JICA’s NINJA Accelerator in Kenya taps five promising entrepreneurs

By Shitemi Khamadi

The “NINJA Accelerator in Kenya” has kicked off with five promising young ventures given a chance to compete at the international stage.

The NINJA Accelerator in Kenya program is supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in partnership with Double Feather Partners (DFP), Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support (DTVS), Deloitte Tohmatsu Financial Advisory (DTFA) and GrowthAfrica.

The 1st Cohort Out of a pool of 178 pre-series A and above applicants, a group of five ventures made it passed a thorough selection process in order to join the first cohort of the Japan-led NINJA Accelerator in Kenya.

The five Kenya-based ventures are:

  1. Sokowatch: Founded by Daniel Yu (CEO), Sokowatch is an e-commerce and logistics platform focused on supplying fast-moving consumer goods to mom-and-pop stores, allowing merchants to order products at any time via SMS or mobile app for free same-day delivery.
  2. Kwara: Co-founded by Cynthia Wandia (CEO) and David Hwan (COO), Kwara is on a mission to turn savings cooperatives in emerging markets into digital banks, making wealth creation frictionless for the 3 billion un- and underbanked.
  3. Cinch Markets: Founded by Alexander Fankuchen (CEO), Cinch works with smallholder farmers in Kenya to aggregate land into commercial parcels, bring investment and generate returns that build durable prosperity.
  4. Amitruck: Founded by former truck driver and investment banker turned CEO Mark Mwangi, Amitruck is a digital marketplace that connects clients to transporters in a secure, competitive, and convenient manner, cutting out expensive middlemen, allowing drivers bid for deliveries, thus ensuring competitive pricing in all transparency.
  5. Zana Africa: Founded by Megan Mukuria (CEO), ZanaAfrica helps young women live healthier lives thanks to feminine hygiene products made through green manufacturing processes which also contribute to the circular economy.

“We were extremely impressed by the quality of the applicants for this first cohort”, says Keiji Katai, Senior Director – Private Sector Development Group at JICA.

Enhanced Global Exposure

The program’s global appeal, in addition to connecting startups to Japan, will be further enhanced with the support of 500 Startups.

Scheduled for early 2022, ventures from cohorts 1 and 2 will be considered for a chance to take part in a “Global Road Show” where DFP and Deloitte will take founders on a business trip to Tokyo.

Following this, 500 Startups will host the startups in San Francisco for a 2-day “Silicon Valley Olympiad” where they can attend networking and social events to meet VCs, institutional investors, local experts, and potential business partners.

An intensive but tailored program The NINJA Accelerator in Kenya will offer a blend of local, Japanese, and international mentoring, expertise, coaching, and investor relations, all customized to meet needs of each venture. Those needs will be carefully defined during the first week of the program (bootcamp), followed by intensive capacity building, in-business support, and networking events over the course of three months, leading to a pitch event (Demo Day) scheduled for July 29th, 2021.

“We really enjoy working with dynamic startups and helping them connect with strategic partners beyond Japan who can bring value to their business and help support their international expansion”, says Kohei Muto, CEO of Double Feather Partners.

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