By Feven Jembere
Published: Thursday, September 29th, 2016
Markos Lemma, CEO of Iceaddis, Runs Ethiopia’s First Startup Incubator
Ethiopia (TADIAS) — A graduate of Australia’s RMIT University where he studied computer science, Markos Lemma, who is the co-founder of iceaddis — Ethiopia’s First Startup Incubator — is one of the leading tech entrepreneurs in Addis Ababa participating in the recent growth of smartphone and internet users as well as technology oriented startups in Ethiopia.
Markos describes himself as “a cofounder, slash-consultant, slash blogger, slash speaker,” attesting to being part of what the renown actor Idris Elba calls the “slash culture.”
Since its inception in 2013, iceaddis has incubated 19 local startups, including Karta, Mekina, 50Lomi and Besew, and has gained high traction in Ethiopia housing 15 entrepreneurs working on startups and winning international competitions in Kenya, Rwanda, Germany, Finland and Switzerland.
Markos shares that he launched his venture so that he can assist young people like himself with dreams of building a tech-related business in Ethiopia. “The driving force of innovation is the country’s educated youth,” Markos says, noting that there was few if any such support for youth of like-minded passion. He adds that he wanted to create a “home for grass-root innovation and to be a one-stop shop for tech startups to get open-space, support and networking opportunities to start their own venture and grow.”
There are many challenges to running a successful tech incubator and startup in Ethiopia including the dearth of financial support and reliable internet connection.
“It isn’t, per se, hi-tech that I was always interested in, but the possibility of developing technological tools which assist us to solve our daily challenges,” Markos says, emphasizing that there are many high potential startups in the pipeline that “will improve our lives, once they get into the market.” He names Stavimer, Flowius and Hulubet as a few examples.
As part of the icehubs network in the Middle East and Africa, iceaddis has received international media coverage including features on BBC, Disrupt Africa and VC4Africa.
Iceaddis. (Courtesy photo)
In addition, Iceaddis has a community of 5000+ individuals with different levels of membership, and organizes various events such as hackathons and pitching competitions throughout the year in collaboration with international organizations.
“Most people get their ideas from events not trainings, and they also have opportunities to find someone who will assist them on the ideas they seek to realize,” Markos says. “These events also help build an entrepreneurial mindset among the youth, enabling them to learn what’s happening and to cope with challenges while developing a harmonized direction.”
Markos partly attributes iceaddis’ success to his organization’s management style of “non-hierarchical and open environment” as well as their focus on “extreme collaborative methods.” He argues that “personal drive and the ability to build strong relationships” are key to his endeavors. Markos, who had previously co-founded various other startups such as SelamCompany — a venture working on primary education and literacy — says his company is expanding to launch events across Ethiopia in Jimma, Mekelle and Jijiga.
“There is something rewarding about being a pioneer and betting on the youth in a big country like Ethiopia,” Markos enthuses.
About the Author:
Feven Jembere is a recent high school graduate from ICS Addis now attending the University of Chicago. She is interested in topics related to entrepreneurship, health sciences, music and anthropology. “I enjoy playing soccer and reading books,” Feven shares. “Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, Gifted Hands by Dr. Ben Carson and Blindness by Jose Sarajevo are some of my favorite books.” (Feven Jembere’s profile photo by Danel Kidane)