The iHub at 5

Celebrating the Community - iHub's 5 Year Tech Bash

Celebrating the Community – iHub’s 5 Year Tech Bash

43 companies in the Kenyan tech scene have come together to put on an event for 3,000+ people in the tech community, the #5yrTechBash at the Arboretum. The iHub is turning 5 and it’s a testament to the people and companies who make up this space that we’re thriving and have a chance to celebrate.

It’s a community event by all of us, for all of us!

iHub-5-year-music-bash

Community as our Legacy

There has been a long history of the tech community in Kenya coming together, from Skunkworks and Barcamps to the iHub itself. I tend to think of community connectedness as one of Kenya’s key competitive advantages. Read this blog post by the founders of Angani, a company made up of some of the pioneers in the space, to understand some of the background on how this has come together.

If you read this post I wrote on “What makes the iHub Work” from 4 years ago, you’ll see that it’s a combination of many people that ultimately makes it different and why it still makes such an impact on people’s lives. Also take a moment to read Josiah Mugambi’s piece on the last 5 years.

The iHub community over 5 years

The iHub community over 5 years

Tracking the Numbers

One of the great strengths of the iHub is the serendipity that you have by coming in and running into people. However, that’s an inherently difficult thing to measure. I wrote a blog post 1.5 years ago about “what has the iHub done“, and it’s time for an update.

If you’re a place like the iHub with your own Research arm, then you measure other things, this from Leo Mutuku and the team at iHub Research:

iHub Startup Numbers over 5 years

iHub Startup Numbers over 5 years

In the second year of the iHub, we started the iHub Research arm and the m:lab, both of which have excelled. iHub Research’s job is to shares stories about the vibrant East African technology community by conducting ICT research on technology innovation within the community. Here’s what they’ve done:

iHub Research over 5 years

iHub Research over 5 years

To the next 5!

As much as the big bash today is a celebration of the past 5+ years, it’s also a time to get ready for the NEXT 5 years. While we’ve made a lot of progress as a whole, we’ve gotten much further than many thought we could in this time, we still have a long way to go.

A timeline of events in Tech in Kenya over 5 years

A timeline of events in Tech in Kenya over 5 years

A Gallery of Pics

EDIT: Wanted to add some pictures that bring me the memories of the faces and events of the past few years.

2594981770_4d36b25019_o

3104552472_f57ff30e49_o

2911358075_4a7bbb28d7_o

2597259895_045278232b_o

2596647435_aed3b6943f_o

4695551771_7977968180_o

4695056995_8d25dfc786_o

5528180095_13b3d86f58_o

5528768554_e1e78f75b1_o

5528168665_b748573c64_o

4670838931_5a1f9fe935_o

4670862441_7d1460b81c_o

4670836553_ff362f7e1d_o

IMG_7392

100_4514

100_0880-500x375

2010-02-26 18.50.36

Screen shot 2010-03-04 at 6.53.24 PM

web-design-team

_MG_7454_filtered

_MG_7488_filtered

_MG_7489_filtered

_MG_7500_filtered

_MG_7523_filtered

_MG_7569_filtered

_MG_7592_filtered

_MG_7625_filtered

_MG_7830_filtered

_MG_7901_filtered

_MG_7908_filtered

$100m For African Entrepreneurs

TEEP goals

The Tony Elumelu Foundation has set an ambitious goal, “…to create 1 million jobs and $10 billion in annual revenue in Africa.”

They are choosing 1,000 entrepreneurs from across Africa to be a part of the new TEEP program, and they plan to do 1,000 more each year for 10 years – that’s 10,000 entrepreneurs total. Not a small number. If you do the math, this works out to $10,000 per entrepreneur, so it can’t be about funding as much as it is about learning.

Applications open today (Jan 1, 2015), it’s 87 questions long so make sure to read up and apply right away. (Hint: read their TEEP blog to know how they think)

Not enough successful African entrepreneurs are using their money to invest in other younger entrepreneurs. Those that do tend to be greedy with the percentage they ask for, so many entrepreneurs look to capital from the US and EU to use to grow their companies.

However, this could all be changing, if this program works and sends a message to other African high net worth individuals. This is one of the strongest moves by any African to invest back into other newer/younger African entrepreneurs, if not the strongest. Tony Elumelu has always been at the forefront of giving to the next generation, so it’s not a surprise that he leads on this as well.

