Ampion Venture Bus, a Pan-African entrepreneurship initiative, helps develop tech entrepreneurs in a unique way — a bus road trip across different parts of Africa. The bus journey enables tech experts with dreams to solidify their startup ideas into real business projects.
Entrepreneurs board the Ampion bus with an idea. On the five to seven day bus journey, the entrepreneurs interact directly with their target users. They also fine-tune their initial idea, launch and pitch it to potential investors. On the bus, the entrepreneurs learn from each other and receive advice from mentors.
The Ampion bus stops at innovation hubs along the road. The end of the five to seven day trip is planned to coincide with a regional tech event, in which the entrepreneurs who just finished perfecting their idea can pitch to more investors.
The Ampion Venture Bus trip is unique because the bus drives through rural areas. Many startups in Africa focus solely on issues in large urban metropolitan areas, and popular startup events usually occur in big cities.
“In Nairobi, for example, you might have a start-up event every other week. But we drive to rural areas, go to places where we are often the first organization ever to organize an entrepreneurship event,” explained Fabian-Carlos Guhl, CEO of Ampion.
At the end of the road trip, the most promising, successful startups join the Ampion Fellowship. This is an incubation program that provides a startup with funding, office space and mentoring.
The best of the Ampion Fellows receive a trip to Germany in order to modify their businesses even further and to meet with more potential investors.
“Travelling on the bus helps the teams to work closely together. In agriculture, for example, we go to farms, talk to farmers and see what challenges they face – and then our local and international teams try to develop solutions that suit them.”
Each trip, the Ampion bus carries 200 promising young entrepreneurs in five buses, divided into categories of interest. The company aims for females to account for 50 percent of bus-goers.
So far, over 30 successful startups have begun due to the Ampion Venture Bus program. Startups have provided innovative solutions to issues in “health care, citizen engagement, education, public transport, sanitation and tourism,” according to How We Made it in Africa.
One successful startup born of the Ampion bus is funeral.ly. Based in Zimbabwe, the startup provides users with tools to coordinate and manage funerals.
Another startup is MobiDawa, located in Kenya. The program reminds patients to take medicine at the correct times, provides instructions on how to take medicine and warns them of possible side-effects.
“We want to identify start-ups that have potential to change the face of Africa, and ideally also globally. We want to foster technology that can disrupt an entire industry and generate profit, but also make social sense. We look for brilliant people… we look at their ideas, the quality of their education, their past entrepreneurial projects and their motivation. We certainly won’t accept someone who says ‘I don’t care about sustainability, I just want to get rich as soon as possible’” said Guhl.
– Margaret Anderson