Sierra Leone

Freetown // 14 November – 18 November, 2016

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This Sierra Leone Business Model Validation Lab is a 5-day accelerator for early/idea-stage, Sierra Leone-based entrepreneurs that are tackling social and environmental problems. It is designed to help these entrepreneurs rapidly identify and validate the foundational assumptions of their business.

Why Sierra Leone:
Sierra Leone has a growing and resilient entrepreneurial community. We want to support the creative, ambitious and motivated entrepreneurs wanting to make a difference and connect them to mentors, business leaders, and other like-minded professionals to build a thriving ecosystem. This can only be done via collaboration, learning, sharing, failing, prototyping and growing as members of an inclusive community.

Get Involved: Apply to be an entrepreneur, become a mentor, be a sponsor, or help our Lab team find entrepreneurs. Read on to get involved!

The Problem

The early stages of a startup are marked with questions. Who is my customer? What problems do they have? Do I have a solution to their problems? What are they willing to pay? Will I be able to break even? An entrepreneur’s ability to quickly convert these questions into answers is one of the few characteristics that separates successful startups from failed ones. The problem is that few entrepreneurs know the rapid and systematic approach required to answer these questions. They go too slow, they focus on the wrong things in the wrong order, and they move forward without truly validating a business model.

The Lab & Curriculum

The Business Model Validation Lab is designed to do one thing: provide entrepreneurs with a step-by-step methodology to rapidly and systematically validate their venture’s business model. Entrepreneurs will:

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Identify the foundational assumptions that underpin your venture.

Design and run experiments to validate / invalidate the foundational assumptions (through customer discovery and rapid prototyping)

Meet with mentors to get feedback and develop next steps.

Daily Schedule

The curriculum of the Lab oscillates between in-classroom workshop time and in-market customer interaction time.

  • Connector.

    Day 1

    Starts with orientation and workshop on assumption mapping in the morning. The afternoon is spent interacting with target customers.

  • Connector.

    Day 2

    Starts with a workshop in the morning on how to rapidly prototype. In the afternoon entrepreneurs will physically build a prototype.

  • Connector.

    Day 3

    Starts with a workshop on how to build powerful, long-term relationships with mentors, funders, and partners. Entrepreneurs prepare for Mentor Day in the afternoon.

  • Connector.

    Day 4

    Mentor Day! 10-15 mentors will attend the Lab to work directly with entrepreneurs.

  • Connector.

    Day 5

    Begins with a workshop on how to validate the cost assumptions in the business. Afternoon is spent on strategic planning.

Tangible Outcomes

By the end of Lab entrepreneurs will have something to show for their work. They will have:

  • Learned a repeatable methodology for how to do customer discovery
  • Built 2-3 prototypes of a key element of their venture
  • Tested prototypes with real customers
  • Learned how to build and maintain mentor relationships
  • Met and received feedback from 10-12 world-class mentors
  • Conducted a break-even analysis of their business and identified the key cost and financial assumptions of their business
  • Built out a basic budget and financial model
  • Created a 6-month operating plan


This Lab will actively involve a diverse set of mentors. These mentors will be custom-selected after selecting the Lab ventures to assure mentors meet their needs. Interested in mentoring? Email Julio.

Brendan Sullivan
Brendan currently heads regional expansion for Impact Water, a social enterprise that provides clean water for 500,000+ students across Africa. Brendan’s experience validating product-market fit, building and scaling an enterprise in Uganda, and now leading expansion across East and West Africa renders him an invaluable mentor for early stage Unreasonable participants.

Edmond Nonie
Edmond is a business professional with six years’ management experience. He currently works as an Analyst at ManoCap LLC where he specialises in investment research, financial modelling and business advisory. Previously, he managed projects in construction, eCommerce and international procurement. He is a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Alumni 2015 and holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Sierra Leone.

Julio De Souza
Julio embodies his vivacious Brazilian roots in everything he does. He’s a driven entrepreneur, humanitarian and strategist, always searching for the next adventure. In 2008, he co-founded Nuru Energy East Africa.
He spent three years at UNDP Kenya as Program Manager in the Private Sector Development Unit. Julio is an Acumen fellow, and a mentor for M Lab, Growth Africa, Unreasonable Institute and Sankalp. Throughout his career Julio has raised over $6 Million in capital for various ventures.

