Merck Startup Accelerator Africa

Accelerator: Merck Accelerator
Merck Accelerator helps entrepreneurs build startups worldwide.
Nairobi / Kenya

WHO COULD APPLY: Early stage startups in the eHealth sector on the African continent, with solutions targeting the African market.
DURATION: 3 months

Karina Fassbender is running the Merck Accelerator in Nairobi. I met her at CeBIT and she told me about the program, African startups and the challenges.

Please tell us more about the Merck accelerator in Africa?
Karina Fassbender: The Merck accelerator programme Africa is based in Nairobi in Kenya. It is our first intake and we have started beginning of April 2016 with three startups. It is focusing on digital health solutions, so basically mobile solutions in the health sector. We do have this focus here in comparison to a rather much broader approach in our accelerator in Darmstadt, Germany, because in the African market we feel that health is one of the biggest challenges to solve. At the same time many people do have access to smartphones and therefore they are reachable via apps.

What will happen during the accelerator programme?
Karina Fassbender: We have just started in April and we will have a lot of network events, workshops, panel discussions and which is most important, we will be connecting our startups to our mentors which are internal managers and experts in a certain field within Merck. We will be getting them involved with the whole innovation process to collaborate and hopefully form longterm partnership together.

You are based in Nairobi. How would you describe to African startup scene?

What is missing?
Karina Fassbender: There are a lot of high technology, mobile technology startups which can form the ecosystem but there is still a huge gap between investments the stage of startups and that is why we are going into the early stage support of startups to actually bridge this gap.

What are the main challenges for African startups?

What other challenges do you face?
Karina Fassbender: Another challenge is exposure. I have met so many Kenyans or East Africans, with whom I have worked with during the past six months, who have never left their country. And I just feel that the more exposed you get to other ideas out there and the more you meet other environments, other cultures the better you could adapt and bring the ideas back to your local context and try to re-innovate them there. Therefore, we would like to use our great network and expertise around the globe to actually contribute to our accelerator programme in Africa and try to bring this exposure and also try to have a bridge between the accelerator programme here and our accelerator programme in Darmstadt, Germany.

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