Mobility Accelerator

The project in Nairobi, Kenya was the incubator and advisor for 2 rounds of eight startups over a period of ten months. The first round saw the build up of the new facilities through TUMI funds to create the working environment needed for innovative work. During the first and second acceleration periods, work was closely supported by mentors and service providers to support them in sustainably growing their businesses.


Project Description

The population in African Cities is rapidly increasing rural-urban migration demand for better mobility services is growing by the hour. As a result, there has been an increase in the demand for public transport, pooled rides as well as digital mobility services. Shaping this transformation in a sustainable manner is key towards ensuring a prosperous African urban future. This would provide an opportunity to provide transformative urban mobility solutions that can offer better more sustainable travel options, reduce travel time, cost and risk, as well as carbon emissions and other negative externalities. Through a public call for applications the startup accelerator accepted two cohorts of ambitious startups to tackle these challenges by supporting them in building successful businesses in Nairobi. The program provided technical support to startups that work towards providing transformative solutions to urban mobility challenges from September 2018 to May 2019. In addition to this the TUMI Startup Accelerator could build a sustainable mobility startup ecosystem by gaining support from CISCO, UBER, Safaricom, Shell Foundation and many more.  


May 2018: grant from TUMI Global Urban Mobility challenge 

November 2018: first startups were selected and admitted to accelerator 

January – May 2019: seminars have been held every week with a total of 17 seminars 

June 2019: startups pitched to potential investors at the Urban Mobility Summit-Nairobi 

September 2019: Second round of Startups were prepared 

June 2020: Round of startups were selected, and remote mentoring was prepared 

2021: Mentoring program and final event

Project's Objective

© Africa Mobility Initiative (AMI)
  • To facilitate sustainable urban mobility innovations by offering mobility start-ups and innovators technical and financial support towards solving urban mobility challenges in African cities. 
  • To provide acceleration opportunities for mobility innovations on the African continent. 

Key Outputs

Coaching and mentorship support for eight startups 

  • Supported the startups to focus on their business as they align themselves to TUMI Startup accelerator this included defining the problem the startups are addressing, being sure of the customer’s willingness to buy the solution provided, and supporting the startups in their pitching to potential investors
  • Provided insights on tactical strategies for scaling to the startups
  • Presented possible networks for growth to the startups
  • Provided linkages to potential partners and investors to the startups
  • Provided advice to the startups on how they may establish themselves and grow and
  • Responded to questions from the startups and gave most practical recommendation and advice


Developing marketing strategies 

  • Reviewed the existing marketing strategies for each of the startups; 
  • Supported the strengthening of the startups’ marketing strategies aligning them to their business models and market segments. Supported the development or enhancement of the marketing strategies for each of the startups; 
  • Advised on the effective ways to execute the marketing strategies amidst the limited resources; and 
  • Provided any other support on marketing that would be appropriate to the startups. This included and not limited to providing advice on marketing strategies being implemented by the startups. 

Challenges and Learnings


Learnings for similar accelerator programs 

  1. The accelerator should conduct interviews for the potential startups, perhaps with help of advisors so that it is able to choose the best startups and especially those with a product already in the market. Early stage ideas without a product are difficult to accelerate. 
  2. The program should communicate clearly to the startups on the expectations and what the entire acceleration process entails e.g., seed capital and any other financial support.  
  3. Access to the acceleration facilities like the meeting or working spaces (C4DLab) should be unlimited, if possible, of working time extended and on weekends. 
  4. Design the programs in a way that will help startups to think differently and develop more superior solutions as well as increase their capacity to collaborate, merge and commit to a long-term vision. Expose them to more validated learning and industry experts. 
  5. Develop a strong follow up process for progress monitoring after the acceleration period by creating an alumni program. 
  6. Strengthen go to market, product development and management understanding for the start-ups to achieve product market fit. 
  7. Increase the accelerator period to 12 months. 6 months is too short a time to realize the much needed take off results. 
  8. Provide minimal business funding to startups that is easily accessible to finance their most urgent needs as identified/verified by mentors. The accelerator can work with mentors/ advisors to review/ evaluate which urgent affordable items the accelerator can pay for to give impetus to the startups. 
  9. The age of a startup needs to be considered before allowing them into acceleration, if a startup has been in existence for over 3 years, and is not solving a terminal problem and is not post revenue then chances are they are more interested in pitching than in working on their business.  Also, where the founder has a separate profitable business then they are unlikely to take the acceleration program seriously unless there is evidence that they have invested in the new startup with more than the use of idle resources from the existing established business. 
  10. Make attendance of workshops mandatory for all startups in the program and failure to attend and participate in a specified number of sessions should be sufficient grounds for elimination. 
  11. The accelerator should in addition to focusing on mentorship, support the startups in actual business development to link to the accelerator partners or networks to form a pipeline for the startups. The accelerator should also emphasise on technical assistance for instance to share technical knowledge with technical partners with CISCO on how to improve startup technologies.  
  12. Support from the accelerator in terms of facilitating pilot runs of the startups solutions within the University ecosystem can be able to validate the offering the startups are proposing as well as form a basis or learning tool for them.  



