First AI Start-up pitch empowers innovative entrepreneurs

Eager to bridge the gap between students’ innovative ideas and potential investors, the University of Namibia hosted a pitch competition to help innovative start-ups establish their concepts with the help of its partners.

The virtual event titled: Artificial Intelligence (AI) Start-up pitch night focused on Agricultural and Fintech innovations under the auspices of Google and support of SALT IT, Gen Namibia, Dololo and the University of Turku.

“We created this avenue to assist students who wish to grow their ideas and innovation but lack the space, platform or mentorship to do so.”

“This opportunity will enable students to push their ideas and work out there and make a difference”, explained Hafeni Mthoko, a researcher in the office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Development.

The AI start-up pitch night accommodated 9 teams coveting for the top prize, out of which, four were crowned the winners of the night.

Clutching onto the first prize was Farm Fresh Bytes, an AI application set to reduce food wastage across the food chain, developed by Farai Kepekepe, Nontombi Nakaka, and Uzuvira Kukuri.

The other three positions were occupied by Health Wealth developed by Lannie Uwu-Khaeb and Vuyelwa Ruwodo; PesTech by Aina Hauwanga, and Next-Generation Aesthetic Designs by team members, Shepherd Mabhena and Tatenda Mashiri.

All teams will receive cash prizes and full incubation at UNAM in partnership with SALT IT for 9-12 months. The incubation includes access to resources; mentors; experts that will make it possible for them to turn their ideas into actual businesses.

In an interview with Online Forum, leader of the Farm-Fresh Bytes, Farai Kepekepe expressed that the journey ahead is one he and his team members cannot wait to embark upon.

“We look forward to brushing shoulders with some of the industry experts, their mentorship and expertise will be vital in developing our concepts that we believe has massive potential for the people of Namibia and Africa at large”.

He further detailed that, “from the beginning, the whole pitch competition was an accelerating ride. We repeatedly went back and forth as a team to sharpen our idea and the training workshops were invaluable. The pitch night itself was amazing and we were very happy to come up first out of so many brilliant ideas”.

All applicants went through two weeks of pitch training with the UNAM Innovation and Development team and Dololo. The training included sessions on how to pitch; thinking through one’s business model; thinking through the problem domain and aligning it to a solution.

Despite this being the first pitch event that the University of Namibia has hosted, it doesn’t mark the end of this ingenuity. The institution is currently planning its second pitch event scheduled for Tuesday, 17 August 2021.

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