Startups in East Africa have a new source for investment and mentorship.
Sweden’s Norrsken Foundation—a coworking space and investment fund based in Stockholm—opened its tech fund and entrepreneurship hub in Rwanda today to support ventures across the region.
Norrsken’s Kigali center is located on the former École Belge campus and will begin with seed investments of $25K to $100K for early stage startups in all sectors starting this year, Norrsken CEO Erik Engellau-Nilsson told TechCrunch.
The fund size is still being determined and Norrsken Kigali will extend the fund to larger series-stage investments from $100K to $1 million in the future.
Norrsken’s Fredrika Wessman is the head of Africa expansion and the organization is in the process of hiring a local director for its new Kigali operation.
The Swedish foundation’s move into Rwanda is strongly connected to the organization’s focus on the power of tech entrepreneurs to solve problems and generate capacity.
“We believe the single most important thing we can do here is help people get wealthy, because if that happens more investors will start to look at this region and see there’s business opportunities and bring more capital,” said Engellau-Nilsson.
“The aim is to build the biggest hub for entrepreneurship in East Africa.”
Startups that receive Norrsken funding from its Kigali center will receive mentorship and support of the overall Norrsken organization and network. “That includes unicorn founders, leading tech founders, and developers. We also look to expand that network to local accelerators and incubators,” said Engellau-Nilsson.
The Kigali center is Norrsken’s first launch outside of Sweden and the organization looks to open in 25 markets globally over the next decade.
Norrsken was formed in 2016 by Niklas Adalberth, the founder of Swedish payments solutions unicorn Klarna. Engellau-Nilsson was an exec with Adalberth at Klarna from 2013 to 2017, and both aimed to do more to support impact-driven, early stage ventures.
“We wanted to use our experience and tech to solve real problems instead of finding another way to do things like deliver burrito’s faster,” said Engellau-Nilsson.
Over 340 entrepreneurs and 120 companies currently work out of Norrsken’s Stockholm location. The organization’s fund has invested in 17 ventures, including three Africa focused startups—agtech company Wefarm, digital publisher Kognity, and weather forecasting firm Ignitia.
Norrsken chose Rwanda as the base for its East African for the country’s progress over the last decade on infrastructure, increasing internet penetration, and improving its business environment. In 2019, Rwanda ranked higher than any African country on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business list, 29th, before Spain.
Though the country has a relatively small population (12 million) and tech scene, the government of Rwanda has prioritized tech events and development in the country. This includes becoming a leader on drone delivery and regulatory systems, working most notably with San Francisco based UAV startup Zipline.
Of the East African countries from which Norrksen will source investments, Kenya stands out as one of the continent’s top hubs for tech startup formation, VC, and exits.
As for how ventures can reach out to pitch to Norrsken’s new fund, “If there are entrepreneurs who want to reach out to us, we’re ready to go,” said Engellau-Nilsson. Norrsken posted an informational and contact link for its Rwanda hub today.
This holiday, check your old phone for a fat battery
I found something in a junk drawer this week that was at first exciting, then alarming. In the drawer was an old smartphone that I’d not powered on for several years, at least. Cool, I’ll just start it up and time travel back to the point at which I last turned it off, right? But wait a moment here… this phone is significantly thicker than it was when I last saw it. This is not good.
Why did this phone get thick?
The thickness came from a chemical failure of the device’s lithium ion battery. I’d never opened this device before – I never had a reason. The only reason a person might open up a device like this would be to fix a component inside, or replace a component inside.
We’ve seen this sort of thing happen in a bunch of phones over the past decade, from all sorts of manufacturers. Most of the time we see this sort of thing happen, it’s because new phone users are working with off-brand plugs and such.
With a phone that’s been left in a drawer for several years, there’s a chance the chemical-based setup within will… fail. If you see this sort of thing happen, you have a few options and at least one NON-OPTION.
What to avoid
One NON-OPTION is charging the device. Do not charge the device. Do not plug your phone in to any sort of wire, nor set your device on any sort of wireless charger. You absolutely do NOT want to agitate the battery package if at all possible.
Can I fix a swollen battery? No, you can not fix a swollen battery. The deed is done. The only thing left to do is isolate the battery and/or the phone with the battery inside before you contact a professional.
Do NOT put your phone in the fridge or make any attempt to “cool it down.” The expansion is not temperature-dependent. The expansion cannot simply be reversed.
Do not do ANYTHING that may result in you piercing the battery’s protective layer. If you do that, the battery may explode and start a fire. See our feature Where to put your old phone batteries to see some explosions, courtesy of batteries that’ve been disposed of incorrectly.
