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New Business Model Program to Firm up Corporate-startup Ties Launched



By Shadrack Nyakoe

The British Government through the UK Kenya Tech Hub and digital Innovation firm Qhala have launched an exchange programme to bolster partnerships between corporates and start-up companies in Kenya.

Dubbed, iHelix, the program will give big and small companies a platform to showcase and leverage their key strengths in efforts to scout for better ways of working in harmony to unlock billions of shillings in untapped opportunities in the digital economy.

Qhala is supporting the corporates on the programme to identify their challenges. Qhala is also supporting the start-ups on the programme to create market-responsive products that meet those challenges, as well as go-to-market strategies.

A corporate-startups linkages concept note that builds a case for this new collaboration, highlighted differences in culture between the two entities, unexpressed expectations and lack trust between corporates and start-ups as the biggest challenges to working together.

“Corporates felt that start-ups expectations did not match with reality and would threaten to sue over “ideas” that didn’t materialize successfully. Whereas start-ups felt that corporates would somewhat bully them, acquire and execute their ideas without fair compensation to them,” Qhala CEO, Dr Shikoh Gitau said.

Finding a nexus between these differences could see the development of innovative products and services that will boost the revenue base of small and large companies and spur economic growth, she added speaking in Nairobi.

Following a series of extensive conversations, brainstorms, workshops and paperwork between corporates and start-ups, the programme has produced these success stories:

  • Britam Holdings, known for insuring assets, has announced plans to provide cover for moments and memories. Partnering with tour company Bonfire Adventures, Britam is set to provide a unique cover for travellers, insuring them against accidental injuries, illnesses and deaths at a cost of $1 or KSH. 100 for a period of 5 days. For $5 or KSHS 500, travellers will also benefit from another cover insuring them for evacuation and hospitalization during their trip. Britam’s moments and memories cover will change over time to meet customers’ needs.

“We want to ensure that Kenyans have peace of mind when creating memories with their loved ones; both individually and collectively,” said Evah Kimani, Britam’s Director for Partnerships and Digital.

The partnership between Britam Holdings and Bonfire Adventures was facilitated by Perks, an Insurtech firm supported by Qhala Venture Lab, that provides insurance for micro-entrepreneurs, gig economy workers and other operators in micro-economies.

  • Regional manufacturing and distribution titan Tropikal Brands Africa Limited, an industry leader in home and personal products, has tapped 3 start-ups namely, Mzigo, Duqha and Ai Kenya to solve its end-to-end distribution mechanics for food products. The start-ups have different core expertise including; warehousing, last mile sales and distribution as well as artificial intelligence tracking with the provision of dashboards and analytics.
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The 3 start-ups will work together jointly to increase the speed and efficiency of distribution for a selected pilot brand of food products. The pilot phase will be conducted in Nairobi for 3 months and will then be expanded to the general Nairobi Metropolis and later the entire country based on the success and learnings of each phase.

  • Nation Media group is reviewing potential partnerships and is in talks with both food entrepreneur Nonnie of TryCooked and car enthusiast Robert Mwirigi in a bid to bring innovative lifestyle content to its readers. The potential collaboration with TryCooked will allow customers to be able to get food ingredients and prepare the food they have viewed on Nation’s platforms from the comfort of their homes. The Media House is seeking to engage Robert Mwirigi to create motoring content and build an ecosystem connecting car enthusiasts and motor vehicle fan clubs with automobile hacks, reliable garages and mechanics as well as getting them discounted deals for service and spare parts from selected dealers who will form part of the ecosystem.
  • Sasini, one of Kenya’s major tea and coffee producers, could collaborate with XRX Technologies for record-keeping solutions and Africa stalking for Communication solutions to support over 17,000 farmers. It is also looking to work with startups Amitruck for transport and vehicles to contract, as well as Fastagger to handle its Analytics and Patika to address its Retail challenges.

British Deputy High Commissioner to Kenya, Josephine Gauld: “Given the unique and agile nature of start-ups in Kenya and the robust ecosystems that exist around corporates, it has long been an issue getting them to meet and work harmoniously to build products or systems jointly.”

Sheena Raikundallia, director, UK-Kenya Tech Hub: “The UK-Kenya Tech Hub is excited to support this programme. Corporate-startup partnerships can be a win for all, especially the innovative start-ups in this country that are doing amazing work. This programme is part of our larger programmatic support including our digital talent programme, matching businesses with quality affordable talent, our regulatory toolkit with an online calculator helping businesses calculate licences, etc, and our Angel investor programme helping people invest as little as £2000 in local businesses.”

Bonfire Managing Director, Sara Kabu: “The value [of this cover] is that there are no long-term commitments or laborious paperwork making it affordable, effective and efficient,” said Bonfire’s Managing Director Sarah Kabu.”

Wangui Karanja, CEO and Co-Founder of Perks. “By piloting this [pay as you go, insurance cover model] we are making insurance more accessible to all. With an increase of gig economy workers and a younger generation that does not necessarily believe in long term plans, insurance on the go is a model that we must explore.”

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