PIVOT East 2015 Winners Announced


July 23, 2015

PIVOT East an innovative startup conference geared towards nurturing entrepreneurs in East Africa, unveiled the winners of the 2015 competition. The unveiling was during a cocktail award ceremony at the Panari Hotel on 22nd July. The competition which kicked off early this year was comprised of a series of activities that culminate to the finalists conference on 22nd July.
Now without further ado here are the winners of PIVOT East 2015
Mobile Finance Category
Shield (Kenya): Uses proprietary technology, leveraging on Mobile Money to offer under banked employees salary advances directly to their phones
Mobile Enterprise Category
Duma Works (Kenya): Connects growing companies to talent via an SMS-based job matching platform that ensures quality through a screening process
Mobile Entertainment  Category
Makarao (Kenya): (slang for‘The Police’) a hilarious 2D animation series on YouTube with episodes ranging between 1-2 minutes, tackling social issues.
Mobile Society Category
Arifu (Kenya): An education market place where the world’s least served people find information they need from organizations they trust on any mobile phone
Mobile Utilities Category
Safemotos (Rwanda): Uses smartphone sensors to determine whether a moto taxi driver is more or less safe than average then connect customers to safer drivers
The five winners will receive a 12 months free service of up to Kshs 10,000 per month in Angani credits, while all the other finalists will receive a 3 months free service for up to Kshs 5,000 per month in Angani credits.
Congratulations to all the PIVOT East 2015 winners, finalists and semi-finalists!!!
Startups interested in participating in PIVOT East 2016 are encouraged to start building profiles of their startups on for initial business model refinement support and guidance. Semi Finalists of PIVOT East 2015 who did not make it to the finals are eligible to apply for the 2016 competition.

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Pivot East Speed Dating Event

Finalist, PIVOT East, PIVOT EAST 2015

July 19, 2015

m:lab East Africa has since 2011 been organizing Pivot East, a program of targeted educational workshops for mobile entrepreneurs and business advisory sessions that culminates in the top 25 mobile startups in East Africa pitching to investors and partners at a finalists conference.
The format of the event has been in the past, a two day pitching event, of course with the fireside chats and several talks. This year, the format has changed slightly, with one day fully dedicated to pitching and the other a speed dating event with investors, users, partners and the public in general. The pitching event will be on the 22nd July at the Panari Hotel and its attendance is on  invites  or ticket purchased basis. If you would like to purchase a ticket for this, do so HERE.
10401951_802506236435803_3770686065236324287_nThe 23rd July will be a speed dating event at the iHub. This event is Free and Open to the public. The speed dating event is not a romantic event, just in case the name got you wondering. It is a business session where the startups will be pitching to the attendees, with the hope of getting them interested to either use their product, partner with them, invest in them, join their team or generally give them feedback. How will it work? Well, the entrepreneurs will be seated at tables while people with interest in knowing more about their startups rotate. Each entrepreneur and person will have a maximum of 4minutes to introduce themselves, the entrepreneur will pitch their business and receive feedback. A buzzer will ring, prompting the person  to move to the next entrepreneur.
10511321_802506176435809_2504760781036660565_nThis year’s event is designed to facilitate maximum interaction and networking between startup founders, investors and other industry players. The finalist of the competition will have demo pits at the exhibition area where they will showcase their products to the investors and interested delegates, both at the pitching and the speed dating events. You wouldn’t want to miss this year’s conference or the speed dating as it promises to be hotly contested with 25 exceptional mobile startups in the region set to fight out to win market recognition and investor interest.

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Investors: Discover East Africa's Deal Pipeline!


July 1, 2015

PIVOT East, East Africa’s premier mobile startups pitching event will be held on the 22nd of July 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya. One of the objectives that the event aims to achieve each year is “to raise the quality of mobile startups in the region and to improve their investability”. The 2015 edition is being organized to allow investor’s input upfront at the pitching event. We have involved investors as judges in the selection of the finalists and in previous editions. Some of the Investor funds involved in finalist selection were Savannah Fund, Kuramo Capital Management LLC, Novastar Ventures, and TLcom Capital LLP. Other venture capital funds involved were Gray Ghost Ventures, ACCION’s venture labs, the Invested Development, Kaizen Venture Partners,Inventure Management Ltd, and Investec Asset Management
We are inviting investors to contribute to the quality of startups and their investability hence an enhanced deal pipeline in 2015 and beyond, by participating in this year’s event as attendees or and judges. Ideal investors for PIVOT East Startups are those who are active and involved in helping to build companies in Africa. Early stage, Angel Investors and patient investors able to pursue deals in East Africa  are particularly encouraged to take part.
You may join in for the benefits below :-


