Local start up wins big on world stage
At one of the world’s premier tech startup events, Slush, attended by 20,000, held in Helsinki, Finland, Christian Tesfaye, 20, founder of an agri-tech firm from Ethiopia, GebeyaNet Technologies, was crowned champion, on December 1st, 2017 of the Slush Global Impact Accelerator competition. This was the first time an Ethiopian agri-tech company has won such a top international award at a gathering of this level.
Selected from among 1,400 global applicants, Christian’s company, GebeyaNet, won the Special Impact Award with a grand prize of five thousand Euros. For him, the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that came with an engagement with noted and aspiring entrepreneurs from around the world. “I was excited with the chance to attend the event and network with inspiring people from all over the world”, he told The Reporter. “The whole experience was like traveling the world and meeting the perspectives of many amazing young entrepreneurs”.
Slush is an event attended by over 2,500 startups, 1,200 investors, and many others. GebeyaNet, led by the 20-year old founder, was established in June 2017 along with co-founders Robel Benyam, Feven Gutu, and Nardos Harold, who together describe themselves as “dreamers, game changers, techies, and hopeful youth trying to change the world.”
GebeyaNet was incubated in blueMoon, Ethiopia’s first youth agribusiness incubator and seed investor, founded by Eleni Gabre-Madhin (PhD), who stated, “We are extremely proud of Christian and the GebeyaNet team for putting Ethiopian youth startups on the global map, and this is just the beginning for blueMoon.”
Christian and his co-founders set up GebeyaNet, as a “web and mobile based platform that directly connects smallholder fresh vegetable farmers to end buyers, and also integrates transport logistics and mobile payments” with the objective of reducing waste from spoilage of vegetables and to ensure fair prices to farmers. blueMoon, a private company, made the first equity seed investment of 230,000 Birr into Christian’s company.
Following blueMoon, noted local businessmen Zemedeneh Negatu of Fairfax Africa Fund and Addis Alemayehou of 251 Communications have also recently invested 1.5 million Birr on an equity basis into GebeyaNet as witnessed on the first blueMoon sponsored "Lions Den,” a nationally televised program that aired on LTV in September 2017.
“Organizations like blueMoon, that identify and support talent, provide mentorship, encourage innovation, share business know-how and facilitate financial solutions are invaluable in helping new businesses not only survive, but thrive”, Michael Raynor, the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia recently said, noting that “blueMoon represents exactly the kind of initiative needed to unlock the entrepreneurial potential in the country”.
The SLUSH local competition is organized by iceaddis, another well known tech startups incubator in Ethiopia. So far, iceaddis has sent eight Ethiopian startups of Helsinki with the cooperation and partnership of Finland's Department of Foreign Affairs.