Reflecting on 2021 thus far, it is impossible not to take the past 1.5 years of the COVID-19 pandemic into account. It has been filled with some of the greatest challenges our continent and world have faced, yet we also have plenty to celebrate as we reflect on our journey. Although the pandemic has been damaging to our communities and economies, it has also inspired a new commitment to innovations that have a positive impact.
Here are a few highlights from Villgro’s past year:
- Marked the successful transition from Villgro Kenya to Villgro Africa.
- Supported 20 innovators and reached 418,329 customers through their work.
- Received 141 incubation applications from 14 different countries.
- Delivered over 140 hours of mentorship.
- Reached $1.5 million in total annual revenues from Villgro-incubated companies (including COVID and non-COVID portfolios), which represents a 40 % growth rate compared to $1.076 million in the previous year, with annual follow-on funding growing to $8.8 million, a 27% increase from the year before.
- Deployed over $300,000 in SEED funding under the COVID-19 response program.
- Launched “Investments for Impact”, a podcast series dedicated to sharing lessons from Villgro Africa’s work within the context of the African innovation ecosystem.
Of course, efforts to build an ecosystem for innovation were more challenging due to the pandemic, as the process of negotiating with stakeholders across various sectors in a virtual context proved difficult. However, we were able to establish relationships and are having ongoing conversations with relevant government bodies that are key in convening other stakeholder partners. Additionally, the Innovators Forum, a virtual event series exploring the challenges and opportunities for biomedical and diagnostic innovation and manufacturing, has been established and partnerships with other key stakeholders are taking shape.
The Villgro team is especially proud of the successful transition from Villgro Kenya to Villgro Africa. This took place to both reflect the continental expansion that was already taking place as well as to catalyse further expansion, establishing firm partnerships to extend our reach. Visibility and brand recognition across the continent has increased, which has been reflected in the wide geographic spread of media reports, incubation applications, and attention from funders and investors.
The circumstances of the past year have only reaffirmed the importance of our mission at Villgro Africa: to support startups with a global social impact focus in the African region. As we move forward, we remain committed to this mission and look forward to the partnerships and collaborations with you, our community, which are an essential feature of our success.