NTF IV Training, Mentorship in Uganda lead to Tech Startup Growth, Job Creation
The Netherlands Trust Fund IV Uganda project, which aims to boost and promote startup digitization and internationalization, has recorded significant success with its training, coaching and mentoring model of support.
Since the start of the project – which includes networking opportunities through local, global and regional tech events - of the 25 businesses interviewed, 91% have grown through successful partnerships, and 73% by securing investments. Almost half of them have managed to begin exporting their products, 75% have commercialized their existing products, and 38% have turned what were just ideas on paper into viable products.
“We are proud to have worked with them through this process,” said Sophie Nanteza, a local NTFIV Startup coach and consultant.
Progress was determined by measuring against the 360 Start-up Maturity Assessment diagnostic tool used to onboard the startups at the start of the project that focused on seven functions: finance, operations, product, marketing, HR, investment readiness, partnerships and network.
“Based on that diagnosis, we saw some common areas that needed to be addressed: Investment readiness, partnerships and networks, operations management and leadership, and built a program to address those issues,” said Nanteza.
Challenges and Opportunities
The startups faced a series of challenges based on a lack of internal capacity, investment finance and government regulations.
“The entrepreneur was often a technical person who could write code or a businessperson with a good idea, but they would lack a team with the skills needed to develop the product and get it to the marketplace,” Nanteza explained.
“Many businesses also had limited funds, which constricted their ability to recruit expertise, which in turn affected their ability to attract investment. The companies also had to contend with government tax regulations that were not aligned to startups and repeated internet shutdowns,” she said.
“Many times, these startups have a team of just 2-3 people,” Nanteza said.
One of those was Akellobanker, a platform launched by Jean Anthony Onyait that provides farmers with digital access to agricultural products and services on credit.
“We started off in 2016 with just three people; now we are 58. We operated in one region and have scaled to 3 more regions. Our tech team, which was just one person is now six people,” said Onyait. “NTF IV helped us build our capacity to run the business and manage the teams.”
NTF IV provided capacity building training, business diagnostic checks, trips to meet similar startup leaders in other countries and connected Onyait with investors. NTF IV also provided the startup with data access and funding during the Covid 19 crisis. “The outcome of all the support that was evident: we weathered all the shocks that came and managed to expand our marketing which increased the uptake of our services by 45%,” said Onyait.
“We have been able to make more sales and generate more revenues. In 2019, our revenue was $150,000. In 2020 we tripled that, and we are sure that this year 2021 we can grow five times more,” he stated.
Nanteza credits the more relational, as opposed to transactional, way of working with the startups as one of the keys to their success.
Building Trust and Following Through
“Our support model is very engaged. We maintain open communications. We don’t just do capacity building and leave; we remain a sounding board for the entrepreneurs as they navigate key business milestones. Our relationship with the startups is built on trust,” Nanteza explained.
NTF IV is due to end 30 June 2021. Looking to the future, Nanteza said it would be important to look into building a network of partners for these startups that stretched beyond the country level. That would enable them to start building partnerships with different digital communities across the continent and facilitate access to new markets.
Onyait agreed on the need for linking businesses to markets and added he would like to see increased sector-specific support in the areas of fintech, ag-tech and health-tech with a focus on building strong enterprises to create deep impact.
The Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF) IV is based on a partnership between the International Trade Centre and the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries and funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.