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NBA Africa ‘hoops’ into African tech with a startup accelerator

BEYOND the court, NBA Africa has unveiled a landmark startup accelerator programme targeting startups in the sports and creative industries. The accelerator comes at a difficult time for African startups and is aimed at sectors that are usually lower down on funders' priority lists.

THE NBA, through its business franchise in Africa, NBA Africa, has stepped onto Africa’s tech startup scene, launching an accelerator tailored for early-stage startups in sports and creative industries.

In a statement, NBA Africa explained that the initiative, known as the Triple-Double: NBA Africa Startup Accelerator, will support Africa’s tech ecosystem and the next generation of African tech entrepreneurs by providing them with access to mentorship and capital that will help drive growth in the sports and creative industries.

“We are thrilled to launch an accelerator program based on the continent and focused on early-stage African startups,” said Clare Akamanzi, NBA Africa CEO.

“This groundbreaking new initiative reflects our commitment to expanding the African sports ecosystem, and these incredible companies will be at the forefront of shaping the future of sport on the continent,” she adds in the statement.

The announcement, made on the sidelines of the fourth edition of the American Chamber of Commerce’s Business Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, on Apr 24, 2024, is part of President Biden’s Digital Transformation with Africa Initiative. It builds on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Africa-wide strategy.

The NBA’s foray into Africa’s startup ecosystem couldn’t be timelier, amidst the tightening grip on funding opportunities across the continent, making this initiative a buzzer-beater, especially for creative and sports startups.

Africa’s tech startup scene remains resilient, data tracker Africa: The Big Deal tracked a total of US$466 million through $100k+ deals by 121 start-ups (excluding exits) in Q1 of 2024, a considerable drop.

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“This represented a -27% decrease QoQ and only half of the amount that was raised a year earlier in Q1 2023” The Big Deal reported.

The programme is more critical considering that innovation in Africa’s creative and sports sectors is highly underfunded. A 2022 report by Africa No Filter found a low willingness to spend on innovations in the creative sector, despite high levels of sector admiration.

The accelerator will be operated by ALX Ventures, a technology incubator that provides the continent’s tech leaders with access to the skills and tools to launch and scale their startups.

Notably, the accelerator is open to early-stage startups in Africa that develop solutions in event experience and ticketing, digital fan platforms and connectivity, AI for consumers, investing in youth, and digital marketing in the sports and creative industries, among others.

Startups will apply to participate by May 31, after which the submissions will be narrowed down to the top 10. The 10 selected startups will then be paired with mentors comprised of NBA Africa and ALX leadership and other corporate stakeholders, who will guide the companies with a focus on product development, business growth and go-to-market strategy.

A Demo Day will be organized in New York City alongside the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), with participating companies pitching their products to a panel comprised of top industry leaders from the U.S., Africa, and around the world.

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The panel will zero in on four winning companies, which will not only benefit from financial support but also mentorship, working with NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) on their current and future initiatives on the continent.

The program’s site (https://tripledoubleaccelerator.nba.com/) shows first place winning ventures will be awarded up to US$50,000 in cash and an additional US$50,000 in value-in-kind. Positions 2 to 4 will, on the other hand, receive US$40,000, US$30,000 and US$20,000, respectively.

By BONFACE ORUCHO, BIRD STORY AGENCY

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