By Heather Cochran, co-founder and COO of SliceBiz (winners of Startup Weekend Accra) & co-founder of Hub-Accra
Nothing could have been more helpful for a self-identified ‘serial entrepreneur’ like myself than the opportunity to network with other brilliant, ambitious and successful women at the We Own It Summit this June in London.
Working on the ground in West Africa, I relish the chance to network with other fearless female entrepreneurs. I have always had a passion for startups, and that passion was highly accelerated when I met my current business partner – together we began to build SliceBiz, a tech startup with the vision to support other African startups through mobile- and web-based crowdfunding. The roots of our company come from great initiatives like GEW and Startup Weekend. My co-founder and I pitched the idea at Startup Weekend Accra, and with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, we won!
Following that initial success, I entered into a whirlwind of opportunities that helped jump-start our crowdfunding concept – a truly viable and impactful company. SliceBiz went on to be one of three recipients of the Apps4Africa grant and has since been ranked as one of the top 20 startups by the World Bank.
With a vision to build the West African Startup ecosystem, SliceBiz partnered with Open University of West Africa to open Hub Accra, Ghana’s first twenty-four hour co-working space. This space compliments the work SliceBiz is doing to support African startups by addressing one of the most crucial needs for young businesses in Africa – the need for support for innovators. Hub Accra addresses high youth unemployment rates by nurturing and incubating local innovators and entrepreneurs.
Through my experiences working with entrepreneurs, and as a female entrepreneur myself, I began to experience an additional set of challenges that I noticed were not experienced by my male counterparts. With the support of Alicia Robb The Next Wave Africa was started to support local female entrepreneurs.
This June I was awarded the opportunity to attend the We Own It Summit in London by Startup Weekend Europe in conjunction with Up Global. I feel so thrilled to see that Up Global work to support entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
I have returned to Accra where the expansion of SliceBiz and Hub Accra are underway. After a beta run in September, SliceBiz will be launching our platform in October with $100,000 of local and Diaspora funding to invest in the very best startups Ghana has to offer. In addition, SliceBiz in undertaking the research and writing of the first comprehensive report on the startup ecosystem in Ghana.
With regards to the Hub, currently a second story is being added where we intend to launch an accelerator program in September. We have launched a fundraiser on Indiegogo for those interested in supporting innovation in West Africa – you can check it out here.
This has been an incredible journey that has grown into a youth movement to build the startup ecosystem in West Africa. This has only been possible because of organizations like Startup Weekend & Global Entrepreneurship Week, and their belief that innovation and entrepreneurship can indeed change the world!