The Rules

(full terms and conditions):

  • Open to citizens and legal residents of all 54 African countries, 18 years and above.
  • Applications can be made by any for-profit business based in Africa in existence for less than three years, including new business ideas.
  • Applicants can only submit one business.

Selection Criteria

Since most people won’t actually read the full terms and conditions, I’ve done some scanning and pulled out some important elements. Here’s how you will be scored by the selection committee:

  • Feasibility: content of the business idea. A good business model that has clear and compelling mission to grow a sustainable, commercially viable business and is effectively communicated (25 points);
  • Market Potential: knowledge and understanding of the market, customers and competitors for their idea/business (20 points);
  • Financial Model: understanding of the basic financial requirements of running a business, costs and revenues. (20 points);
  • Scalability: Demonstrates potential for replication and growth of their product or service to create jobs and wealth (10 points);
  • Leadership Potential and Entrepreneurial Skills: Applicant has demonstrated leadership potential, capable of attracting people, customers and resources. Also exhibits strong passion and commitment for the business (25 points).

The Program

The TEEP program

Digging a little deeper into the terms and conditions doc (see Section 9), and the program unfolds a bit more. It looks like there is $5000 set aside for each entrepreneurs part in the program, and another $5000 as a direct amount injected into their business. Finally, if you do your 3 reports and take part in all of your mentorship sessions, then another returnable $5000 can be given to you.

There seems to be three main parts to the program:

  1. Online – 12-week online skills learning assignments.
  2. Mentoring, where we are assured, “The Mentors are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement as it relates to personal information which may come into their possession during the Programe and are committed to maintaining the highest ethical standards when mentoring.”
  3. 3-day boot camp and Elumelu Entrepreneurship Forum – where you are physically in Nigeria (costs for travel/lodging are covered by the program, which is where that initial $5000 goes).

In Conclusion

My thinking is that they’re going a bit broad on this. After what I’ve seen within the iHub community and as a partner in the Savannah Fund, I’m not sure that $10k is enough. It would have made more sense for me to see them go with 100 entrepreneurs a year, where each has a chance at $100,000. However, if any organization is going to make it work, I believe the Tony Elumelu Foundation can.

My guess is that they are going to focus on smaller, very early stage startups that largely aren’t tech related. A leg-up of $5,000 to a single guy trying to start a small business outside of a major city can go far with that amount.

Kenya: Who Got Funded in 2014?

Which tech companies were funded in Kenya in 2014? I thought I’d compile a list of the ones I know of.

Send me any that I might have missed.

Early stage capital

Angani – Public cloud computing provider
BRCK – Rugged, wireless WiFi device
CardPlanet – Mobile money payment system aimed at business and NGOs
iProcure – Software for optimizing rural supply chains
OkHi – Physical addressing system for logistics solutions
Sendy – Motorcycle delivery service
Tumakaro – Diaspora driven education funding
Umati Capital – Factoring for farmer cooperatives, traders and processors
GoFinance – Working capital finance to distributors of FMCGs
BuyMore – Electronic student discount card
TotoHealth – SMS technology for children’s health
BitPesa – Bitcoin for African remittances
Sokonect – Mobile agriculture tool to eliminate brokers
BookNow – Buy bus tickets online in East Africa
Mdundo – African music on your phone
Futaa – Source for football news in Kenya
Movas – Global provider of B2B/B2C m-Commerce solutions
Hivisasa – A free, county-level online newspaper
Yum – Online ordering and food delivery service in Kenya
Akengo – Learning management system
EcoZoom – Hardware. Clean burning, portable wood and charcoal powered cookstoves
Jooist – A gaming network for mobile phones
Globa.li – A platform to connect hotels and distributors for bookings

Growth capital

MKopa – solar power financing using mobile money
BuyRentKenya – Real estate classifieds
Wave – US-to-Kenya remittance provider
Eneza Education – Mobile tutor and teacher’s assistant
Sanergy – hardware tech, building solutions for urban toilets and composting
Bridge International – Education in low-income environments, uses tech to send teaching content
Soko – Handmade jewelry and accessories shopping from East Africa
EatOut – Find and book seats in East African restaurants

Exited/Acquired

M-Ledger (by Safaricom) – Monitor your Mpesa transactions
Wezatele – Mobility solutions in commerce, supply chain, distribution and mobile payment integration

A special thanks to John Kieti, Rebecca Wanjiku, Nikolai Barnwell, and Ben Lyon for refreshing my memory!

