By Simba Mswaka
Y-Combinator is the premier accelerator for startups in the world and they have an alumni that reads of the who’s who of startups. Alumni include Air BnB and behemoths like Stripe and Paystack of Nigeria. Y-Combinator has two annual batches of startups that they work with annually and the goal is to dramatically help these startups become better versions of themselves in 3 months.
This is done in multiple ways. Founders are exposed to investors, successful founders and a variety of experts that make their business better. Being accepted into Y-Combinator is a big deal in the startup world and just being accepted gives your business a valuation, more eye balls on your idea/business and greater chances of success.
A lot of the top Venture Capitalists and investors look at the teams accepted into Y-Combinator as their next early investments and it is not uncommon for teams to raise their next round of funding at before completing the programme and sometimes even at the beginning.
Y-Combinator is like adding Jet Fuel to a fire, for a startup.
With this information I was recently asked which Zimbabwean startups I think are worthy or able to get into this illustrious programme and unfortunately, I could only come up with two. If you can think of any more, please let me know because I would love to know them.
The 1st startup is in the healthtech industry and it is called Dr CADx based in Bulawayo.
They use a computer aided diagnostic system that helps doctors diagnose medical images more accurately and at a low cost. They believe this will help reduce the human errors that have dire consequences for patients and drive up medical costs. They do this by deploying an artificial intelligence system that will be available at any given time of the day — even in remote areas. Dr CADx will revolutionize the healthcare system, benefiting patients, doctors, and hospitals alike, not just in Zimbabwe, but they can do this in the SADC region.
Dr CADx is using state-of-the-art deep learning algorithms to develop an application that can interpret medical images with an accuracy that is comparable or even exceeds that of expert radiologists, but at a much lower cost. This means the company is making healthcare more affordable and more accessible for all.
The company claims that their prototype currently achieves an accuracy of 82%, which is significantly better than the average for radiologists, in distinguishing chest X-rays of healthy people from those of patients with TB or lung cancer. Just think of how many tests they can run and how quickly it can be done.
For context, the number of people served by 1 radiologist in a developed country like the US is 9000 people per radiologist and that is for a population of over 300 million people. In a country closer to home like South Africa that number is 82 000 people per radiologist against a population of 60 million. In Zimbabwe that number shoots up to around 900k people per radiologist. That is a big deficiency and a serious human capital shortfall that needs correcting expeditiously. The country cannot produce enough radiologists for the current needs of the population that keeps growing and never mind the constant brain of all the skilled workers.
What makes this organisation a great candidate for Y-Combinator is that they are solving a real problem not just for Zimbabweans, but for SADC and all of Africa. They have also developed effective algorithms that consider things such as race and the genomic factors of people that live on the African continent. Healthcare is a growing industry and covid highlighted the gaps that we need to fix in Africa. Fortunately, the continent was not hit as bad as was predicted but we still have a number of illnesses on the continent that can be alleviated by this company and the type of tech and solution that they are proposing.
The 2nd startup is a platform called Afriblocks that is based in Harare.
AfriBlocks is a fast-growing platform that connects you with skilled, qualified, and talented African Professionals. The company was founded in 2020 and it is an on-demand, two-sided marketplace with professional freelancers providing services to clients across the world at affordable pricing transforming the way African professionals work and solving the problem of unemployment. From graphic designers, software and website developers, marketers, writers, and more.
Freelance work has grown immensely over the past decade and it grew exponentially during the covid lockdowns. This trend is expected to further increase in the coming years as more people strive to work from home as opposed to being in the office.
It is predicted that freelancers will account for as much as 80% of the entire workforce worldwide by 2030 and freelance work has become a viable source of employment for many people across the world, particularly in Africa. Look at the growth of remote working organisations such as Fivver. Freelancing has changed from being something people engage in to supplement their income to being a viable and sustainable way to make a living.
In a world that has become interconnected, African professionals provide highly valuable skill sets across a variety of industries and that is where Afriblocks excels. There is a growing demand for the services of African talent and the continent constantly keeps producing talented individuals.
The global market for freelance work as estimated from the McKinsey Global Institute finds that by 2025 these online marketplaces could add $2.7 trillion to global GDP, and begin to ameliorate many of the persistent problems in the world’s labour markets.
What gives Afriblocks so much potential is that Africa has an unemployment crisis and businesses are looking for ways to reduce labour costs. Freelancers and Afriblocks is the answer to both of these issues because there is a large supply of labour on the continent and the platform exposes freelancers to organisations in Europe and North America for example.
By creating a marketplace, employers can choose from a variety of freelancers and this allows them to choose the best services and then move on. African governments have tried and failed dismally to create jobs within their jurisdictions and solutions such as Afriblocks can really help to move the needle. The company is already in multiple African countries and with time its use will grow and touch more lives.
Afriblocks received funding from Google’s Black Founders Fund and Dr CADx has received funding from Oui Capital. These are both indications of the belief that is in these organisations and their teams. I would strongly encourage them to apply to Y-Combinator because they would break through the ceiling and put Zimbabwean startups on a bigger stage and hopefully lift the entire ecosystem.
These are my picks for Y-Combinator and I sincerely hope they apply and pray that they make it into this exclusive cohort of startups.
Simba is the Programs and Partnerships Manager of Tech Hub Harare,Future VC and Startup Mentor. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org +263777628936 and @DrMswagga on Twitter