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MStudio: A Startup Studio that Wants to Spur the Rise of Startups in Francophone Africa

Wednesday, 31 May 2023 18:29
MStudio: A Startup Studio that Wants to Spur the Rise of Startups in Francophone Africa

(MStudio) - MStudio officially launched its activities in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on March 7, 2023. The company aims to spur the growth of start-ups in Francophone Africa and possibly the birth of the region's next unicorn. Leslie Ossété, co-founder and COO, MStudio, explains in this interview the company’s operational choices.

What exactly is a startup studio, and what makes it unique?

A startup studio is a company that "creates" startups leveraging shared resources and a multidisciplinary team. Unlike incubators or accelerators, we have a double implication in the project: operational and financial, over an average period ranging from 12 to 24 months. Our experience and repeated successes allow us to build knowledge and know-how, which enable us to speed up the growth process of a startup and avoid failures while taking advantage of networking.

Why target Francophone Africa in particular, knowing that the region attracts the least investment on the continent?

That’s right. Between 2021 and 2023, startups in French-speaking West African countries raised only $60.7 million, or 0.6% of the total amount that African startups raised over that period–$10.1 billion. Our goal is to bridge the investment gap in Francophone Africa, by helping entrepreneurs launch high-impact startups by replicating business models that were successful in Anglophone Africa, South America, and Asia, instead of creating new models. As the first startup studio in Francophone Africa, we bring expertise, financing, and a significant network to the startups we support.

How do you explain the low level of investment in Francophone Africa?

There are several reasons, including a less pronounced risk culture on the part of investors in the area, the lack of project maturity, the language barrier, the small size of local markets, or the relatively weak middle-class purchasing power. However, things are changing gradually and we are doing everything to provide the startups we support the tools they need to turn these tides.

What will Mstudio's investment criteria be?

Mstudio currently supports three startups and aims to launch 30 by 2026. Our investment criteria are based on five axes: Having at least two co-founders; a business model tested in the Anglophone market, a mobile-based solution targeting the informal sector, and a launch in Abidjan to address Francophone Africa.

Why choose Abidjan as the center of this adventure and even as one of the selection criteria?

MStudio decided to launch in Ivory Coast to grow this entrepreneurial ecosystem as we are convinced that in the next decade, Francophone Africa will be the preferred destination of international investors. Ivory Coast is becoming a regional tech hub, growing more attractive, and gathering entrepreneurs and investors from around the globe during major events such as the Africa CEO Forum. Regulation there is also more conducive to the growth of startups. The Ivorian government keeps its commitments when it comes to supporting startups. On January 18, 2023, the Ivorian Council of ministers adopted a bill to promote digital startups. In the same month, they also launched Startup Boost Capital, a financing mechanism for local startups. The mechanism is related to CI20, an association of top Ivoirian startups. 

Why launch just "30" startups over the next three years when there are many potential startups in the region?

Startup studios are selective. They choose a small number of companies to which they provide the best support, technical expertise, and educational tools, possible. Every year, for three years, the program will support 10 startups. Being selective is what allows us to rapidly raise funds and what makes us valuable!

How should a startup proceed if it wants to join MStudio’s support program? 

MStudio recruits co-founders present on the continent or from the African diaspora. Becoming a co-founder is only the first step in the enrollment process at the startup studio. There are three types of co-founders: tech entrepreneurs who have already set up a company, key talent from high-growth startups in Africa, and "good students" with a high capacity for execution.  Becoming a co-founder is just the first step in the process of joining the startup studio. This is followed by the generation of startup ideas, participation in the entrepreneur in residence program to transform the idea into a project and find a partner; the business plan pitch phase before an investment committee validates whether or not the co-founder will join MStudio for twelve months. Those interested can apply, for free on Mstudio's site.

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ECOFIN AGENCY offers a selection of articles translated from AGENCE ECOFIN. Founded in 2011, Agence Ecofin is a leader in Francophone Pan-African economic news, particularly in West and Central Africa. The agency publishes daily news on nine African economic sectors: Public Management, Finance, ICT, Agribusiness, Energy, Mining, Transport & Logistics, Communication, and Training.

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