How Princeton seniors, Masheke and Taylor, are shaping the future of African innovation

Written by
Jocelyne Wijaya '26
March 23, 2023

The New Venture Competition (NVC) is an opportunity for early-stage tech entrepreneurs based in Africa to learn, network, and compete for capital needed to launch their businesses. Investors, academics, students, and corporate sponsors across the African continent are encouraged to partake in the three day experience. 

This year, the NVC will be held on April 22, 2023 during the Africa Summit at Princeton, where participants can share their ideas, foster connections, and compete. 

In October 2020, the inaugural NVC was held virtually, with over 80 applicants participating. Ten finalists were selected to compete for a $10,000 first-place cash prize, a $5,000 second-place cash prize, and a $1,000 audience choice cash prize. 

The winner of the 2020 NVC was Ndovu — a savings and investment infrastructure developed by founder and CEO Radhika Bachu, to provide Africa easy access to global and local financial markets. 

When asked about the origins of Ndovu, Bachu described the lack of financial literacy many African countries experienced. 

“The everyday African lacked financial education, and access required high minimums to get started,” she said. 

“Ndovu was conceptualized in 2021 to provide easy access to global and local markets with as little as $50 via an app. Ndovu provides digital advice to help users get started and is built on blockchain which increases security and improves governance,” she further explained. 

To Bachu, the NVC played a pivotal role in improving her entrepreneurial skills and provided financial support to help launch Ndovu. 

“At the outset of our journey, the NVC and training came at a time when we had only raised $15,000 from family and friends. The training received from the mentors on how to create a strong pitch by covering data points that investors required answers for, led us to win the NVC. After this win, we raised our company profile and we raised sufficient funds to launch our MVP,” she said.

At present, Ndovu continues to achieve momentous developments, such as acquiring a Fund Manager license and securing $5 million-plus assets under management. More importantly, it is now a leading savings and investment infrastructure for Africa.  

This year’s NVC is coordinated by Mutemwa Masheke '23, who describes the competition as a “chapter of transformation.” 

“From conversations with the previous NVC winners, it's incredible to think about how they achieved a $10 million dollar valuation in such a short period of time,” he explained. 

Sydnae Taylor '23, coordinator of the 2020 NVC, similarly shared her sentiments about the competition providing bountiful opportunities for early entrepreneurs. 

“The competition provides capital, access to capital networks, and resources for students and recent graduates around the world to bring their ideas to life, leveraging Princeton’s vast network and platforms,” she said. “We empower today’s greatest thinkers with valuable experience and expose them to future investors, customers, and employees,” she added. 

Regardless of outcome, she believes that, “each participating team leaves with valuable lessons on how to make compelling business pitches and navigate powerful networks.” 

Both Taylor and Masheke attribute former Princeton alumni Bayode Okusanya '20 and Bunmi Otegbade *19 for the vision they conceptualized in the creation of the NVC. 

Masheke explains that in all 18 years of his life in Zambia, never did he think that a group of students could revolutionize the landscape of African technology. 

“We are in a time where the continent is rapidly detaching itself from the weight of colonial involvement and shaping its own cultural identity through the development of innovations that solve problems for its inhabitants,” he said. 

Attributing the NVC’s success to Princeton’s ecosystem of powerful thinkers and collaborators, Masheke believes that, “Princeton University is well-equipped to join the monumental shift we are witnessing by playing a part in empowering the next generation of African technological innovators.”

Both Taylor and Masheke believe that the New Venture Competition and the Africa Summit are doing critical work leveraging Princeton’s plethora of resources. 

To Taylor, “there is a direct, positive effect on Princeton and the wider community as it encourages students from diverse backgrounds to become entrepreneurs and be socially engaged with their immediate and global communities.” 

Motivated by the positive effects generated by the NVC, African Summit, and Princeton, Masheke emphasizes that this year’s competition will have “more cash prizes for more finalists” in addition to emphasizing the “diversification” of “different categories of impact to match the needs of entrepreneurs on the African continent.” 

“The 2023 Africa Summit New Venture Competition this April challenges Princeton to look beyond being "in the nation's service" and take up the more audacious but worthy mantle of being in the service of our global community - in all its diversity,” Masheke concludes.