Aside

I’m (finally) playing around with updating my blog theme and layout for easier posting of images and asides. Standby today as this goes through some iterations.

Gallery

It’s the People you go With

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I just wrote a post on the BRCK blog upon returning from our 9,000km jaunt from Nairobi to Johannesburg and back. What I didn’t cover there is that most of the fun in these trips is mixed in with the people you go with, and the list of characters who were a part of this trip was amazing.

The expedition team at Makuzi, Malawi

The expedition team at Makuzi, Malawi

When 500km becomes an Easy Day

Before we left Nairobi, 2 weeks ago, I though that a 500km day on a motorcycle was a long time. Now I just ask, “well, what will we do in the afternoon then?”

BRCK truck top

BRCK truck top

Our setup of BRCK plus Amp plus Car antenna

Our setup of BRCK plus Amp plus Car antenna

We left Harare, where the Arensen’s had hosted us for two nights in their lovely home, for a bit of a long day. We were gambling that we could make it through the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border AND then the Mozambique-Malawi border in good enough time to get to a campsite by the end of the day. A quick breakfast of chai, coffee and pre-boiled eggs underneath a baobab tree saw us to the first border in good time.

The Douane border crossing is less busy than it’s Beit Bridge counterpart. Leaving Zimbabwe, the customs and immigration officials are efficient and helpful. Getting into Mozambique was equally problem-free, especially since we had all gone to get our visas already.

A rickety wooden bridge in Malawi

A rickety wooden bridge in Malawi

Philip, solving problems in Kenya, while on the road in Malawi

Philip, solving problems in Kenya, while on the road in Malawi

Kurt with Lobo in the vehicle

Kurt with Lobo in the vehicle

My Suzuki DR650

My Suzuki DR650

Now, Mozambique, this part of it anyway where you shoot across the Tete corridor towards Malawi, is a hot, dry and barren land. The only thing of any note is the nice bridge you cross over the Limpopo river passing through the city of Tete. Besides that, I’d suggest it’s not a place you want to spend any time.

Two interesting things happen as you run to the Malawi border. First, you realize that you cross back and forth between the two countries a couple times on the way. Second, when you pass through the Mozambique side of the border you’re still 5km from the Malawi border crossing. Strange… but, again border crossings are not about security, they’re about revenue generation.

The Mozambique customs officials had clearly never seen a Carnet de Passage (it’s like a passport for your vehicle), so they acted like it was something they couldn’t stamp. We were able to convince them that it was something normal, and that their colleague at the previous border had stamped it, so they could as well. Stamped and moving, we shot off for the campground, as we saw a storm rolling in.

It was at this time that our small team mascot, Lobo the Australian cattle dog puppy, decided to have an explosive experience inside of the vehicle. Many curses were heard as people sprayed themselves down, and cleaned out the dog’s carrier. Praying for a dry night, we took off a bit behind schedule, and still managed to roll into Bushman’s Baobabs (great place), and had a warm still night of sleep.

500km up Lake Malawi

Off early, as always, we were half-way to our destination by 9:30am and got to camp by just after noon. As an aside, I think the word “Malawi”, and the flag symbol, all are pointed at the meaning of “land of the bicycle”. We saw so many people on bicycles today, more than in any other country we’ve been to.

The bicycles of Malawi

The bicycles of Malawi

Makuzi Beach area of Lake Malawi is beautiful, and having a full afternoon ahead of us was something we didn’t know quite what to do with. So, of course we broke out the drone and OpenROV to have some fun.

We got some shots.

The OpenROV set to try Lake Malawi

The OpenROV set to try Lake Malawi

Philip getting ready with the drone

Philip getting ready with the drone

Lobo checking out a shell

Lobo checking out a shell

Matt Schoenhold of Teague playing with the OpenROV

Matt Schoenhold of Teague playing with the OpenROV

Philip managed to crash the drone into the lake, so we’re trying to see if we can resurrect it. (Update: we dried it out all night and now it’s working again. DJI makes an amazingly hardy device)

We had a grand idea of Paul driving the OpenROV underwater vehicle under a rock and taking a video of someone jumping into the water. We kind of did that, the problem was the cable was a bit short. The other problem was that it cut my toe with a blade as it came up directly underneath me. The good thing is that we had a lot of fun trying and leaned some of the limits of the vehicle.

