A locally founded and Artificial Intelligence (AI) centered company, iCog Labs, has joined up with the US-based Kudu, a venture capitalist firm, to mentor and provide seed financing for tech startups.
Bethlehem Dessie, project manager with iCog Labs, and Noel Daniel, cofounder of Kudu, said on Friday that both firms have joined hands to launch a startup accelerator program where some 18 tech companies will have the opportunity of receiving a three-month intensive mentorship and seed money funding.
According to Noel, a US-based co-investor so far has contributed close to 100 million birr and five percent of that is set aside to be invested in iCog Labs startup initiative. Noel said that for next year, close to USD 20 million will be raised to invest on feasible technology-oriented startups.
Until recently, Ethiopia has been lacking a conducive venture capital policy and incentives that could channel a sizable investment financing to the economy. In that regard, it was recently announced that the Ethiopian government is preparing a policy that enables the setting up of a local venture capital fund in the country.
Established six years ago, iCog Labs has managed to be seen as a synonym for AI and a well-known software developing firm when Getnet Assefa, the CEO and his teammates succeeded to program 70 percent of the famous humanoid robot: Sophia. Stretching on, both Bethlehem and Getnet have been able to draw global attentions and publicities. Currently, they run Anyone Can Code (ACC) a grassroot coding program that focuses on underage and teenage school kids. A robot soccer tournament across 30 universities is another venture Getnet and Bethlehem have teamed-up in to aspire Ethiopian IT geeks.
Furthermore, iCog Labs are engaged with an IT solutions and innovation competition called “Solve IT”, which is funded by the US Embassy in Ethiopia and by the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) – for a socially not for profit program.