Station F Startups
From digital IDs to a ground-breaking neo bank, this group of innovative, Africa-focused tech startups are among those being incubated at the Paris-based Station F, the world’s biggest startup campus.
Sprawling across 34,000 square meters, Station F in the 13th arrondissement of Paris is the biggest start-up incubator in the world. Situated in a former rail freight depot, previously known as the Halle Freyssinet (hence the ‘F’ in Station F), the behemoth was extensively remodeled, now sporting 3,000-plus desks, 1,000 different start-ups, a 370- seat auditorium, multimillion-dollar art installations and La Felicità, Europe’s largest restaurant. Add to that, a unique living space of three towers containing 100 shared apartments, housing 600 people.
The man behind the project is telecoms magnate, Xavier Niel. He noticed that the French ecosystem had many great startups, startup programmes and investors but they were very small and dispersed. So, Niel set about creating a big space to bring the ecosystem together. In addition to their nation’s own, Station F is also striving for international companies and socio-economic diversity. This led to the launch of the ‘Fighters Program’ dedicated to entrepreneurs from underprivileged backgrounds.
Businesses are indeed blossoming within its walls. There are 31 international start-up programmes alongside high-profile corporate partners such as Facebook, Microsoft and Naver. Hundreds of startups are also raising funds behind closed doors, largely because Station F has helped to put them on the map. And the word is spreading, with Station F considering opening in other countries, including Brazil and Tunisia.
Afrobytes brings together entrepreneurs, business executives, CEOs, academics, innovators, investors, venture capitalists, tech enthusiasts and media to explore business opportunities between the African tech ecosystem and players in the global tech world. Alongside consulting services and an acceleration programme, the main event is Afrobyte’s African tech conference in Paris, an annual marketplace gathering of the finest tech talents from across the world. Now deemed one of the most influential tech events in Europe, the conference is expanding in 2019, adding events in London, New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Nairobi and Addis Ababa.
Headquartered in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso with subsidiaries in Senegal, Mali and the Ivory Coast, fintech Julaya offers a new business model for mobile money transactions in Africa. Allowing people to transfer money without fees, the goal is to make advertising via SMS more impactful and accessible to everyone. The recipe used to reach this goal is simple. Companies and providers pool their client databases files via Julaya. From there, a merchant can – without having direct access to the files – launch an advertising campaign on a given number of leads. They then pay according to the volume, while the original holder of the mobile numbers is paid in proportion to their contribution.
About 1.5 billion people worldwide do not have an official proof of identity. Consequently, they lack access to basic services such as insurance, loans and mobile communication. Based in France and Kenya, Gravity Earth have come up with a solution that can be done using any mobile phone on the market, no matter the telecom operator or type of phone. Their aim is to empower populations at the bottom-of-the-pyramid, specifically Forcibly Displaced Persons, stateless populations and refugees. This is through reliable, secure and self-sovereign digital identity wallets containing credentials pertaining to identification, educational, financial and medical information.
With a vision to ‘take care of tomorrow’s environment’, Rossini Energy is a young enterprise which creates value by charging electric vehicles in an intelligent way in Africa. With solar parks in Benin, Namibia, Chad and Kenya, the company works with electric cars, electric scooters and electric forklifts, calling upon the sunny African climate which is appreciated by battery technologies with plenty of solar energy available to recharge them in a clean way. This means that countries will become independent of oil imports, by producing their own gasoline from the sun – particularly important in the backcountry, where gasoil delivery is costly and dangerous.
Founded by Ugandan entrepreneur, Stone Atwine, Eversend is Africa’s first blockchain-based digital-only banking alternative built on a multi-currency e-wallet that is available on iOS and Android. The vision is to be a simple, seamless, and integrated neo-bank, making financial services in Africa more equitable and accessible to all. The company is currently focused on facilitating intra-Africa and out of Africa money transfers - to and from Eversend wallets, bank accounts, and mobile money. It is also building an integrated one-stop shop for multiple financial services providing access to products such as personal loans, virtual debit cards, and insurance.
Hailed as ‘Africa’s Etsy’, e-commerce marketplace Afrikrea offers a platform for emerging and established designers to advertise and sell their goods to over 50,000 users from 175 countries. Showcasing extraordinary variety, creativity and innovation, buyers are spoilt for choice with over 40,000 products to choose from, including African clothing, jewelry, homeware and accessories, with, at least, a thousand new items added every week. Based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, all colors, seasons, shapes and sizes are catered for be it a dashiki dress, men’s polo shirts, bridal accessories or baby clothes. There is also an enticing selection of ethnic jewelry alongside handwoven fabrics, oil paintings and artisan designs.
TripAfrique is seeking to disrupt Africa’s travel industry. A clear, transparent and neutral comparison site for trips through Africa, this online portal saves customers time and money by comparing prices for coaches, planes, trains and boats. As well as covering the major cities, TripAfrique promotes little-known tourist destinations, providing useful information. Whether in Europe, America, Asia or Africa, customers can also book tickets on TripAfrique with the ticket then sent through by SMS or email with the option of paying online or in cash directly on the day of the trip. Furthermore, for every ticket bought on tripafrique.com, the company donates part of the money to African charities.
Founded by three Congolese in 2018, fintech company WapiCash offers an electronic payment solution that will make exchanges between banks and mobile money possible from Europe to Africa, while allowing interoperability between different telephony operators. There’s also a Wapicash feature which allows companies to sell and buy on their smartphones without an internet connection from an exclusive technology – a boon for any country plagued by connection difficulties that weaken a section of the economy with strong potential. Furthermore, the startup is also working to integrate cryptocurrency into its future transactions.
Harnessing the power of blockchain technology, Blockchain Mali is a management platform for Africa's construction industry. Working with exceptional talent selected by leading African architects, the company focuses on the industrialization and security of real estate projects of Africans in the diaspora. Funded and mentored by Chain Accelerator (the biggest blockchain accelerator in Europe), Blockchain Mali manages both traditional and innovative constructions, particularly concentrating on the addition of services such as energy, water and education.
A groundbreaking web-based platform for caregivers and caregiving teams, Alska goes beyond social connectivity to include secure storage of medical and legal documents, a shared calendar for task delegation and management and permission settings so patients decide what is shared with each carefully chosen care team member. Key vitals like blood pressure, weight and oxygen saturation can be kept track of, too, to better manage chronic diseases like COPD, heart disease and diabetes. Alska also improves access to care through virtual care team connection and collaboration in countries like Rwanda where access to physicians is limited.