Launch of a Franco-Algerian business accelerator in Marseille

success story
Launch of a Franco-Algerian business accelerator in Marseille
Nassim Kerdjoudj, the CEO of Keyenn and Hattaa!
08 February 2024 / Digital Economy, Grow your business, invest in provence

A platform to connect African innovation to international markets

In August 2023, five entrepreneurs launched Keyenn Venture Builder, a Franco-Algerian business accelerator in Marseille. Their goal: to guide and support African start-ups and early-stage businesses in their international development journey by helping them set up a base of operations in Marseille. This project follows the Level Up program, which was launched in Algeria at the end of 2021 to identify high-potential African start-ups. Nassim Kerdjoudj, Keyenn’s main shareholder, stresses the importance of boosting the tech market in Africa and helping to solidify its future by internationalizing successful start-ups as quickly as possible. Backed by Provence Promotion, this accelerator also aims to promote sustainable business models.

Africa has seen an exponential rise in the number of start-ups in recent years. According to the 2023 Africa Tech Venture Capital study, over the past decade there have been nearly 3000 investment deals with African start-ups and a total of almost €20 billion in financing, 68% of which has been raised in just the last three years.

As part of this dynamic, Nassim Kerdjoudj launched the Keyenn project in Marseille to help African start-ups develop outside their domestic markets and facilitate their international expansion. “Too many promising African start-ups in the growth phase are unable to break into international markets because of a lack of support structures, funding, and contacts,” he says.

Nassim Kerdjoudj is a leading Algerian entrepreneur who studied in France and then worked for major companies such as IBM and Microsoft before setting up his own businesses in Algeria. With his partners, he opted to open operations in Marseille because he believes the city will emerge as the world’s benchmark hub for technologies that are open to the Mediterranean and Africa. “Marseille is at the crossroads of Europe and the Mediterranean, it’s a cosmopolitan city that is just one hour by plane from North Africa, and it has direct transport links to many African cities. There’s also a large African diaspora in Marseille.”

Meetings with Provence Promotion confirmed that Marseille was the right location for Keyenn. “Provence Promotion made it easy for us to understand the local ecosystem. The agency saved us precious time by putting us in touch with the right people. The meetings on site were high quality and very well organized,” says Nassim Kerdjoudj, who was supported by Salima Chelabi, Provence Promotion’s project manager for business set-ups.

Helping African companies use Marseille as a springboard to international success

Keyenn’s role will be to provide a comprehensive interface that helps connect African start-ups with new markets, and investors. Each year, three to four rising stars from the African tech ecosystem will be accelerated by benefiting from a customized 12-month program with advice on consolidating their business plan, finding the ideal market position, identifying potential investors, and accessing financing.

The accelerator has just recruited a development manager and four more people are expected to join the project soon to form the operational team. This core group will be supported by the co-founders, each of whom contributes a complementary high-level expertise to the project. The founders include Taoufik, the e-commerce specialist with successful companies Zenpur and Tweezgroup on the Amazon platform; Elies, the strategist who used to work for McKinsey and Rolland Berger, and spent 17 years in the Dubai business ecosystem; Yacine, the marketing specialist who has held senior positions in e-commerce and with a number of different telecom companies including Djezzy Orange, Divona, and Telma Comores; and Samir, the team’s resident business expert who has successfully launched a franchise of a famous Swiss watch brand in Algeria and has diversified into the agri-food sector. Their extensive knowledge of their respective fields and their network of contacts are Keyenn’s major asset and its main competitive advantage.

Keyenn has also surrounded itself with a network of private investors who are willing to take a stake in the start-ups in the acceleration program and further support their development.

Haatta! is the first start-up to benefit from the new Marseille accelerator

Hattaa!, which is directed by Nassim Kerdjoudj, will be the first start-up to enter the Keyenn program. Hattaa!, which means “class” in Algerian Arabic, aims to become the benchmark e-commerce platform specializing in fashion and sport. It already has around 20 major brands available on its site, including Nike, Adidas, Puma, New Balance, and Calvin Klein.

Successfully launched in Algeria in July 2023, Hattaa! offers a unique shopping experience through a high-performance website based on state-of-the-art technology provided by Amazon Web Services. After choosing Marseille as the location for its international development, Hattaa! intends to launch its multilingual, multicurrency interface before the end of the first quarter of 2024. This will enable Algerians around the world to order products as gifts for their loved ones in Algeria. Hattaa! also aims to launch its own line of private-label clothing made in Algeria by early 2025.

Among the other start-ups identified for international expansion from the base in Marseille are an HR platform, an express parcel delivery company, a livestream shopping company, and a food tech business.

Keyenn is currently occupying a temporary office and is looking for a permanent space of between 80 and 100m2 with the support of Provence Promotion. Meanwhile, Hattaa! already has a presence in Marseille city center and plans to recruit three people for its start-up: two sales representatives and a technician.