Turbine had the honour of hosting the first Africarena Tour 2018 in Mauritius on the 2nd of May 2018.The event was organized in collaboration of Compass Venture Capital, the French Tech and the Africarena.

Africarena is an international platform that explores start-ups and innovators in order to identify the best ones. The latter get exposure and opportunities to partner up with sponsors. Their principal aim is  to promote the tech innovation ecosystem and to attract entrepreneurs and investors towards Africa.

In order to explore the trend with up-coming start-ups, Africarena is touring in various countries, Mauritius being one of them.

The event started at 16h00 with an interactive panel discussion on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mauritius and Africa with a panel of selected experts; Fabrice Boullé, partner of the investment fund Compass venture capital and Director of Turbine, Christophe Viarnaud, Managing Director of Africarena, Linley Tanner, an experienced Mauritian entrepreneur.

It was then time for the “Best Mauritian Start-up Challenge” pitch battles: These were twofold; one for the seed stage ( that do not have traction yet) start-ups and another for the early stage (that already have traction) start-ups.

Three start-ups, Fundkiss, MySphere and Travelbudds, tried their best to impress the judges with their pitch in order to win  the  seed stage  challenge and four more start-ups, Ticati, Rezobooking, Storageplus.io and Expat.com, pitched for the early stage challenge and showed off the respective traction figures. The competition was tough, but the judges could only choose 1 winner in each category, of whom only one would get the chance to go to the finals of Africarena in Cape Town.

The winners of the Africarena Tour 2018 Mauritius for the Best Mauritian start-up challenge seed stage was Travelbudds, and Expat.com for the early stage challenge. The judges decided that, of these two winners, Travelbudds should be the elected start-up competing at the finals in Cape Town.

Christophe Viarnaud candidly shared his experience on the Africarena Tour in Mauritius;

I am genuinely impressed by the quality of start-ups we have in Mauritius. The pitch are on point and the innovation they are bringing are interesting.” he said when speaking about all the participating start-ups.

“Expat.com has an exceptional traction which is very rare to reach without external funding even when compared to other African start-ups. 

Travelbudds had the best pitch based on the criteria, very professional and we could see the hard work. Moreover, it is a great idea! Anyone over the globe can use it. Travelbudds truly deserve to go to Africarena in Cape town.” 

When asked for any advice that he would like to share with Mauritian start-ups, he answered:

“My tip to start-ups is to be dynamic, be flexible and ready to accept challenges even if you think that you are not there yet. Try experiencing the maximum of thrills in challenges. It will help you polish your capabilities.

We also had a chat with our Winners;

The co-founder and CEO of Travelbudds, Arielle Meyer;

What is TravelBudds? 

Travelbudds is the social network for young, mobile, connected, travel lovers looking for the most authentic ways to discover the world and share their experiences. TravelBudds will be the only tool travelers will need to go through the whole travel lifecycle from inspiration seeking, to organizing & booking, geolocalized tips during the trip and experience sharing. 

Through this social network, we aim to become the Travelers’ hub connecting users together and together with service providers, official institutions and brands for our users to benefit both from peer-to-peer advice and from official information. 

As of today, in terms of entrepreneurs and official institutions, we target mainly low visited countries and remote places in order to develop entrepreneurship, economic growth, employment and last but not least green tourism. 

Why Travelbudds?

We created TravelBudds because we realized that the customer journey in travelling can be really painful. On the one had, we have the online tourism industry which is really crowded. There are many websites, sources, brands, social media groups and people sharing their experiences here and there. And on the other hand, we have millennials who are looking to make the most out of their trips, immerse themselves in the local cultures and have a real experience. However, they don’t have much time to organize and, in majority, they make travel choices based on peer recommendations. Therefore, we decided to create an all-in-one tool to save time while organizing being reassured that the information comes from a person we know who has already had this experience. 

Our Journey: 

Linley and I met over the summer 2016 from a personal relation. We discussed the project, the needs, the business model and the vision for over 6 months and finally incorporated the company in Mauritius in december 2016. From then on, we started prototyping, designing, developing, beta-testing and our app was born and available in the app store in december 2017. During the first 4 months, we tested and enhanced our solution and one month ago we launched our first communication campaign. We have been on a steady growth in terms of users since the beginning and have just reached 1500 users. Our campaign will go on until September and we hope to follow this track of growth. 

Why Participate in Africarena? 

We decided to participate to the Africarena tour challenge in Mauritius in order to be visible towards the start-up ecosystem and investors. For us it was the opportunity to meet new people, test our pitch and idea and to show what TravelBudds was about because we are looking for funds shortly. The competition was quite fierce for this pitch contest and it was difficult to actually position your start-up in the whole because there were all sorts of start-ups from different markets, different stages and different technologies. 

Honestly, we didn’t really expect to be the winners so we are very proud and extatic to be able to go to the next step. Once again, our marketing campaign showed traction on our product and the Africarena challenge made us realize that judges believed investors could be interested in our start-up. It’s a great leap ahead and we are very happy to have the opportunity to go to Cape Town, be in the pitching program with SchoolLab and have the opportunity to extend our network. 

What does this new achievement mean and what will it bring to Travelbudds? 

The start-up creation journey is a real emotional journey aswell. Most of the times, you get 100 no’s for 1 yes and the founding team needs a lot of confidence, trust and strength to keep creating. We have not yet been so familiar with the investor’s world and getting feedback on what we have built so far so this achievement is a serious energy boost for the whole team. We are very excited and looking forward to developing our start-up, our team and building our partner network in the next few months. 

We also talked to Julien Failu, the founder of Expat.com:

Tell us about Expat.com?
Expat.com is the world leading online networking platform dedicated to life abroad. We provide quality content, networking facilities, and premium services to help those who are already living or looking to live abroad. The platform is available in five languages, and our aim is to help our international audience and members to make their expat project a success.

How did you come up with this start-up? 
I have been living and working in many countries. I quickly noticed that information, contacts and services for expatriates and future expatriates were hardly available. I started working full time on an expat blogger-oriented interactive platform called Expat-blog.com and set up a team composed of IT experts and community managers to boost its performance. Over a short period of time, a unique technical infrastructure was designed, with the aim of providing members and visitors with customized local content.
In April 2015, the platform reached its first million members.
In January 2016, Expat-blog.com became Expat.com, propelling the start-up as the leading platform dedicated to life abroad.
Expat.com offers improved features and embraces the whole spectrum of expatriates. By adding meaningful content and premium services to its platform, Expat.com boosts the benefits the platform provides to its visitors and members.
As a sign of recognition and proof of our notoriety, Expat.com reached 2 million members in September 2017 and generated its first million revenue (USD) the same year. In 2018, it was selected as one of the Top 50 Start-Ups at the Start-Up Grind Global Conference event in San Francisco.

What motivated you to apply to Africarena?
Africarena is a great place to be when it is about networking with the tech community in Africa. We are currently committed to connect with successful startups and investors to get the advice and support we need to grow.

What does this new achievement mean for expat.com?
It is mostly a sign of recognition from peers working in the same sector as us. It shows that our business goes in the right way. This achievement may also help us to get more visibility among the investors community and open new doors.

What is the next step?
We will continue to grab the attention of key stakeholders at Africarena in November, but also at other Tech conferences worldwide.

As for Turbine, hosting Africarena was an enriching experience. We were able to talk with dynamic entrepreneurs in our ecosystem, learn about the questions that investors and other stakeholders ask, and watch live the rigorous battle of pitch! We are proud of having been part of the organizing team bringing this reputed international platform to our Mauritian entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is just the beginning of bringing Mauritius on the map of innovative businesses!