What needs doing
It is not easy to open most smartphones not meant to be opened – especially one like this, held together with glue AND clips, with no easily accessible screws. The manufacturer of this phone, Samsung, did not build this phone with the intent that it be easily opened or its hardware replaced (or even removed) by the average user.
As such, you’ll more than likely want to seek the assistance of a professional. Gadget repair specialists are used to seeing this sort of thing – it happens far more often than you’d think. They’ll know how to safely remove the battery and potentially replace the battery IF that is possible.
There’s a real possibility that your phone will need to be brought to your city’s official landfill. You may want to call ahead, as your city’s waste management specialists will want to take special care of the battery and the phone to avoid an explosion and/or fire.
What if today is a holiday?
If you find an expanded battery in a smartphone and it is a holiday, chances are your local battery-handling professional won’t be available to dispose of your fire hazard of a phone. The LEAST you can do is place the battery (or the phone with the battery inside) in a safe place. Isolate the phone and/or the battery – away from paper, away from anything flammable.
Get the device outside as quick as possible if you can. Put the device in a fireproof container, like a metal bucket with a layer of sand inside. Above all else – get this thing isolated so WHEN it starts on fire, it’ll cause minimal damage.
This advice was as good a decade ago as it is today. New smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearables, etcetera, still use lithium ion batteries, and lithium ion batteries still fail.
Take caution, and don’t take a risk. This one’s full of fire.
Nokia 9.3 PureView might be a no-show this year
HMD Global has flooded the market with affordable Android phones but its track record on higher tiers has been less impressive. To date, only the Nokia 8 Sirocco and Nokia 9 PureView can be considered top-tier, at least based on the premium Snapdragon chips they’re carrying. The latter’s successor would have not been on par, at least based on the earliest information we had, but it would have given the PureView brand yet another stab at the market. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening any time soon, as the Nokia 9.3 PureView has reportedly been delayed to 2021.
The Nokia 9 PureView was quite the oddity, though it wasn’t surprising considering HMD Global partnered with mobile camera company Light. It utilized five co-equal cameras to independently take shots of the same scene and stitch them together into a single hi-res image. It mostly delivered on that promise but left plenty of room for a version 2.
By late 2019, Qualcomm seemed to be quite excited for a Nokia 9 PureView successor that would showcase its Snapdragon 765’s capabilities despite not being an 8-series processor. It might have disappointed some who were hoping for a true Nokia premium flagship. For better or worse that successor never came, which ironically leaves the door open for a better device.
Twitter user @Nokia_anew now claims that the Nokia 9.3 PureView has been pushed back to 2021. When that will be is still unknown but it might be sometime in the first half of the year. That potentially means HMD could switch to using a Snapdragon 875 but, considering its preferences for mid-range to entry-level chips, we won’t be too optimistic about the chances.
Even more concerning, however, is the absence of a Nokia PureView in 2020, which could call into question HMD Global’s ability to even make one now that Light is out of the mobile market. The company still has to come out with a new high-end phone but, then again, Nokia was better known for flooding the market with innumerable phones anyway.
Samsung NEON artificial humans could be on Galaxy phones soon
AI and machine learning have become the buzzwords of today’s tech world and news but, save for a few exceptions, people envision them as disembodied voices like Siri or even impersonal bits and bytes that silent work miracle behind computer screens. At CES 2020 earlier this year, Samsung and its subsidiary Star Labs showed off AI that was both relatable but also eerily too human. As if it wasn’t enough to have them standing at arms’ length on wall-mounted displays, it seems that Samsung is toying with the idea of bringing NEON to phones soon.
The idea behind NEON is just as bewildering as it sounds. These artificial humans aren’t Siri, Cortana, or Alexa made digital flesh. They are, instead, mean to be virtual equivalents of persons, using AI to express emotions and reactions in a human-like way. Rather than being virtual assistants, they are more like virtual friends.
The COVID-19 pandemic that exploded just a few weeks later may have thrown a wrench in Samsung’s plans to demonstrate the kind of product it wants NEON to be. While the idea of a virtual companion might be attractive to some, having those confined to a life-sized screen on a single wall in your house breaks the illusion it tries to offer. For better or worse, it seems that Samsung wants you to take your NEON with you in the future.
Star Labs president and CEO Pranav Mistry, whose list of achievements include the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Samsung Project Beyond 3D capture system, revealed on Twitter that NEON was already running on his phone. Given his employer, we can only presume it’s some high-end Samsung Galaxy phone. He also shares that the public will be able to see this combination next month.
That still doesn’t exactly clarify what NEON is for, aside from being a showcase of Samsung’s AI chops. Granted, it might have more practical value on a mobile device than on a wall but it will probably be only a matter of time before uncanny valley makes humans uncomfortable with their digital counterparts.
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