  1. Deal pipeline access through key information on top 25 startups, from this year and any other PIVOT alumni.
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  3. Potential of being in the panel that determines the 5 Awardees from the 25 finalists in the 5 category
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  5. Investor feedback at preliminary selection stages to inform training, coaching and mentorship program for finalists before the pitching conference.
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  7. Special seat at the pitching conference to interrogate startups as they pitch.
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  9. Assistance to meet startups of interest at the finalists conference.
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  11. Notification of deals closing following PIVOT East interactions to be shared to m:lab East Africa for our own statistics (we will not disclose personal details).
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  13. Institutional investors participating under this framework to be listed in the website-

To know more about the special arrangement for investors and to be part of PIVOT East 2015, kindly contact Sheilah Birgen of m:lab East Africa via email sheila(at)

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Top 25 Startups to Compete in PIVOT East 2015 Competition

Finalist, PIVOT East, PIVOT EAST 2015

June 23, 2015

After an intense evaluation process by a panel involving over 15 investors, we are happy to announce the top 25 exceptional startups that will participate in PIVOT East 2015. The finalists, 5 from each category were selected from the 50 semifinalists announced two weeks ago. The finalists from across the region will compete to win market recognition and investor interest during the pitching conference which will be held on 22nd July in Nairobi, Kenya.
The startups that have made it to the finals are;


  • Finance category:Hisa Play, BitFinance, Eko Biashara and Shield from Kenya and V-Money from Tanzania
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  • Enterprise category: Djuaji Research Limited, Mobu Limited, SaniCMS, Tenderpreneur and Duma Works all from Kenya
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  • Entertainment category:Makarao and Game 254 Studios from Kenya and Guumzo, Moview, and Soka from Tanzania
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  • Society category: FeedBack-RT – NATKOM from Uganda, Politk, Arifu, Bookex and MySecurity from Kenya
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  • Utilities category: Snapp Builder and ENT-Mobile Labs from Kenya, SafeMotos from Rwanda, Nikweli and Africa Fashion from Tanzania

Here is the full list of the finalists with a brief description of their product.
Out of the 25 startups that made it to the finalists, 17 are from Kenya. 6 of the startups are from Tanzania. Uganda and Rwanda are represented in the list by one startup each. For each category a 6th best startup has been placed in a waiting list and may pitch at the conference if a finalist drops out for any reason.  Startups in the waiting list are; Bangaiza App, Ekodi, Softballot and SpotMe – Skillence from Kenya and Yanguwa from Uganda
Investors that formed the finalist selection panels were among venture capital firms, angel investors and impact investors.  Some of the venture capital funds involved were Savannah Fund, Kuramo Capital Management LLC, Novastar Ventures, and TLcom Capital LLP. Other venture capital funds involved were Gray Ghost Ventures, ACCION’s venture labs, the Invested Development, Kaizen Venture Partners, Inventure Management Ltd, and Investec Asset Management
The individual angel investors were from thriving startup ecosystems such as Silicon valley, Berlin among others. Here is the full list of judges with brief descriptions about themselves.


Ubongo Kids team from Tanzania pitching during PIVOT East 2014 conference which was held at the Panari Hotel

This year, the finalists of the competition will receive training, coaching and mentorship in the weeks preceding the pitching conference and also after the pitching conference. These activities assist  the finalists to improve key elements of their business models and the positioning of their startups to the rich audience at the conference. Startups in the waiting list and the other semifinalists who did not make it to the finalists will also benefit from the training, coaching and mentoring given to the finalists.
Since 2011,  PIVOT East competition has identified and supported 100 mobile startups as finalists of the competition. The m:lab has funded 20 of these startups through PIVOT East to the tune of US$200,000 thus far. The funding was mostly split into two halves, the first of which is a $5,000 grant and the other portion $5,000 investment. Unlike the previous editions, this year the m:lab will not provide funding for the winners of the competition. The competition will emphasize for competitors to persuade the investors present at the competition to provide funding.
PIVOT East competition aims to facilitate discovery and nurturing of the next wave of high potential mobile innovations into sustainable business,  ensuring that mobile innovations are high in the agenda of regional, governments, corporates and development agencies for amplified development impact and to raise the quality of mobile startups in the region.
The competition has supported mobile startups and entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in terms of revenues, access to fundings and other enterprise growth indicators which in turn has contributed to creation of jobs and ultimately to the growth of the economy.

