From the Editors
More than a year ago, Sam (affectionately known as Kitara) had an idea to do something more than a conference focused on African businesses and entrepreneurship. He introduced it in club meetings at Yale SOM and in a WhatsApp group chat (where I learned of it) with hopes of bringing together a team to build upon this idea. On February 8, 2020, the founding team met to begin discussing, debating, and designing the mission and vision of the Yale Africa Startup Review ('YASR').
In simplistic terms, we all had a similar motivation to work on YASR: we wanted to create something that lasted longer than a 1-hour panel or 2-day conference on the state of African business. However, in reality, we all had different ideas for how to make this happen. Looking back at our team notes, we had BIG dreams! We wanted to have a printed version of the publication. Some of us wanted to feature 100 startups. Others wanted to publish before crossing the stage at the 2020 Yale University graduation ceremonies. So many ideas explored, some incorporated in this website, some refined to a manageable degree, some hopefully will materialize in the next version.
For this inaugural publication, we spent 58 Saturdays (sometimes Sundays) and over 100 hours across 6 different timezones in meetings to bring you #YASR30. We received over 200 nominations representing 30+ African countries after reaching out to more than 350 investors, hubs, labs, and accelerators on the Continent. We spent a significant amount of time debating our methodology DETERMINED to design an approach that would grow with the initiative. We wanted to ensure a fair evaluation process, one that could equally compare a startup in Botswana to one in Senegal and show the activity happening everywhere on the Continent. We selected semifinalists that were further evaluated by a panel of judges that we enlisted to help us selected the final #YASR30. These judges are business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, and academics, all active members of the innovation ecosystem in Africa. Now, as we approach the finish line, we are proud of what we have been able to achieve, equally excited and nervous to share it with the world. In a year's time, our team has shared in graduations, health scares, job searches, and quarantine boredom.
We could not have accomplished all of this without A LOT of support. Thank you to Eddie Mandhry, Kyle Jensen, Rodrigo Canales, Camino de Paz, and Ifeanyi Okafor for their thoughtful feedback and expert advice on the Review. Thank you to the YASR judges for lending us your time and expertise in selecting the #YASR30 startups. Thank you (in advance) to our readers for partaking in this endeavor by sharing, commenting, and providing your feedback. Most of all, thank you to ALL the founders for sharing your information with our team and more importantly, for daring to create a better world.
Sharon Mwale, MPH
on behalf of the Founding Team