Imagine: an app that enables young people to gain work experience in the sector they want to work in, build a rating via feedback from real employers, and get hired.
That’s what Yussouf Ntwali and Gabriel Ekman (Co-Founders of BAG Innovation) have created in Rwanda. Their app is bridging the gap between education and real industry experience – to develop talent and provide access to valuable opportunities.
Ntwali and Ekman won the Shooting Star award at LEAP’s 2023 Rocket Fuel competition. So we asked them what’s changed in the six months that followed.
Spoiler: BAG Innovation is preparing to scale operations across East Africa.
Could you share the story of how and why you started BAG Innovation?
“BAG Innovation was founded out of a shared vision between my co-founder, Gabriel Ekman, and myself to combat youth unemployment in Africa. We observed a significant gap between the theoretical education provided by universities and the practical skills needed in the real-world job market.
“Our inspiration came from the desire to bridge this divide by creating an innovative, virtual job simulation platform that would prepare students for the workforce while still in university.”
Why did you decide to enter the Rocket Fuel competition?
“We chose to enter the Rocket Fuel competition because we saw it as an opportunity to showcase the innovative work BAG Innovation is doing in the EdTech space. We believed that winning an award from such a prestigious competition would not only validate our efforts but also expand our reach and visibility on a global scale. The competition also promised access to a network of global investors and entrepreneurs, which was an attractive proposition for our growth.”
How did you feel when you won the Shooting Star award?
“Winning the Shooting Star award was a truly exhilarating moment. It was not just a win for us as a team, but also for all the students and businesses we serve. It validated our approach and reaffirmed that our mission of bridging the gap between education and employment resonated with a global audience.”
Since LEAP 2023, how has being a competition winner helped you achieve your goals?
“Our visibility has increased significantly. We've attracted more strategic partnerships and seen an upsurge in our user base.
“One significant milestone we've achieved is the signing of a 10 year contract with the biggest university in Rwanda to provide our platform as a key career tool for their students.
We've also seen our user base grow to over 8,000 young people in Rwanda. Currently, we're working towards expanding our impact across East Africa and reaching over 15,000 new users by the end of the year.”
And what are the next steps for your startup?
“Moving forward, we plan to scale our operations across East Africa. We're also developing a white-label platform that universities can licence, rebrand, and curate to their liking. This platform will help universities digitise their career development centres and integrate their traditional curriculums with real-life case studies and experiences from businesses, enhancing the post-graduation employment rate, university ranking, reputation, and enrolment.”
What would you say to a startup that was considering entering the Rocket Fuel competition in 2024?
“I would strongly encourage any startup considering entering the Rocket Fuel competition to take the leap. The experience offers invaluable exposure and access to a network of global investors and entrepreneurs. Furthermore, it's an opportunity to validate your startup on a global stage and can act as a catalyst for growth and development.
“Don't hesitate to put your innovative ideas forward and let the world see the value you're creating.”
Thanks to Yussouf Ntwali at BAG Innovation. Enter the Rocket Fuel Competition at LEAP 2024.