The following is a guest post from Eli Kudjie, Startup Weekend Facilitator from Abdijan.
From July 20 to 22 2012, Startup Weekend Abidjan was held in Abidjan, the first Startup Weekend in Côte d’Ivoire but this was only the 2nd startup weekend in Sub-Saharan Africa French Speaking countries after the one that took place in Dakar in March 2012.
On Friday evening, the number of participants was less than what we expected. Only 80 people came up although we had almost 150 people registered. 15 participants presented their pitches with only two ladies among them. After the voting process, 10 projects were selected for the week end.
The 1st thing that impressed me that night was that the participants were so motivated that some of them even spent the whole Friday night at the venue. On Saturday morning though breakfast was a little bit late no one complain but instead they were working hard.
Some of the mentors started to come around 10 AM and I gathered them for some directives. Throughout the day other mentors came and they were available to sort any participant out. Around 2pm, we had a surprising visit from the President of Parliament of Côte d’Ivoire Mr. Guillaume SORO. He was following the event on twitter and then decided to come and see what’s this event going on. 2 hours later, Alain Lobognon, the Minister of Youth also came by to encourage us and promised to be present during sunday evening’s final pitches.
On Sunday morning, you can see how tired the participants were. Most of them has worked the whole saturday night on their projects and didn’t sleep at all. That morning, a young lady who was a team leader (the only lady as team leader) came to me and I could see the exhaustion in her eyes. She has also spent the whole night at the venue working, the only girl who stayed that night. And now, she seemed discouraged. She was thinking of giving up. Fortunately, one of the mentor arrived at the venue a few minutes later so I brought him to help her again with her business plan. And she got back on track.
At 5:00 pm, the venue was full of people, the minister of Youth came as promised, the judges were there and some businessmen also came. Lot of people were already tweeting. After explaining the voting criteria to the public, the final pitches were ready to start. And after these 54h hours of hard working and coaching throughout the weekend, the jury finally gave out the results: the startup World of Sports of Fleure N’DOUA, the young lady who was about to give up a few hours earlier won this first edition of Abidjan Startup Weekend. Her startup built an online directory which references all players, sponsors, and clubs in different sports in Cote d’Ivoire, it includes an e-commerce website that sells sports goods, a sports news site, and also a mobile application.
The first runner up was startup Wirid. Wirid is a digital kiosk which sells newspaper 30 % less than their paper version and the 2nd runner up went to startup Social Spot which offers an advertising solution for businesses through hotspots where users can have free internet connection.
This first event has been a real success in Abidjan though there were many challenges faced by the organizing team. At the end of the weekend, lot of people were asking on twitter and facebook for a second edition. The IT startup ecosystem is just starting to grow in Abidjan in particular and Sub-Saharan Africa in general and there are lots of things that need to be done to encourage and promote entrepreneurship and we expect many more startup weekend events in other cities in Africa.