort to help bridge the startup funding divide, especially in the technology world. The latest development means Rwanda’s BAG Innovation,Bailport, Exuus, Kapsule, Pesa Choice, and Pindo follow in the footsteps of AC Group and Bangalo in accessing much-needed, strings-free funding. Besides the cash grants, each of the winners will have access to up to $200,000 in Google cloud credits, further boosting beneficiaries’ growth ambitions. The Black Founders Fund Africa is a major shot in the arm for Africa’s startup ecosystem, which has struggled to attract funding, resulting in most startups dying even before their first birthday. Rwanda is no exception with so many startups failing to kick off despite showing great promise and potential early on. It is okay for one to start something and it fails, it leaves you with valuable experience that will come in handy at your second or third or even tenth time of asking. That a business or startup has failed does not mean you’re a failure, it just means you probably need to draw lessons, change something and come back stronger more mature, more thoughtful and better informed. Startups all over the world struggle for different reasons. Yet, there is no denying that startups hold enormous potential and we cannot afford to give up on them – because that means giving up on innovation, technology, entrepreneurship and a knowledge driven economy. And, there is good reason to believe in the future of startups. Silicon Valley startups have emerged to be some of the most successful, fastest growing companies in the world, raking in billions upon billions of dollars each year, and impacting the world in ways never seen before. Yes, there will be challenges. A lot of them. Young, inexperienced entrepreneurs will set up firms built around a limited base of knowledge on how the market works, even without understanding basic procurement rules and red tape in the public sector or how you win contracts and trust of private organisations. Some even lack basic knowledge of financial statements and can’t keep track of their expenses let alone exercising financial prudence, and yet somehow expect to find a lender, or an angel investor to trust them with their money. Yet, the truth is that these are in most cases the bravest among us. They are the trailblazers. Most people are risk-averse and fear to fail. We fear to venture into uncharted waters and would rather play safe. But to innovate you need to be courageous enough to do things differently and to see opportunity where others are skeptical. To our startup trailblazers, we’re rooting for you and want you to succeed. Because your success is ours. It means jobs; it means more taxes for the economy. But, yes, you need to pay greater attention to the basics, scan and study the ever-changing dynamics in the market, maintain books of accounts, make thoughtful investment decisions, and be patient. The local startup ecosystem is growing and you’ve a lot of lessons to draw, including from like-minded peers across the continent. Equally, make the most of available opportunities, initiatives like the Norssken hub and Hanga Pitchfest and Black Founders Fund Africa are invaluable additions to the local and wider ecosystems. Most importantly, never stop learning, re-learning and unlearning... and dreaming. Congratulations to the latest winners of the Google funding awards!