  1. Many of the startups were still at idea stage and were not ‘working’ on the ground and therefore it was difficult to discuss certain concepts away from general theory.  
  2. All the startups in the program had existing solutions which had received accolades in other forums which they seem to have mistaken for a validation of their business models. This made most of the founders resistant to being objective on reviewing their business models. 
  3. A similar challenge was the mind-set problems. Mind-set problems are like biases, a money driven approach as opposed to a value driven approach. Short term vision as opposed to a long-term vision which compromised the level of empathy, patience and the quality of the solution. This was a serious challenge because most innovators had week justification of the problem and solutions they were offering. 
  4. Conflicts of timing between appointments and seminars by the various startups/ advisors; and choice of meeting venues between mentor’s office/ or C4DLab as some mentors preferred to hold meetings in his office which was not always easily agreeable to the startups. 
  5. Having the seminars on Thursdays and Fridays each week was quite heavy to some startups who recommend, if possible, reduce the frequency to allow flexibility.  
  6. Positive challenge: Most Mobility concepts are based on initiatives by Cities and not by private sector. This required further research and inquiry into how the private sector can enable transformation of the urban mobility sector in developing cities. 

Potentials for Scaling Up

  • C4DLab plans to host a new cohort of startups and further segregate them into two groups of those in need of incubation and acceleration support. This will ensure that all fit and receive support that is relevant to their startup growth stage.   
  • New cohorts need further support to ensure they sustain and scale up the progress they made during the six months of acceleration. This also includes forming an alumni group where they will continue to engage with each other and the mentors they worked with.  
  • C4DLab plans to host an urban mobility boot camp where various topics will be discussed which includes design thinking for mobility, the new urban agenda and innovation for mobility.  
  • Strategic and continuous stakeholder engagement is necessary to unlock local investment for innovation in mobility, this will be done through various stakeholder engagement forums hosted by C4DLab.  
  • C4DLab plans to host the Urban Mobility Summit-Nairobi annually, hence creating a platform for discussion, collaboration and sharing of good practices on urban mobility in Kenya and globally 
  • The project shall admit startups from across other African cities to reach its ultimate goal and attracting more stakeholders and urban mobility enthusiasts. It shall grow the size of the cohorts, hence reaching more startups.  
  • Increasing the length incubation and acceleration period, we shall have the opportunity to tailor make the support services to the needs of each startup increasing their growth and success rates during and after the incubation or acceleration period. It shall offer funding for scaling of the startups in different categories hence providing both technical and financial support for mobility startups. 

Tonny Omwansa

TUMI Challenge Winner 2018

"The TUMI Startups Accelerator launched to provide technical and financial support to startups that work towards provision of transformative solutions to urban mobility challenges. Our hope is to use this as a vehicle to create a set of sustainable, private sector led solutions to urban mobility challenges in Afrika." "TUMI is providing technical and financial support towards solving urban mobility challenges through a startup accelerator in Nairobi, Kenya - that's bold and innovative!"

The Team

Daniel Moser

Senior Advisor

Leonie Guskowski

Project Manager

Graduated in Business Administration with a focus on Financial Management & Financial Markets. Besides managing and monitoring of a variety of pilot projects, she focuses on female empowerment and inclusivity of the mobility sector. She has been working in different departments of the GIZ for several years.

Supported by

C4D Lab

Innovation Lab

C4DLab is a prototyping and innovative startup incubation lab at the School of Computing and Informatics, University of Nairobi. This lab was founded in 2013, as the first phase of a bigger complex CC4D (Center of Computing for Development) to be built at the school. The lab works with the entire university community, with a reach to a community of more than 70,000 people, including faculty, students, staff and alumni.

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Shell Foundation

Shell Foundation (SF) is a registered charity, founded by Shell in 2000, that exists to support people living in low-income communities to escape poverty and ease hardship. It creates and scales business solutions to enhance access to energy and affordable transport as a means to achieve this.

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