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PIVOT East 2015 Semi-finalists Announced


June 4, 2015

PIVOT East, a startups competition geared towards nurturing the growing ICT talent in East Africa, has unveiled semifinalist for this year’s competition. The competition opened the call for applications in April 2015 with startups from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia applying through an online portal ( This year also saw startups from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Burundi and Israel applying to join the competition.
The criteria used by the judges helped to evaluate the startups’ purported customer pain, opportunity and customer segments, the solution and its fit to the problem, the revenue model, and analysis of the competitive landscape. Other selection criteria items helped to evaluate the calibre of the team and the startups’ focus to grow into sustainable enterprises. These included the team composition and commitment, current market traction, and projections for milestones and key metrics.
PIVOT East aims at facilitate discovery and nurturing of the next wave of high potential mobile innovations into sustainable businesses. It is more than a competition – its a holistic platform for mobile startups organizational development and business model refinement. The competition is organised by m:lab East Africa – a consortium comprising iHub, eMobilis and University of Nairobi. This year’s finalists conference will be held on the 22nd July in Nairobi, Kenya. The venue will be communicated at a later date.
The competition, in it’s fifth edition this year, will have some significant changes in the structure and the focus of the event. When PIVOT started in 2011, it was an app developer competition. It has since grown to a startups pitching event, with an aim of exposing East Africa startups to Investors, corporates, researcher, development agency and the public. The event also provides startups with a platform to meet, share and network with fellow East Africa entrepreneurs.The event’s prize money structure has evolved over the years from grants, to grant and investment. This year the competition will emphasize for competitors to persuade active investors to provide funding.
A big thank you to our judges who took time out of their busy schedule to evaluate the startups. Now without further ado, HERE are the semifinalists of PIVOT East 2015. Congratulations to all the semifinalist.

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Deadline to Apply for PIVOT East 2015 Extended


May 1, 2015

m:lab East Africa has been receiving applications for its annual startup pitching competition and conference dubbed PIVOT East in the last one month – since April 1st. The deadline for submitting applications was set for yesterday April 30th. In response to a number of requests from potential applicants, the deadline for application submission has been extended by 2 weeks to Sunday 17th May at 11:59 pm EAT.
Applicants are advised to take advantage of the two weeks to better prepare their startups profiles and other critical information. Startups may join the competition through the PIVOT East Startups Community Network Information on how to join the competition including eligibility criteria may be found here
Important Notes for Applicants


  • Competition portal –
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  • Minimum number of team members is two (2)
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  • Tag startup entries in a maximum of two (2) competition categories
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  • Team composition and commitment is really important in this year’s competition. Ensure that all team members update their personal profiles on their key skills and also include a LinkedIn profile
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  • Self Evaluate your startup in the portal using the scorecards
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  • Selection criteria for PIVOT East can be found HERE
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  • Upload a pitch video maximum 5 minutes that demonstrates passion among founders/key employees to pursue the startup mission and a clear call to action on what the startup is pursuing at PIVOT East 2015 ( Basic video quality is accepted)
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  • Upload a demo video or screenshots that showcase key features of the solution

For more inquiry on how to apply for the competition, feel free to send an email at lincoln(at) or egra(at) or visit You can also follow us on twitter @PIVOTEast or like our facebook page

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Standing Out From the Crowd: PIVOT East 2015 Selection Criteria


April 8, 2015

PIVOT East 2015 is here! PIVOT East is an innovative startups competition geared towards nurturing the growing ICT talent in East Africa. The call for applications for the competition is open and the deadline of submitting applications is on 30th April 2015.
The call for applications  is open to all residents of the Eastern African countries of Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, South Sudan, DRC, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda. Startups from the named  countries  are  eligible to participate.
Application process is the beginning of the PIVOT East journey towards making it to the finals and hopefully winning in your category, meeting partners or investors. Upon the close of applications on the 30th April, panel of industry experts and investors with wide expertise in entrepreneurship, business development, software development and investor relations will assess startups at the various stages of selection. The selection is a funnel shaped filtration process starting with 50 semi-finalists, then 25 finalists and then 5 category winners at the finalists conference.
One of the questions we are frequently asked is “What do the investors and panelists look for in the competition?”. Well, the criteria for the selection will be guided by these factors:
(1) Problem and Customer Segments
What customer pain are you solving? Is it a problem worth solving ? what specific customer segments are affected? What is the addressable market size?
2) The solution
How are you solving the customer’s stated problem? what are the top features of your solution that specifically address the customer problem. What validates that the solution resonates with the customer’s problem
(3) Revenue Streams Envisaged and Tested
How will you make money by providing the solution given the current nature of the market place? Have you conducted experiments on any of the potential revenue streams? what were the outcomes?
(4) The Technological Advantage
Why is the technological solution and revenue model expected to work? What unique technological approaches or platforms have you considered or used?
(5) Analysis of Competitive Landscape
What are the existing alternatives to your solution? Do you know who your competitors / collaborators are? What differentiates you from the competition? what can be done through existing alternatives that your solution cannot do? What can your solution do that your competition cannot do?
(6) Customer Acquisition & Channels
Who are the early adopters, What customer segments are you prioritizing, what is your path to the customers. What channels are you using to reach the customer segments? How will you achieve customer activation? (first instance of gratifying experience)
(7) Team Composition & Commitment Level
Team composition is very important. Team composition and complementarity of skills, suitability of team structure to deliver on business goals, sense of commitment to the startup by team members  is vital. Show the skills & experience that the team members have? Demonstrate the team members commitment e.g do you have founders’ agreement, vesting schedules?
(8) Market Traction and Secondary Achievements
What has the business achieved so far? This could be one or more of the following :-
(List ordered in descending order of importance)


