PRELIMINARY REPORT 2019 AND OUTLOOK FOR 2020– INNOVATION SL

Innovation SL Ltd is an Entrepreneur Support Organisation (ESO) established in March 2017. The founder is a Sierra Leonean born Norwegian with 20 years in Entrepreneurship ecosystem development. One of the primary motivations in establishing Innovation SL was to deviate from the standard approach to nurturing innovators in Sierra Leone- through innovation competitions and award ceremonies that focus on the top 3 winners out of 50 submissions. It was also the usual practice for cash prizes to be handed over to the winners with no proper or adequate follow up.

Innovation SL, as an Entrepreneur Support Organisation consist of the following:

  1. An Incubator and Accelerator facility
  2. A co-working and office space rentals
  3. A monthly Pitch Event (Freetown Pitch Night)
  4. Ecosystem building and developing collaborative links across Ecosystem players
  5. Innovation SL is the GEN Global affiliate in Sierra Leone (GEN Sierra Leone[i]).
  6. Project Management /Dialogue for and on entrepreneurship development with central and local government and with development partners.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.  The SDGs as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all»; Innovation SL is committed to the SDGs in general and these in particular.

Our Mission: Enabling Sierra Leone’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem to source & develop impact start-ups and scale-ups, to contribute towards the development of ‘a better and more sustainable future’ for all Sierra Leoneans.

Our vision: Is of an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem where Sierra Leone’s largest companies, academic institutions, MDAs and development partners interact with ambitious entrepreneurs hungry for success; with talented individuals, graduates and alumni of entrepreneurial organisations providing a strong source of ‘cultural and intellectual capital’. All fuelled by highly networked and experienced mentoring and capital supported by our incubator and accelerator.

1      Value-creating & High-growth Entrepreneurs

Since Inno SL’s establishment in 2017 as an Entrepreneur Support Organisation (ESO), our focus has been on developing value-creating and high-growth, as opposed to rent-seeking, entrepreneurs. We believe that for entrepreneurship and innovation to play their crucial role in creating jobs, diversifying and growing Sierra Leone’s economy, such entrepreneurs must be encouraged. For this to take effect, the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem must be in place and enabled. Further, we have sought to deviate from the standard approach to nurturing innovators i.e. competitions focussing on the top three out of 50 submissions, with these three normally getting cash prizes, with little or no follow up.

The evidence is clear, this approach has not delivered systemic entrepreneurship and certainly not delivered entrepreneurial success compared to, for example, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Senegal. Our approach is based on developing key components of the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and enabling other parts suited to nurturing value-creating and high-growth potential start-ups and scale-ups.

Freetown Pitch Night has established itself as the No. 1 networking asset of the ecosystem (Separate Report). The Global Entrepreneurship Week is now also firmly established. In 2019, we ran the “Dare2Aspire- Women in Entrepreneurship” as a flagship event during GEW. As with 2018, the event was a huge success in 2019. Africell was one of our sponsors.

In 2019 Inno SL began our Incubation and Acceleration Programme, which takes two approaches – Ecosystem focussed and Problem focussed. The program is located in Kingtom, a space leased under a separate company, Innovations Axis, a shareholder and director of which is Walid Bahsoon, a leader in the building the circular economy ecosystem and one of the most knowledgeable in this sector.

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. Innosl is committed to the SDGs in general and these in particular:

• Goal 2: Zero Hunger

• Goal 4: Quality Education

• Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

• Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Inno SL believes that the Private Sector has a role to play in meeting these goals and, as an ESO, we will focus our incubation and acceleration programs on entrepreneurs developing solutions to these 4 Goals above.

By December 2019 we had twelve start-ups under incubation, in various stages of the development, one of whom has generated revenues of SLL 90 million and is on target to generate a further SLL 350million in 2020. Five more are at the Validation Start Phase, a process which will continue for a further six months in 2020. Validation remains one of the most important parts of our incubation program, with a focus on developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to address a Tier 1 problem for a particular customer segment.

Our “curriculum” will continue to be contextual with the Business Model Canvass and Lean Model Canvass as the tools; with a design driven entrepreneurship foundation. We will continue with mock board meetings, pitch training, mock investor meetings and peer to peer reviews.

In 2019 our start-ups were made up as follows:

• 50% students (each of which had at least two women as co-founders);

• 40% women founders;

• 20 % non-students; with

• An age range from 22 years to 35 years old.

In 2020 we will strengthen our partnerships with our key strategic partners – Sierra Leone Brewery(Heineken), EcoBank Microfinance, Brussels Airlines, The British Council, Limkokwing University, Bluecrest, the Univesrity of Makeni (UNIMAK) and the Department of Science Technology and Innovation (DSTI). With the DSTI, we started the mapping of the entrepreneurial ecosystem through a technical working group lead by the DSTI.

We also look forward to forming three new strategic partnerships in 2020; two with major financial institutions and one with a multi-national corporation.

In all our work, building and enabling an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem remains our guiding principle. This has been the framework within which we have built our services, formed partnerships and designed programs.


[i] The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) is an internationally known entrepreneurship support coalition. GEN Global seeks to enhance its ability to foster and support entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone. Dedicated to advancing human welfare by propelling entrepreneurs, GEN Global’s identifying marks are recognized and respected across the globe. 

GEN Sierra Leone’s mission is to galvanize, organize, support and energize a vibrant ecosystem that will support the growth of entrepreneurship in Sierra Leone. GEN aims to give every potential entrepreneur in Sierra Leone the opportunity to start a business, and to help established entrepreneurs realize their dreams.

GEN Sierra Leone is an independent, run by Innovation SL Ltd, that is recognized by GEN Global as its affiliate in Sierra Leone and is organized for the purposes of impacting Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurship ecosystem by identifying and implementing effective programs, initiatives, and policies that foster and support Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurs. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Expanding the number of Sierra Leoneans who start new growth-oriented firms or work for start-ups by fully legitimizing entrepreneurs in the culture;
  • Increasing understanding between the new and traditional elements of Sierra Leone’s economy through the constructive engagement of broad-based coalitions of public and private sector leaders in supporting smart, evidence-based programs and public policies that strengthen the ecosystem;
  • Supporting the emergence of Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurs by translating state-of-the-art research findings into viable policy action, implementing world-class programs, and curating connections to international networks; and
  • Providing and facilitating, inter alia, education, information exchange, and collaboration on GEN Global and other advanced programs and initiatives at the local level.

GEN Global grants to Innovation SL Ltd  the charter to be an Affiliate of GEN Global.  In accordance therewith, Innovation SL Ltd is authorized to use the name “Global Entrepreneurship Network,” the Global Entrepreneurship Network, acronym “GEN,” and logo of Global Entrepreneurship Network in or in connection with GEN Sierra Leone and Innovation SL Ltd’s name, acronym and logo, with the authority to use such marks in connection with GEN Sierra Leone and Innovation SL Ltd activities.

GEN Global specifically authorizes Innovation SL Ltd /GEN Sierra Leone and to conduct the following activities within Sierra Leone under the GEN brand:

  1. Fostering and rendering assistance to entrepreneurs, providing an accessible source of information pertaining to entrepreneurship;
  2.  Advocating for the development programs and policies that foster and support entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone;
  3. Form and enter into partnerships and agreements with companies/organisations/donors/city government/authorities, representatives of Foreign Governments in Sierra Leone and such other activities as may be consistent with the mission and purposes of GEN Sierra Leone.