Innovex pockets almost $380,000 in grants, $22,000 loan
Innovex, a beneficiary of ITC’s Netherlands Trust Fund IV project, clinched two grants worth nearly $380,000 last year that will help the Ugandan tech start-up sell its product to more African companies.
One of the biggest challenges for African tech start-ups such as Innovex is securing funding to carry out day-to-day operations – and to grow. But the Ugandan firm entered 2020 with a healthy bank account after raising $379,843 in grants last year.
That cash will enable Innovex to manufacture its products locally and to strengthen its distribution network in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania, says managing director Douglas Baguma.
Carbon Trust provided a $288,420 grant to Innovex, which aims to transform the distribution of off-grid solar energy systems and equipment using digital tools. Innovex also picked up a $91,423 grant from Energy Saving Trust and a $22,000 loan from Belgium’s Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs last year, Baguma says. Those followed a $10,000 grant from Cisco in 2018.
The Carbon Trust funding is part of a project called Transforming Energy Access, where the London-based sustainability consultancy seeks to create more value in the local solar industry through the research, development and production of local goods.
‘The funds will enable us to locally manufacture our product and thus reduce our capital needs for working capital,’ Baguma explained. ‘So 2020 is a year to accelerate our customer acquisition throughout the East African region as we run more pilots in West Africa.’
Why did these investors choose Innovex?
‘In helping solar distributors reach more people faster, our business creates tremendous impact in the off-grid solar market in sub-Saharan Africa,’ Baguma said. ‘As a private company, we are also sustainable.’
Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs was ‘very specific’ on helping Innovex improve the quality of its product, he added. ‘Their investment enabled us to set up a state-of-the-art product R&D lab in Uganda on top of helping us gain access to top Belgian technology companies such as IMEC for knowledge transfer.’
Being part of the Netherlands Trust Fund IV (NTF IV) project in Uganda helped Innovex connect with some of the investors and venture capitalists that eventually will provide further capital to the company in the successive fund-raising rounds. Baguma said. Last year, for instance, NTF IV sponsored Innovex to attend the Afrolynk conference in Berlin and the 4YFN business platform of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
‘The exposure to international events creates goodwill for Innovex to many partners and investors,’ Baguma said. ‘The ability to network on the global stage and build partnerships is of high value for the stakeholders.’
And there’s more: ‘The business trainings from NTF coaches helped us clearly understand and articulate our value proposition to our clients,’ he added. ‘It has also helped us in several ways in growing Innovex where it is today.’
NTF IV is based on a partnership between the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI). The project aims to strengthen small and medium-sized enterprises and influence policymakers and regulators to create a supportive environment for companies in Uganda’s information technology and IT-enabled services sector.