Aminata B. Dumbuya
Aminata B. Dumbuya is the Campaign Director for Power for All, Sierra Leone. She is also a Partner and National Project Manager for Masada Waste Management Company SL LTD, the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of BSI SL Ltd, and CEO of Pinnacle Marketing Consulting Firm in Sierra Leone.
She brings a strong track record in communications, a demonstrated ability to build relationships, and a clear passion for distributed renewable energy. She has over 15 years of experience in business, consulting, advocacy and marketing.

Hamid Marah
Hamid is a market systems, SME and private sector development expert whose entrepreneurial instincts and clarity of vision has carried many businesses and social enterprises in Sierra Leone through rapid and continuous growth. He is distinguished by his passion for business, focus on collaborative team-building, and commitment to work with and motivate young people. He is currently a Senior Intervention Lead at the DFID/UKAid funded SOBA programme. He is a fellow of the CEU Leadership and Management with Integrity for SMEs policy lab.

Salton Massally
Salton is the founder of iDT Labs. He founded iDT at 23 years old as a platform, Salton incubates ideas in-house, both commercially viable and socially impactful, and also partners with government, businesses and social enterprises to augment social impact in sectors like health, financial inclusion, labour markets, and rural agriculture. At the heights of the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa, he led an effort to implement a highly innovative program which combined technology, inclusive finance, public health, and governance expertise.

Sinkarie M. Sesay
Sinkarie is the Founder of Mangara Consultancy & Services Limited, advising companies entering the Extractive and Agriculture Industries in Sierra Leone and Guinea, and consults on implementing Local Content with the Sierra Leone Petroleum Directorate. Her start was in Drilling Engineering at the coalface of Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Projects, and later migrated into Commercial Roles. She spent almost 10 years with Shell, and is now General Manager for West Africa for a start-up Oil and Gas Company.

Simeon Hartwig
Simeon Hartwig is an award winning entrepreneur and founder of Bantum Clothing. Simeon set up Bantum Clothing in 2008. Within the first year he was the runner up for the Paul Smith New Business Adventure Award. In 2009 he won the British Councils UK Young Fashion Entrepreneur of the Year Award at London Fashion Week. He has a passion for spotting potential in businesses and helping them fulfill their potential. With an excellent understanding and love of branding he can help fill the gaps in the skill sets of entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone.

Kobi Walker
Kobi currently is the Marketing Manager for National Petroleum; Sierra Leone Ltd. NP is the largest provider of petrol in Sierra Leone. Kobi has experience marketing for Union Trust Bank, and the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited. His vast experience in marketing makes him the perfect mentor to entrepreneurs who need to reach their customers.

Fullah Musu Conteh
Fullah is an Independent Human Capital Consultant with 14 years of progressive experience in transformational HR activities within the EMEA region; Experienced in developing and conducting international HR systems, tools and implementation courses, managing national and regional projects; she provides HR management strategic and programme planning advisory services to clients, ranging from International Non-Government Agencies, Development Partners, and the Private Sector with emphasis on Agriculture, Energy, Extractive, Hospitality, and Media organisations.

Mahmoud S Javombo
Mahmoud currently works in Sierra Leone as a Program Director for an international nonprofit organization, Global Minimum Inc. (GMin). He also leads one of the organizations involved in creating the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Sierra Leone for young people. In 2012, Mahmoud assisted the launch of GMin’s Innovate Salone, a national innovation contest in Sierra Leone. Over the last three years, he has enabled over 100 local youth in Sierra Leone to solve problems in their various communities.

Kofie Macauley
Kofie is a serial entrepreneur and current CEO of Camserv (Camserve Salone), a Sierra Leonean business offering marketing services. The company focuses on transport, logisitics, procurement, and real estate. Their current venture is a 25 megawatt hydropower run-off-the-river project based in Tonkolili on the Pampana River. Kofie is a trained mechanical engineer specializing in agricultural machinery. He has a passion for business and a natural ability to spot business opportunities, maximize potential, closing deals, and execution.

