Fledge9 wrapped up less than a month ago, but Fledge10 begins in Lima, Peru tomorrow and before that intensity builds, it seems a good time to wrap-up what Fledge9 did for each of the fledglings in Seattle.
Africa Business Radio came into Fledge9 as a two-year-old, bootstrapped streaming radio station with a single stream of content. They left with a plan to create three more streams: East Africa, West Africa, and South Africa, on top of the continental Africa stream; a plan to create a podcast network; and a plan to create a series of events in African cities. All this from conversations with media companies in the States, who have managed to build successful digital news content companies.
They also left with a brand new, modern website, a tuned up logo, and fresh logos for all their podcasts.
Listen to the live stream now on africabusinessradio.com
BridgeCare Finance started off Fledge9 focused on winning the Seattle Angel Conference. That effort tuned up their investor pitch and filled out a complete package of due diligence. Unfortunately they didn’t walk away with the big check at the end of that night, but business plan competitions are like that for most of the participants. Switching to the preparations for Demo Day let BridgeCare find a much more compelling story to tell investors, the flood of mentors helped the team fill in any remaining gaps in the business plan, and the BridgeCare team got out of the building to talk to child care centers and potential customers multiple times to nail down the right features of their minimal viable product.
JOELEX spent the first half of Fledge9 building a viable business plan. They launched their first sanitation station last November, and was able to operate it for a few months, but came into Fledge with a typical rough draft for how to scale up. That is all fixed, with an investment-ready plan and a first investor already pledged to help grow the business. Like BridgeCare, the exercise of create a story for Demo Day greatly helped JOELEX find a compelling way to explain their business. Weeks of daily feedback from pitch coaches are an amazing tool to do that, and JOELEX put their shoulder into that process, practicing every day and every night to make their story shine. They also went home with a much improved logo, one line pitch, and the confidence that JOELEX can make a big difference in Kampala.
Golden Cat came to Fledge9 as LOTEC Rwanda, with two years of operations under its belt, seeking mentorship to refine its business plan and story. While we did that, we also renamed the company Golden Cat, named after the African Golden Cat, a wild cat nature to Rwanda. A field trip to the local American supermarket sealed that name, as it fit well with every other brand we could find in the produce section. Plus Golden Cat’s founder, Peter, was amazed by the low quality of the french beans and snow peas sold in that supermarket vs. the A-1 quality he sells in Europe. Golden Cat had received an $80,000 loan from some Fledge investors and others in December, so it’ll likely be a few months before the company gets to put its tuned up investor pitch to work.
Zijani saw the biggest changes at Fledge9. On Day 1 they were Biogen Kenya, selling biodiesel-as-a-service to restaurants in Nairobi. By Day 21, they were Zijani, collecting all the used cooking oil in Kenya and exporting it to biodiesel producers overseas. That came about by presuming Plan A would fail and planning for a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D. That exercise often finds worthwhile small changes to Plan A, but sometimes leads entrepreneurs to pivot. As for the name, “kijani” is Swahili for “green” and Zijani not only sounded good to both East African and American ears, but was an unused .com and had no results on Google. Lastly, Zijani’s founder Bryan had a ton of fun with his Demo Day talk, which was a crowd favorite and will no doubt help Zijani find the small amount of funding it needs, which is less than we thought as Peter from Golden Cat happened to have a box truck he wasn’t using, in Nairobi. Having fledglings all in one room leads to synergies like that.
Zirconia rounded out the Fledge9 fledglings, all of which walked away with updated logos. The team started out with a plan to bootstrap the company, only to find gap after gap as they talked to the various “toll blenders” they were looking to hire to outsource initial production. The need to raise capital then led to discussions of Angel vs. venture capital investments, the scale of scale up, and ended with two sets of business plans, depending on how many investors see the potential for this company. We like having the fledglings to have Plans A, B, and C for both operations and funding, and teach a method invented by an alumnus fledgling for funding scenarios. Like others, Zirconia’s Demo Day storytelling challenge was incredibly useful for the company, getting Ben (CEO/founder) out of his habit of Chemistry/Material Science jargon and into a pattern of understandable English. We were all amazed one morning at that transformation, when a draft Demo Day talk wasn’t just understandable, but truly poetic. Its too bad we had to scrub much of that poetry to create the prose of the final version.
Each session feels better than the one before, and Fledge9 was no exception. Great teams. Great progress. Great talks. And a ton of kudos from the mentors, investors, and supporters. As always, now comes the hard part, turning all that work into reality. For updates on that, subscribe to our newsletter.