As Kenya gears up to host the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, start-ups are coming out in droves, warming up for the opportunities that the landmark event would present.
Mr Geoffrey Mulei, a young entrepreneur is busy organising a ‘hook-up dinner’ — an event that aims at connecting entrepreneurs to venture capitalists and multinationals that are scheduled to attend the international summit.
Over 200 start-up entrepreneurs will meet at the ‘hook-up dinner’ on Friday, July 24. The event planners have networks across Africa. The forum, which is sponsored by the US embassy, is usually held prior to the GES to help start-ups showcase their ideas and connect with corporations and individuals who have the capacity to give them a hand up.
“As the CEO of the Kenyan chapter of the GES hook-up event, I will present the ideas of the group of entrepreneurs at the summit,” Mr Mulei told Money.
At the dinner start-up owners with ideas are poised to change the world will network, pitch ideas, hold aspirational talks and start establishing networks.
Mr Dan Awendo is the chief executive at InvesteQ CAPITAL Limited. The management consultant and financial analyst will coach the budding entrepreneurs on how to package their ideas to catch the eye of investors.
He has vast knowledge in building up start-ups having honed skills in various professional training some sponsorship by the US government.
With Mr Mulei in the push for start-ups to attract global investors is Ms Tracy Mbeneka, a senior event coordinator, who has been busy mobilising Kenyan youth to exhibit their businesses.
Ms Mbeneka said the dinner is a warm up to the GES and it will see start–ups pitch their ideas in just three minutes. This will happen before a panel of venture capitalists, successful entrepreneurs and prospective financiers.
The hook-up dinner has previously been a success ahead of the GES event held in Marrakech, Morocco in 2014. The summit attracted nearly 4,000 entrepreneurs, government and thought leaders.
Mr Mulei said that Coca-Cola, General Electric, IBM Research Africa, Kenya-based Qwanza Capital, Investec Deers and Samchi Credit have confirmed attendance. The firms have interests in youth start-ups at the GES.
Some of the corporations that will be at the GES summit are: Coca-Cola, Citi Group, GE Africa, Ernst & Young, Google, IBM, MasterCard Foundation, Chase Kenya, Walmart, Rendeavour, Simba Corporation among others.
Ahead of the 2014 GES in Morocco, the hook-up dinner held a feeder event that was successful at connecting entrepreneurs to venture capitalists.
From the Morocco GES, The Wall Street Journal reported that US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker saw prime avenues for American multinationals to partner with local start-ups.
Ms Pritzker said she will create, “some sort of capital trade mission” aimed at bringing American venture capitalists and other financiers in contact with entrepreneurs in various regions around the world.
The GES in Kenya will be held between July 24-26 where over 3,000 delegates from various sectors are expected to discuss investments and business ideas. Youth-run start-ups are expected to take advantage of the opportunities that will grow their networks and businesses.
Only 175 Kenyan entrepreneurs will be expected into the main site while 1,200 will be drawn from across the globe. The proceedings will also be streamed live to enable as many interested people as possible to participate in the three-day summit.
Entrepreneurs will also benefit from a two-day expo with more than 200 exhibitors at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. Kenya will be the sixth country to host the GES.
According to Mr Mulei, start-ups must have strong ideas that are well packaged for presentation to venture capitalists since they are scouting for big, innovative ideas that solve problems and attract money as well.
“They will learn to get over challenges faced in every day start-up set ups, for instance, Africapitalism (entrepreneur trainer Tony Elumelu’s firm) will coach them on how to push for change of policies based on feedback received on start-ups,” said Mr Mulei.
Start-ups should also expect to be taken through how to register their companies and own the identity that comes with it. For people facing difficulties in starting businesses, they will be trained on how to overcome that jinx.
Also, there will be corporates willing to face the government and donors on behalf of budding entrepreneurs who are looking for funding and general business support.
The senior adviser to the presidency on international relations Ruth Kagia, who is playing a key role in organising the event, said the conference will yield memorable results and transform the way Kenyans approach entrepreneurship going forward.
“The GES will deepen our business ties with the US. We expect new business partnerships to be announced at the event, entrepreneurs will benefit massively” Ms Kagia told Money.
Accompanying Mr Mulei is budding start-up owner Mr Martin Ruga, a portfolio manager at Marusa Holdings. He recently started up a chocolate firm — Larouge Fraise ‘The Red Straw Berry’, which encourages healthy eating.
Mr Ruga is upbeat, saying although he will not attend the GES, he will be at the hook-up dinner. At the GES, Mr Mulei will present a profile of all the start-ups to help them attract funding.
Mr Ruga, 23, is looking for partners to distribute his brand. He would also be happy to get about Sh2 million to expand his outfit. He holds a degree in international business administration from the United States International University (USIU) and has been in business for the past three years.
With him is Mr Koome Mwiti, the founder of Techshare — a software development company.
“We develop applications. We’re currently building an anti-counterfeit software for the Kenya Bureau of Standards,” said Mr Mwiti, 34, who also studied international business administration at USIU.
Mr Mwiti wants partnerships with the corporations that deal with apps and have succeeded in marketing their products. He also needs a mentor in the software business.
Entrepreneurs should also be keen to identify high growth opportunities and know how to create long lasting impressions of their businesses.