Youth pitch IT projects to potential investors

The Private Sector Federation’s ICT chamber on Tuesday afternoon hosted the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO), a network of chief executives that exchange and share ideas for career and personal growth in a bid to provide avenue for their members to access finance through venture capital. 
Some of the members of the Young Presidents Organisation during the East Africa Business summit in Kigali. The New Times/Timothy Kisambira
Some of the members of the Young Presidents Organisation during the East Africa Business summit in Kigali. The New Times/Timothy Kisambira

The Private Sector Federation’s ICT chamber on Tuesday afternoon hosted the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO), a network of chief executives that exchange and share ideas for career and personal growth in a bid to provide avenue for their members to access finance through venture capital. 

The visiting members of YPO, mostly composed of chief executive officers of regional firms, are in the country for a week-long tour to follow up on and assess various projects run by YPO-Rwanda Action Forum (Raf). 

During the meeting, five Rwandan entrepreneurs in the ICT sector who are members of the chamber had a chance to pitch their business proposals on ways they are planning to expand their enterprises, most of them seeking funding from the YPO members and others seeking for strategic partnerships to enable them grow.

“We want to create an environment for young people who have ideas to grow, we are looking to link them with experienced and established business people for them to make their ideas realities, more than money, they need mentoring and sound advice,” Patrick Kabagema, the chairperson of the private sector ICT chamber, said while welcoming the executives.  

The entreprenuers

Those who pitched their proposal include Clement Uwajeneza, the managing director of AxIS, a software development company that was in 2011 awarded an excellence award as the best ICT company during the Rwanda Development Board Awards. 

Uwajeneza is looking to grow his enterprise regionally through sale and installation of a modern tablet enabled point of sale that will ease accountancy and stock management.  

By the end of his presentation, Uwajeneza had aroused some of the executives’ interest, some looking to acquire the service and others looking to put money in it. 

He is seeking $630,000 (about Rwf422 million) for his project.

Other entrepreneurs who pitched were Jean Niyotwagira, the founder of TORQE, a software development company that is seeking to ease management problems, especially distribution. 

Niyotwagira was requesting for $90,000 (about Rwf60 million ) for a percentage of his company. 

Gira ICT founder Alphose Ruhigira, whose company makes it possible for customers to purchase ICT equipment through installments via banks and their employers, was looking for an investor to pump in $150,000  (about Rwf100 million) for a share of her company. 

Sylvia Umutesi, the founder of Mahwii Ltd that makes it possible for patients to make medical appointments via SMS had options for the investors, either three per cent of the company for $100,000 (about Rwf67 million) or a loan of the same amount repayable in three years to cover the cost of the systems installations around the continent. 

Already Mahwii Ltd is working with the Rwanda Military Hospital and Gertrude’s children’s hospital in Kenya and is still in the process enlisting other partners. 

Nicholas Pottier, a software developer who worked in building systems used on Amazon, presented an SMS based platform TextIt to act as clinic reminder for pregnant mothers to bring down the number of women who die of pregnancy related complications, currently at 800 a day worldwide. 

Pottier’s presentation stood out in that he required no funding only strategic partnerships. 

The last presenter was the founder of Algorithm Inc that develops software for optimal management of business, which so far has presence in Rwanda, Burundi and Canada. 

The company’s request was $200,000 (about Rwf134 million) and a committed partner to extend the company in more countries around the region.

The executives in turn wanted to find out the business models employed by the entrepreneurs  who were their target markets for the various presentations.

Yariv Cohen, the managing director of Israel-based Ananas Capital, a venture capital firm with a presence in more than 20 countries across the world, said the executives want to be more impactful in the business environment in the country.  

“We want to connect strategic investors and people interested in businesses here to come and give value, capital and know how. We are looking for good entrepreneurs in all sectors and be able to support them with our experience,” he said.

Yariv added that Rwandan entrepreneurs stood out in that they had regional ambitions.

“It is rare that we have young entrepreneurs with regional ambitions and a deep understanding of the business environment. To get ahead they will require funding and mentoring for them to keep turning the market needs into solutions. The ICT sector is at a good time as it is being recognised even by neighbours as the place to be.”

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