Kwara is scheduled to attend the 1st Cohort together with the 4 other Kenyan startups: Sokowatch, Amitruck, Cinch Markets, and Zana Africa. “We look forward to building strong strategic partnerships with Japan-based corporations and investors. This will be an important launchpad for our ASEAN and Africa expansion,” said Cynthia Wandia, Co-founder and CEO – Kwara.
The NINJA Accelerator is powered 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. “We were extremely impressed by the quality of the applicants for this first cohort,” said Keiji Katai, Senior Director – Private Sector Development Group at JICA.
The 5 high-potential Kenyan ventures, selected out of 178 applicants, will go through a tailor-made intensive program, as well as a chance to take part in a Global Road Show in Tokyo and Silicon Valley in 2022. “While we were only able to select five, it is exciting to see what young entrepreneurs in Kenya, and undoubtedly Africa, have to offer,” said Keiji Katai.
It is an exciting opportunity not only does it place the startups on a global map, but also connects them to Japan, to enhance the support of 500 Startups. “We hope to demonstrate to Japanese corporations and investors that there is a serious case to be made when engaging with startups in Africa, which are the future drivers of African economies,” shared Keiji Katai.
Next INnovation with JApan (NINJA), is a startup support project piloted by the program sponsor, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). 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.
The NINJA Accelerator in Kenya will offer a blend of local, Japanese, and international mentoring, expertise, coaching, and investor relations, all customized to meet the needs of each venture. Those needs will be carefully defined during the first week of the program (boot camp), 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. “Rather than a one-off engagement, we look forward to contributing to their long-term growth.”
Kwara, a member at our Kilimani location, offers a secure, simple, and affordable digital banking platform for savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs) and their members, who are often excluded by traditional banks.
Their mission is to enable the world’s 3 billion underserved to become financially healthy. Backed by Google Launchpad, Catalyst Fund, Kepple Africa, Bright Continent, Finparx, and Bonum Ventures, today Kwara serves over 35,000 members.
In 2020, the organization remained innovative by launching Kwara Pronto for SACCOs at risk during the pandemic. Kwara also reached out to young graduates in a mentorship program meant to fast-track their fintech careers and was among 30 African companies shortlisted for the second Wimbart Office Hours cohort.
“We’re optimistic about exchanging ideas, technical expertise, and culture so that they can build a global, profitable business together,” concludes Cynthia Wandia who was named #IWD2019 Fierce Women at Nairobi Garage and one of our Emerging Business Leaders in 2020.
We wish Kwara and all the others in the 1st NINJA Accelerator cohort all the best in the program.