Stephen is an Assistant Systems Consultant. His team TabChain came up with an industry changing solution to end counterfeit drugs by verification using Blockchain
“Your playing small does not serve the world. Who are you not to be great?” — Nelson Mandela
It is not always easy to find a community of like-minded individuals with a diverse skillset all passionate about one cause, and for 54 hours, that cause was Africa.
Foundervine, a startup community with diversity at its heart recently held a hackathon, SU54: Africa Tech where they put together some of the brightest minds together in one room. This was without a doubt the biggest event I’ve attended by myself but the Foundervine team were so welcoming and everyone else in the room made networking easy.
The premise of SU54 was you come as you are, formulate an idea, connect with your team, build your idea whilst learning from mentors and the excellent masterclasses and finally, pitch to a panel of esteemed judges on the final day.
“Africas own challenges actually represent it’s largest opportunities” — Charles Sekwalor
With the main focus of the hackathon being Africa, Founder and CEO of Movemeback, Charles Sekwalor delivered the first talk highlighting how there’s never been a better time for tech and Africa and the important role we as the diaspora have to play. This really resonated as recently, African countries have begun to engage the diaspora with Ghana launching a Diaspora Support Unit (DSU) within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.
The aim of such initiatives is to ensure that Africas best talents who may have left the continent have the means to bring back the skills they have learnt to benefit the continent. Regional economic communities (RECs) such as Southern African Development Communities (SADC) had previously shown an interest in launching a unified effort across all 15 SADC states to improve diaspora relations, but so far a collective effort has not come to fruition as individual countries have implemented different initiatives.
With the room engaged, the next stage of the hackathon involved the initial pitches where everyone was asked to submit an idea forward on their table, with the best 2 ideas going forward for a vote. This helped narrow down the ideas to ensure teams would have balanced numbers, but the option was still there for those who were passionate about their idea should it not get selected to still continue with it. The projects pitched ranged from agri-tech to social enterprises, and as the teams formed, people chose to go with the idea that most resonated with their interests, passion and skills set.
Inclusion is important when everyone on the team feels included, you produce the best results. This is the environment that was on every team during this hackathon. From the Foundervine team dropping by each table offering advice to the mentors providing valuable insight, there was no shortage of knowledge. Between teams too, the level of collaboration was such a refreshing take on competition.
The team I was working with for example shared a table throughout the entire weekend with a completely different team working on a different idea, but we were able to help each other out, answer each other's questions and importantly build a network.
An element of the day that made it unique was the team organising Skype sessions with businesses based in Africa to provide feedback on our plans and offer advice on viable solutions. This not only helped shape our ideas, but it was also a great experience to hear first hand what some of the benefits and negatives of operating in certain spaces were. Africa + Diaspora working together, a great touch by the Foundervine team.
This event was about networking and connecting, and this element really changed the game and highlighted the reach of Foundervine. Throughout the day we were introduced to many mentors and sessions run by fantastic members of the startup community. The line up was diverse, members of the community with a varying range of experience, internationally and across the UK. It can often be difficult to network around London, there are so many events going on all the time, and picking the right ones can be a challenge. But what if all these influential people in the startup scene such as Ade Awokoya, Anisah Osman Brittion and Bayo Adelaja could come to you? This is what Izzy and her team delivered.
The last time I stood up in front of a group of strangers and presented was at University, and most of the time, those strangers were the people in my group who I’d met the night before after weeks of unanswered messages! So to be able to stand together with a team I’d worked hard with, including group phone calls at 1 am working on strategy, it was honestly the best feeling. Watching every group gel over the weekend and seeing the amazing end products really showed how hard everyone had worked and how passionate they were for the problem they were trying to solve.
With each and every pitch, seeing the research and how the teams handled the questions from the judges really showed how determined every group was. Every group came to win! The network and impact that this hackathon has had, it will be no surprise to me that at the next event Foundervine hosts, some of the SU54 Africa alumni will be coming back as a startup. The impact that this weekend has had on the 60, will be felt by Africa. As Nelson Mandela said, playing small does not serve the world, who are we to not be great?
Thank you Foundervine and everyone who made the day happen.
This Series is for and by our #SU54Africa entrepreneurs as they share their learnings and experience from our SU54 weekend.
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