Written by Brandason, Strategic Communications Firm for the MEST Africa Challenge
The MEST Africa Challenge — 2020 Virtual edition has officially kicked off with a riveting battle of wits, brains, and ideas from seven of Ethiopia’s best and brightest.
Representing the rich, historic country in the horn of Africa, the country finalists put forth innovative ideas covering multiple facets of the technology industry. From fintech to agritech, edutech, and music streaming apps, these technopreneurs proved that Africa has so much ingenuity and talent to offer the world, and the best is yet to come.
For the country finals, each start-up had a total of four minutes to pitch their ideas to the judges followed by a four-minute Q&A session.
Kicking off the year’s competition was Biniam Alemayehu Bekele, founder of Qinash, an online marketplace helping retailers promote discounts and offer while consumers gain cost savings directly through the available deals, discounts, and offers from local merchants and retailers using coupons.
Dawit Kassu, of Alpha IT Solutions, a technology-focused web designing and e-commerce platform development company pitched second. He presented Jaferbooks to the judges — an online bookstore delivering and selling books, direct-to-consumer.
Temaribet, is making learning fun by providing high-quality educational materials — lectures, lecture-notes, exercises, digital labs, and other materials for high school students through a mobile app. As the third company to pitch their idea to the judges, they explained how the motivation behind their idea is to educate Ethiopia’s youth one high schooler at a time.
As a true testament to the variety of sectors present in the tech industry in Africa, AcrossExpress PLC, pitched fourth, presenting their online logistics company which uses technology to facilitate freight work to the panel.
Next in line was iWorkPLC, a company building custom software solutions for smaller businesses offering low-cost licensing fees and payment plans.
Omniline, introduced the first gospel music app to the competition. The tech startup is developing innovative solutions to transform the consumption of digital content. Wudase is its flagship product, an app that serves as a marketplace facilitating the sale and consumption of Ethiopian gospel music.
Debo Engineering PLC, wrapped up the pitching session for Ethiopia with their agritech solution. They presented a plant-based disease detection, monitoring, and prevention app currently with over 71,000 photos in their database, functionality in four local languages, and voice assistance for the hearing impaired. Boaz Berhanu, the co-founder who pitched on behalf of his company was quick to add that their app was also built with one of Microsoft’s products.
On the deciding panel of judges for Ethiopia were Heaven Bereket, Regional Director — Gebeya; Wossen Ayele, CoFounder — Pariti; Dr. Eleni Gebre-Madhin, Chief Happiness Officer — BlueMoon; Somet Kilpchilat, Partner Development Manager — Microsoft and Delila Kidanu, Head of Business Development and Partnerships — MEST.
They evaluated each competing start-ups based on a variety of different criteria including value proposition, impact, value proposition, target market, customer identification, size of the target market, impact, size of their target market, revenue model, competitor analysis, growth strategy, traction-to-date and expertise of founding team.
Following all seven pitches, the judges left for another chatroom to deliberate and decide on the winner. Dr. Eleni spoke on behalf of the judges upon their return, expressing that, ‘it had been a great interaction and it was exciting to see all these companies at various stages of their entrepreneurial journey and from across various sectors being so innovative ’. She shared that personally, it was her first interaction with a gospel music app, and she truly enjoyed the diversity each finalist represented and what that meant for the growing tech start-up scene in Africa.
On announcing the winner, she added that ‘there was a tie between two top-performing start-ups that had to be broken during deliberations which made for a very exciting opening event’.
Ultimately, Debo Engineering was named the Ethiopian Country winner amidst virtual claps and applause! We could hear the entire Debo Engineering team on the call celebrating after the announcement and Boaz Berhanu, who pitched on behalf of the company, expressed what a pleasant surprise the announcement was and how much it meant to their team to be honoured with the winning title.
In partnership with leading technology giant, Microsoft, and ecosystem partners; VC4A, Levers In Heels, Royal Work Club, 250 Startups, Movemeback, Klab, Afrilabs, BriterBridges, Blue Moon, Growth Africa, iCog Labs, Gebeya, Africa Living Lab, X Hub Addis, and IceAddis, the Ethiopian finals came to a successful end, with Debo Engineering gearing to compete against the eight other country winners in the grand finale for a chance to win $50,000 in equity funding.
Kenya competes next on June 10th!. Join in the fun to see who wins the country finals by registering to watch live here: https://bit.ly/3ctKUMo
More about the MEST Africa Challenge:
Now in its third year, the MEST Africa Challenge is an Africa-wide tech startup pitch competition offering up to $50,000 in equity investment and a chance to join MEST’s incubator and start-up community to talented entrepreneurs as they build and scale successful businesses that add value to African economies. It has become an establishment in the start-up technology industry, giving an unprecedented global platform to hundreds of local tech entrepreneurs in Africa. This year, the Challenge expanded from five markets to nine, embracing early-stage companies in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Sénégal, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, and providing the opportunity for the Challenge organizers — MEST and lead partner — Microsoft, together with other ecosystem partners the opportunity to support even more startups through funding and resources.