We are excited to note and share that one of the Youth Spark Innovation Grants (YSiG) projects under the Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab; the Bacterial Vaginosis Kit (BVKit) innovation was selected to participate in the Blackbox Connect 17 (#BBC17) from November 7th–18th, 2016 out of a record 105 startups globally nominated.  BlackboxConnect is a two-week, residential program designed to immerse international startup founders in the Silicon Valley culture. These two weeks at Blackbox were very intensive and interactive for the teams. Start-ups workedwith other brilliant international founders at Fact0ry SF.  It was also a great opportunity to engage and network with venture capitalists, successful founders, and industry experts to learn from and connect with to grow their businesses.

This particular team is working on a Bacterial Vaginosis Kit (BVKit), a self-diagnosis tool that enables women to monitor their reproductive health at home and advises them to see a doctor when they have a vaginal infection. Through YSiG the team has richly benefited from the Human Centered Design training , conducted and learnt from carrying out ethnography studies and are informing the BVKit design to incorporate feedback to refine the product to meet user’s needs.

Ms. Margaret Nanyombi, the team leader and co-founder highlighted that; “The BBConnect experience was remarkable, I have not only got more value to become a better leader but I was exposed, met different founders and entrepreneurs.I gathered a lot of knowledge around several aspects, including that the culture and goals of the company are paramount when building start-up teams. As leaders in our companies we should not let our personal goals interfere with the company goals. I also learnt to communicate effectively and be a better leader in all sectors which will in turn help me have more impact and influence in my society’’ Nanyombi added. “We were taught the importance of understanding and considering diversity when creating innovative solutions. I also learnt the need to understand the foundation of a startup and how to present elevator, investor and Silicon Valley Pitches, highlighting the need to first understand your audience’’.

This edition of Blackbox Connect was one of a kind as all the different founders apart of the program had an opportunity to share their skills and experiences in their areas of expertise. Participants had a lot of time to bond and share the tales of different cultures of origin. Founders from Seoul, Syria, Dublin, Toronto, Australia, Barcelona, China, and Palestine, Netherlands actively joined in all the Connect activities.It was also an opportunity for us to make valuable and wonderful friends. The weekend did not go to waste when Liz McCarthy affiliated to Google for Entrepreneurs from Dogpatch Labs in Dublin and some founders organized bike riding across the Golden Gate Bridge! We met with prominent founders who have made history in the development world including; Derek Anderson from the StartUp Grind, Alex Torrenegra -TechCrunch and Founder of Siri Adam Cheyer (Siri is a computer program that works as an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator). We also visited Google Ventures in Amphitheatre and Google Launchpad Space. It was an unforgettable learning and fun experience and I encourage every start up founder to apply and participate in the Blackbox Connect’’, a smiling Nanyombi shared.

She is more than ever, energized, empowered and ready to organize lightening talks and sessions for the different founders in the different work spaces as well as diligently work on her project to the next level. BBConnectcontinues to support all their beneficiaries, it does not end after this program, start-ups join the Blackbox family and are connected to a trusted network offering support, collaboration, and strategic cooperation throughout their careers as entrepreneurs, something the BVkit innovators will also largely benefit from.

The RAN Innovation Lab team will continue to share open opportunities in the RAN Monthly Bulletin, mailing lists, inspire and support all grantees to seek such additional opportunities to grow their skills and capacities as well as leverage additional resources that will facilitate scale-up of the innovation projects. Ms. Nanyombi is one of the beneficiaries of such an incredible opportunity and we all join in to congratulate her!