Starting up a business is never an easy task. Founders often face the challenge of having to fund each step of the enterprise’s growth, while ensuring that there is a balance between inputs and outputs. These challenges, without quick solutions, often delay a start-up’s maturity and result in business stagnation. This is where the NSSF Hi-Innovator Program comes in.
An initiative of Uganda’s National Social Security Fund (NSSF), the program has established a start-up fund aimed at identifying and supporting Uganda’s small & growing businesses that have the potential for great impact, sustainability, and can be scaled.
Stages in the Hi-Innovator program
There are two stages an applicant goes through in the NSSF Hi-Innovator program: the pre-accelerator and accelerator stages.
The pre-accelerator is the first step in the Hi-innovator initiative. It basically provides foundational business knowledge to entrepreneurs to enable them to address some gaps in their businesses. It consists of a self-directed online learning platform with applied exercises to enable you to apply the skills you are learning to your business.
The pre-accelerator enables entrepreneurs to prepare for the next phase of support known as the accelerator. Every potential applicant must participate in the pre-accelerator.
The accelerator is the second phase in a start-up’s Hi-innovator journey. It is a six-month business support process where you receive grant funding, technical assistance, business development, business training, and market development support to enable you to grow the business.
How to apply for the NSSF Hi-Innovator Program?
The initiative will only accept teams of at least 2 founding individuals. This implies that a team of one founding individual will not be considered. NSSF considers that best business require teamwork and collaboration to scale and remain sustainable.
An application must be submitted through the Hi-innovator website and idea management system to be considered. Applications received by email, WhatsApp, or in person will not be accepted.
In terms of what the business should possess, the limit is at least to have launched a product or service to the market and received early customer feedback with some revenue. The revenue should be at least UGX 20 Million in the previous two years.
The business should also have been legally and actively operational for at least two years and should not have raised more than UGX 1 billion in either grant, convertible grants, venture capital, or Private Equity at the time of submission. To this effect, the business must have been fully registered with Uganda Registry Services Bureau (URSB), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), and The National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
The other requirement for registration is that applicants must be Ugandan nationals OR non-national currently living and working in Uganda with up-to-date work permits. Non-Ugandans should be running a business that includes a Ugandan in an ownership and decision-making role to be considered.
The Hi-Innovator initiative requires founder participation. All founding team members must commit to fully participate in at least 90% of the scheduled learning labs, and mentorship sessions in the initiative. Founding team members not fully committed to the initiative will not be accepted in the initiative, and their removal may render the remaining team ineligible for the program.
To join the NSSF Hi-Innovator initiative, visit this link.
What do the winners get?
The NSSF Hi-innovator Program seeks to fund up to 500 companies over a period of five years. The company says it will provide winners with up to $30,000 in grant funding for their business. Winners will also receive tailored mentorship and business training. Furthermore, they will get access to Outbox’s network of partners to enable you to build your product to market.
The funding provided under Hi-innovator is a convertible grant. The business owners/founding members must be willing to sign an agreement with NSSF that provides the right to exercise a 6% equity ownership in the business within 3 years.