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Travers Smith hosts Startup 54: Africa Tech Pitch Day


As part of Black History Month, between 18 and 20 October, in collaboration with Foundervine, our firm hosted Startup 54: Africa Tech 2.0 Pitch Day.

Founded in 2018, Foundervine helps diverse entrepreneurs build start-ups from scratch. The key element of the organisation's activities is Startup 54, a 54-hour start-up building program which is designed to transform emerging tech talent into founders.

Attended by 60 aspiring tech entrepreneurs and young professionals, Startup 54: Africa Tech Pitch Day was an immersive three day experience. It was aimed at equipping attendees with knowledge and inspiration to launch business ventures which would create a strong impact in Africa. By harnessing the power of technology, the aim was to address some of the Continent's biggest challenges.

The event kicked off with a Friday evening discussion including a keynote address by Mahesh Varia, Travers Smith's Head of Incentives & Remuneration and Chair of its BAME Group, and a talk from Mariana Graça, an Africa-focused investment professional particularly in the fields of agriculture, agtech and fintech. Participants were then invited to brainstorm, pitch their ideas to fellow participants and form teams for the weekend.

The weekend programme consisted of four workshops and masterclasses taking place on Saturday and Sunday including:

  • Saturday: Masterclass 1:  Business Modelling delivered by entrepreneur and international speaker Matt Black
  • Saturday: Masterclass 2:  Market Research Validation delivered by Foundervine's Director David Fisayo
  •  Sunday: Masterclass 1: Crafting the perfect pitch delivered by investor Gosbert Chagula
  • Sunday: Masterclass 2: Getting the financials right delivered by investor and financial regulations specialist Kwasi Affum

During the Market Validation session, the participants also had an opportunity to talk to some of Foundervine's Africa partners, located in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, via Skype.

The mentorship element of the programme saw 20 senior tech and business professionals, from a range of organisations including Lloyds Banking Group, City Bank, John Lewis, provide guidance and inspiration to the participants in one-to-one sessions.

Private Equity & Financial Sponsors Associate James Ravden worked closely with Foundervine, and teams across the firm, to organise the three-day event, and also acted as one of the mentors.

Mahesh Varia, Chair of the firm's BAME Group commented: "The businesses we act for were once start-ups themselves. Therefore, to support Foundervine is to support the ecosystem of nurturing and developing entrepreneurial talent – the business leaders and the clients of tomorrow. However, more importantly, supporting Foundervine is central to our values as a firm: our diversity and inclusion initiatives should not only be inward looking towards Travers Smith but also outward looking by supporting and promoting a progressive, diverse and inclusive business community. Who knows, in years to come we may hear that the idea behind the that the next "unicorn" was conceived in our offices as part Black History Month 2019!"

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