FAQ’s & More About This Program

Application and Selection
Applications are now open! You can apply by clicking on the pink button at the top of the page. We look forward to getting your application.

Entrepreneurs who are eligible are:

  • Committed to social and environmental impact with their venture
  • Idea-to-early-stage in their venture’s development
  • Based in Sierra Leone (more on location below)
  • For-profit or non-profit
  • 18 years of age or older
This Business Model Validation Lab is designed for idea-stage to very early-stage entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out:

  • Who their target customer is
  • What, exactly, is the problem their target customer has
  • What their product/service offering looks like (they haven’t built a prototype yet or have just begun building prototypes) and if it meets the needs of the target customer

Entrepreneurs are too late if:

  • They know (with a very high level of confidence and specificity) who their customer is
  • They know (with a very high level of confidence and specificity) what problem their customer has
  • They know (with a very high level of confidence and specificity) that their solution solves their customer’s problem
  • They have a product/service that is in mainstream production
  • They have substantial sales

Entrepreneurs will complete the short online application (link above). Then the Unreasonable Lab Team will review all submitted applications and schedule 30-minute interviews with those who move on. After the interviews, 10-12 entrepreneurs will be offered a spot in the Lab.
Applying for the lab is free. If selected then there is a 50,000 LE participation fee. This is to ensure your commitment to the lab process.

The Lab Team will work with any entrepreneur who is accepted to attend the Lab but unable to pay. Do not let the cost prohibit you from applying for the Lab! Filling out the application is free!

Lab Details
If you are accepted to attend the Lab, we will ask that you attend the Lab in its entirety. The curriculum is cohesive and builds upon itself, meaning that if you miss a day, you will be at a significant disadvantage.
Each Day is different!

The Lab will feature both time in the classroom (learning principles of how to validate your business model) and time in market with your customers where you will be interviewing them and having them interact with your prototypes. There will also be one entire day dedicated to working with mentors. Throughout the course of the Lab, you will have plenty of time to work and rest. Taking time to digest the material is an important piece of acceleration!

Day 1: Day 1 starts with a brief orientation and workshop in the morning, followed by an afternoon interacting with target customers.

Day 2: Day 2 starts with a workshop in the morning on how to rapidly prototype. In the afternoon, entrepreneurs will physically build a prototype and then go out again to meet with target customers.

Day 3: Day 3 starts with more time interacting with target customers before having an afternoon workshop on how to build powerful relationships with mentors, funders, and partners.

Day 4: Day 4 is a mentor day when 10-15 mentors will attend the Lab to work directly with entrepreneurs.

Day 5: Day 5 begins with a workshop in the morning on how to validate the cost assumptions in each venture before spending the afternoon working on strategic planning. Then the Lab concludes.

Lodging is not provided but the Lab Team can help participants find accommodation if necessary.
You will only gain access to the network of mentors and entrepreneurs who attend this Lab.
Be a Supporter
If you are interested in being a mentor we would love to share a conversation with you.

Click here to email Julio to discuss becoming a mentor.

We call the people who help us find venture Pipeline Partners. If you are interested in helping us find ventures we would love to share a conversation with you. Click here to email Julio to discuss becoming a Pipeline Partner.
We would love to explore sponsorship opportunities with you. Click here to email Olubunmi to discuss sponsorship opportunities.
If you are interested in helping us we would love to hear from you! Interested in being a sponsor or a mentor email us.

Pipeline Partners

Pipeline Partners are organizations that help us find the entrepreneurs. Like us, they support entrepreneurs doing good in the world. If you want to become a Pipeline Partner for this Lab, please Email Olubunmi.


Here’s who made this possible.
Email us to discuss sponsorship opportunities.

Our Team

Here is the team that made this happen.


Portofolio Director for the SOBA Programme

De Souza

Multi-Market Business Advisor at the SOBA Programme


Communications Strategy Lead for the SOBA Programme

Gbawuru Marah

Senior Intervention Lead for the SOBA Programme


Intervention Lead for the SOBA Programme


Intervention Lead for the SOBA Programme


Intervention Analyst at the SOBA Programme


Office Manager at the SOBA Programme