Earlier this May, 25 year old Chukwuwezam Obanor, 2014 Anzisha Fellow and co- founder of PrepClass.ng notified us of his latest selection into the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund. Selection into this program for Chukwuwezam means grant funding of roughly 1/3 of a million dollars, technical assistance for his enterprise and the opportunity to partner with mobile operators in Nigeria to scale Prep Class into a sustainable business which continues to achieve a socio-economic impact as it was created to. Visit GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator here to learn more about this program. So what does it take to amass grant funding as Chukwuwezam did? Below, Chukwuwezam breaks down for us what it takes to win such as substantial amount of grant funding and support and we include our thoughts on what you can learn from Chukwuwezam’s latest company gain below.
About the process:
“GSMA foundation conducted a truly rigorous process.” Chukwuwezam shared. “The process started with an initial application to understand whether or not the startup was in the shared economy space. Out of 402 applicants from this stage they selected only 27 startups which then made it to the proposal stage.
The proposal stage focused on understanding how the startup would connect / partner with telecommunication companies to scale their business. In this stage, it’s important to share the value a partnership will bring that the telco was previously unable to capture. It was far more elaborate and this time we had to fill another application but also send in a plethora of business documents.”
“At the same time they conducted both online and offline research and due diligence on each startup. We had someone from GSMA spend days with us, asking us questions verifying our numbers and vetting our business processes.”
Our thoughts: Chukwuwezam’s understanding of what value-add their company could provide the telecommunications market meant a strong understanding of what his enterprise has to offer and understanding of the telecommunications space. Doing research on the market you are in for a grant like this is essential. They want to prove that you can deliver on their needs for innovating in the telecommunications space, therefore, an extensive proposal and due diligence process is mandatory. Chukwuwezam had his numbers readily available in the form of formal business documents, making his selection without question or doubt.
- On understanding what the grant program is looking for:
“Just like every application, this grant has its own specific and unique set of criteria before a startup can be eligible. Startups interested in this grant have to fall in either of the two following categories:
A Sharing Economy: any mobile-based solution that enables low-income citizens to generate income through sharing, e.g. the way Uber allows drivers earn money through its platform or PrepClass allows tutors earn money.
Services for SMEs : any mobile-based solution that unlocks productivity and growth for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
We stood out because PrepClass fits into the sharing economy business model perfectly and we have an impressive tremendous track record of success. Even before applying for the grant, PrepClass had been in full operating for over two years, we have facilitated over 100,000 hours of tutor and unlocked passive income for tutors that they would have otherwise not have had access to.
The second reason would be that our vision to leverage on the power of mobile technology in scaling our impact on education across the country resonated very strongly with them. GSMA has a bias for mobile solutions; they are keenly interested in businesses that have the potential to use mobile technology to scale their services. In the near future, PrepClass would be launching a mobile app that allows our tutor scale their impact beyond the 1-1 constraint of the normal home tutoring model. Tutors would be able to reach hundreds or thousands of learners including those that they are not in close physical proximity with.”
Our thoughts: Chukwuwezam’s understanding of why they stood out is because they neatly fit into the criteria of the GSMA Accelerator. PrepClass is a startup in the sharing economy that seeks to provide mobile solutions in making a socio-economic impact. There is strong value in finding the right funder for your venture. The more your venture aligns with an investment funds criterion, the more likely you will be selected for funding. Do your research on investment companies and organizations in your sector, region, and the likes. The more you fit their criteria and can communicate your value add, the more likely you will be selected for the investment opportunity.
- On preparing the application
“We spent several weeks completing the application forms. They were truly elaborate. We were required to show some business documents, budgets, financial plans etc. Outside of the application itself, the amount of business related documentation we were required send was huge. In general it was our most tasking application to date but the entire process was very rewarding not only because we got selected but also because it helped us rethink and improve our future plans for collecting data.”
Our thoughts: Securing major investment means data! Record keeping of what Chukwuwezam listed above (budgets, financial plans, etc), shows you are organized and that if you are selected for a 1/3 of a million US dollars in investment, you will be able to monitor your growth, spend and enterprise’s progress. Tools that can help you best do this include wave’s free online accounting software.
Chukwuwezam, thank you for providing us with the opportunity to learn from you! We hope his journey inspires your preparation for your next big grant which will transform your enterprise!