African business incubator Einstein Rising is eagerly signing on for a structural partnership with Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs (OVO).
"We want to grow together with OVO. Where they go, we want to follow and vice versa," says director Brian Mangeni.
"It just means that we are going to work closely together," Brian Mangeni, the country director of Einstein Rising (IR), tells us from Uganda. "We look at the challenges in a similar way. And in fact we are doing the same thing, just at a different stage."
Einstein Rising mainly focuses on the startup of a business, OVO on the first growth phase. "We are a social business accelerator," explains Mangeni. "We help entrepreneurs integrate the three Ps (People, Planet, Profit) into their idea. Then they can attend a six-week bootcamp on topics such as marketing and sales, after which they should be able to talk convincingly to investors."
In the past six years, Einstein Rising has already coached some 120 entrepreneurs in this way. With great success. For example, a coffee company with a starting capital of $10,000 has grown into a business with sales of more than a million dollars. It not only sells coffee, but also provides training to coffee farmers and converts waste streams into more sustainable energy sources.
"Like us, Einstein Rising is betting on small investments in social projects. Only they mainly do incubation, while we want to focus on acceleration. So our activities match," agrees Björn Macauter, general manager at OVO. "We have the same way of working and share a vision. There is openness on both sides to expand the cooperation."
A first concrete test of that collaboration was the Kampala Impact Day, a joint event where entrepreneurs going through a pathway with OVO or IR could present their idea to a diverse audience of partner organizations and investors. "That was a great success and the feedback from all attendees was very encouraging," Macauter recalls. "We want to build on that collaboration now."
Mangeni has a clear picture in mind. "We want to build a pipeline of start-up companies, where entrepreneurs have the prospect of working with OVO after our program. We want to mentor 100 entrepreneurs annually. The goal should be that the best 25 move on to OVO."
According to Mangeni, the collaboration can also ensure that European investors find their way to Uganda more quickly. "We guarantee that our entrepreneurs are screened and ready for investment. In this way, we can increase confidence in African entrepreneurs."
The partnership with Einstein Rising is an important step for OVO in further expanding its operation in Uganda. Einstein Rising's operations manager, Sheila Karungi Nsiimenta will, for example, coordinate the OVO Business Club in Uganda. "It's important that we now have someone local to pull the club," Macauter said. The OVO Business Club was created to allow all entrepreneurs who have already participated in an OVO program in Uganda to share expertise and experience and seek cross-pollination.
In addition, OVO is also building a team of volunteers in Uganda. "The added value is that they know the context better and can go on the ground to the companies we mentor and potentially fund," explains Macauter. One of the first volunteers is Brian from Einstein Rising. "We are OVO's eyes in the field and vice versa, our best candidates can come to OVO. That way we bring out the best in each other."
Finding suitable volunteers in Uganda goes particularly smoothly. "We find very good profiles. It is a misconception that there are few highly skilled or entrepreneurial people. There are a lot of bright minds walking around," Macauter knows. "We also get very positive responses. Volunteers also see it as an opportunity to network. In Uganda, there is still less collaboration between entrepreneurs and little commitment to co-creation.
Copy of Belgium
In the future, OVO also wants to deploy student teams in Uganda as is already done in Belgium. "Actually, we want to copy our operation and model in Belgium in Africa," explains Macauter. Thus, in time, there should also be an inspiration tour from Uganda to Belgium, so that African entrepreneurs can learn from the challenges faced by their Belgian colleagues."
For Macauter, it is an example of how the operation of OVO can become more two-way. "That is also the ambition in the development cooperation sector. In theory at least. In practice, it is often not so easy to realize. At OVO, we want to embed that two-way traffic structurally."
Einstein Rising promises to be a key partner in that story. "It's high time that organizations stop seeing each other as competitors and start working together. We want to set a good example of how such cooperation can take shape," Mangeni echoes.
Einstein Rising itself is already active in seven African countries and OVO, in turn, is also working to expand its operation on the continent. "We want to grow together with OVO," concludes Mangeni.
Where they go, we want to follow and vice versa."