Nairobi Innovation

Frequently Asked Questions


A startup qualifies for the Nairobi Innovation Challenge if they meet ALL the criteria items below

  1. Have at least one founder who is a citizen of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, or Burundi.
  2. Have its primary customer segments in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda Ethiopia, South Sudan or Burundi.
  3. Have at least two team members linked to their online startup profile.

Eligible startups are expected to be at various growth levels. For purposes of determining the 6 most promising startups, 3 each will be selected from the two growth stage categories characterised in Growth Stage and Launch Stage startups.

For purposes of being among the 30 pitches, organizers of the sectoral / thematic tracks will chose the 6 startups ranked highest by judges that demonstrate relevance to the sector from the information in their online profile.

We appreciate that experts and the public may have varying positions on what a startup in. In the context of Nairobi Innovation Challenge, we apply the definitions of Steve Blank and Eriec Ries which we consider complementary as follows :-
Steve Blank’s definition: “A startup is a organization (temporary) formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model."
Eric Ries’ definition: “A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty. ”
This means that being a startup is not defined by age or size of the organization. What matters is that there is a product for which the organization is searching for a repeatable, scalable business model (under conditions of extreme uncertainty). It also means that having a registered legal entity is not a requirement to be a startup.
We expect that most startups will have been founded less than 5 years ago but we do not rule out exceptional cases where the founders are searching for a repeatable, scalable business model for a longer period.
So that there is fair competition in determining the 6 most promising startups, we have set up two competition categories namely Launch Stage, and Growth Stage.

We wish we could afford to do this but at the moment cannot.

Costs of being present for NIW.Startup activities are borne by startup participants independently. There are no fees payable by participating startups to organizers of Nairobi Innovation Challenge or their partners. Organizations that partner with Nairobi Innovation Challenge in 2019 to deliver trainings, coaching and mentorship will do it as in kind contribution to the startup ecosystem.

The deadline for updating the team’s individual profiles and the startup profile so as to be considered for the 30 pitches is 5th April 2019. The judging criteria questions are presented with a tip on exactly what you should endeavor to bring out in your profile information.
We believe that going through the process of filling out the profile fields is a learning opportunity for many new startup founders with the tips given against the questions. We believe filling out the profile fields will also help you think more critically about your business model.
Profile updates will be suspended for the two weeks of initial evaluation.

After the initial screening process in April 2019, profile updates will be encouraged and new information or clarifications will be considered in subsequent evaluations of #NIW2019. Beyond #NIW2019, the public aspects of your profile will be accessible for you to continue curating your profile. If you want to participate in 2020, maintain your profile and keep on updating for consideration in the next Nairobi Innovation Challenge. This we believe will progressively enhance the visibility and discoverability of your startup by media, investors, potential hires and other parties you may wish to be interested in your startup.

These are sectoral themes proposed for the clustering of startup coaching and the staging of 30 pitches at the NIW. The final set of categories will be as a result of collapsing or merging related sectors depending on the spread of top applications. The aim will be to provide for at most 3 startups per sectoral track.
The proposed thematic tracks are :-

  1. Fintech
  2. Agriculture & Food Security
  3. Health & Life Sciences
  4. Education & Employability
  5. Cleantech & Renewable Energy
  6. Governance & Civic Tech
  7. Transport & Logistics
  8. eCommerce & business services
  9. Manufacturing & Processing
  10. Entertainment
  11. Hardware Innovations
  12. Innovative Housing

The final list of sectoral pitching tracks will be announced around 1st - 3rd May alongside the names of startups accepted to advance to the coaching and training phase of the challenge.
In addition to discoverability and connections for startups participating in among key sector players, we expect them to learn much from peers and industry thought leaders. The pitching tracks are bound to attract sector specific investors. Winners of the pitching tracks in the respective categories will also receive recognition on the final day of NIW.

In the general tab/section of your startup profile you get to suggest at most three categories where your startup could be considered. This will be used to allocate you a category if your startup makes it to the 30 pitches stage.