  • Number of paying customers,
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  • Number of Gross monthly revenue
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  • Growing / Sticky User-base
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  • Number of Downloads / Pageviews / Requests,
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  • Number  of active / repeat users
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  • Customer discovery progress
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  • Prototype iterations made,
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  • MVP soliciting customer insights,
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  • Customer interviews made
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  • Intellectual Property Assets
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  • Key partnerships or investments secured – content, distribution, marketing, funding etc
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  • Awards, accolades, media mentions earned

(9) Projections for Milestones and Key Metrics
How’s your roadmap or projections for growth within the next 12 months for, it could be in terms of: – Revenue, Users, Customer discovery / development, Key partnerships & Investments etc And most importantly what will it take to achieve desired milestones?
That should help you create a powerful startup profile not just for the competition but also for you to refine your business model while make it more understandable to yourself and to investors. The same set of criteria items is applied at all stages of the PIVOT East competition.
Other reminders:


  • Competition portal –
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  • Minimum number of team members is two (2)
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  • Tag startup entries in a maximum of two (2) competition categories
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  • Team members to update personal profiles on their key skills and include a LinkedIn profile
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  • Self Evaluate your startup in the portal using the scorecards
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  • A downloadable pdf file on the selection criteria is available below :-

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PIVOT EAST 2015: Calling for Applications


March 31, 2015

PIVOT East, one of the most prestigious mobile startup competitions and conferences is now open for entries through it’s PIVOT East Startups Community Network. The competition officially opens its application portal for entries on March 31st 2015 and will continue to accept applications until midnight EAT on April 30th 2015.
PIVOT East is organized by m:lab East Africa – a consortium comprising iHub, eMobilis, University of Nairobi and the World Wide Web Foundation. The competition aims to catalyse the growth of mobile startups, so as to amplify and consolidate the gains of East Africa’s Mobile developer and entrepreneurship ecosystem.  The key objective for this year’s event is “to facilitate discovery of the next wave of high potential mobile startups in the region”.
Start-ups across the region that meet the requirement can start applying for the competition. Startups may join the competition through the PIVOT East Startups Community Network Information on how to join including eligibility criteria may be found here
Applications to compete in 2015 will be entered as detailed startup profiles which describe the customer pain, the startups solution, revenue streams, team composition and commitment, market traction, short-term projections and milestones among other aspects.  The overall startup profile will be used by the competition judges who will mostly be investors to score the potential of the startup to become a sustainable high growth enterprise.


m:lab consortium members, from right: Prof. Peter Wagacha from Nairobi University, Ken Mwendwa from eMobilis and Josiah Mugambi from iHub presenting the founders award to Online Hisab from Ethiopia during PIVOT East 2014

The competition has five categories which are; Mobile Finance, Mobile Enterprise, Mobile Entertainment, Mobile Society and Governance and Mobile Utilities. Each category will feature five finalists who will pitch to an audience of Investors, Development Partners, Government Representatives, Telecom Operators and other key mobile industry players from East Africa. The 25 finalists will receive training and coaching on how to pitch to investors. PIVOT East is the primary route for startups to secure support through the m:lab’s residential and virtual incubation programs.
The deadline for submission of applications is on 30th April 2015. Applicants are encouraged to start building and curating their startup profiles early as they might need to research or source some of the information required widely. Applicants are also required to upload a short (max 5 mins) video of the founders expressing the mission and strength of their startups.
Companies that reached final 25 lists of Pivot 25 in 2011, Pivot East 2012 ,Pivot East 2013 and PIVOT East 2014 may not compete with products/services previously submitted for the competition, the judging panel will have discretion to disqualify entries in breach of this requirement. Companies that entered the competition but did not make it to the finals can compete with the same product, all you have to do is update your startup profile on

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