There is now a beautiful, slow moonrise happening at 9pm, over Lake Malawi. We’re all well, fat and happy. The bikes and Land Rover have been behaving well. We’re set for our early AM departure as we have 750 kilometers and a border crossing to go through.

The Road to Harare, and the Zimbabwe Tech Hubs

We made it into Harare, Zimbabwe last night after a long 17-hours traveling. Due to the rainstorm in South Africa we were forced to sleep 230km from the Beit Bridge border crossing, well shy of the 30km we had planned. The wind was blowing and gusting so hard we were forced to ride at odd angles. Eventually we were forced to call it and went to find a place to sleep by 11:30pm.

Driving at the crack of dawn

A 4am wake-up and we were traveling and at the border by 7:30am the next morning.

Beit Bridge Border

Beit Bridge border crossing is something of a legend, where you’re usual transit time is 3-5 hours, but can take up to 7-8 if you’re unlucky. The SA side was fine, taking only 20 minutes or so. We then spent the next 3 hours going through the ridiculously disorganized and obtuse Zimbabwe side, until finally we popped free.

Zimbabwean Clampetts

Zimbabwean Clampetts

Border crossings in Africa make you realize that they’re about revenue generation, not security.

Beit Bridge border crossing procedure

Beit Bridge border crossing procedure

Zimbabwe has thin but good roads, and many (15+) police checks and radar guns along the way to Harare. They really do try to stop you We got in at 9:30pm and slept almost immediately.

Roadside

Hypercube and the Zim Tech Community

Today we spend with the tech community here, with leaders from the different tech hubs in Bulawayo as well as Harare.
Zimbabwean Tech Hub leaders

Lunch with tech leaders in Zimbabwe

Lunch with tech leaders in Zimbabwe

The Tech Hubs:
@HypercubeHub
@myarea46
@MuzindaHub
@emergingideas
@Neolabtech (Bulawayo)

The most advanced one seems to be Hypercube, which has an amazing house that has been converted into a nice space. They hosted an event where I talked at length about building tech communities, startup thoughts, and what we’ve learned about building hardware through the BRCK experience.

Overall, I really like Zimbabwe and the tech community seems to have their heads and hearts in the right place. They’re working together to try to make something out of a hard situation, they’re hungry and they’re bright.

Zimbabwe has the core infrastructure necessary for real growth, and with a few changes in the business climate here I think they’re ready to take off. With their current drive and strong foundation, I think they’ve got a bright future ahead.

Mbadika – teaching kids about circuits

Netia McCray of Mbadika

Netia McCray of Mbadika

I met Netia McCray at Maker Fair Africa yesterday. She’s an MIT grad who’s working on a project called Mbadika (it means “idea” in the North Angolan language of Kimbundu), which is about teaching kids the basics of electronic prototyping. She does this using some very inexpensive solar-charging kits, designed to be put together and understood in an educational workshop, or on their own.

Mbadika is a new program, so they’re just getting off the ground themselves, however they’ve already taught 250+ kids in 6 countries.

Inside the Mbadika solar kits

Mbadika solar kits

IMG_7623

As a father, I can appreciate the simplicity of this kit, having worked through some more complicated electrical engineering kits with my own children. There’s value in having something that is immediately buildable by a 10 year old that they can put to use right away. They can design/paint it how they like and make it their own.

You can help them out on the new South African crowdfunding site, ThundaFund.

ANIMAL: the Custom-Built Denim Car from South Africa

Custom Denim Car in South Africa

Custom Denim Car in South Africa

One of the most ambitions items at Maker Faire Africa this year in Johannesburg, South Africa is Samuel Ngobeni’s “art car”. He’s a designer from Germinston, who has spent the last three years building his ANIMAL car, from the ground up, that means the frame and all. It’s a work in progress, though starting in 2011, it’s not quite done yet.

The first thing you’ll notice about it is that it’s completely covered in denim. When I asked him why, he said, “because it’s tough and can withstand a lot of things like the sun and rain, like the cowboys, that’s why I chose it.”

Denim car

Animal

Samuel and his car

The engine

At first glance, from afar, it looks a bit like a BMW shape, but when you get close you can tell just how much customization and work went into it. Then, when he opens the hood and shows you underneath, you can see that he actually hand-built the whole thing with steel piping and sheet metal, by hand.

It’s running a 3 liter, straight 6 cylinder engine, has suicide doors and leather seats.

Samuel’s next big idea is to find a v8 or v12 engine, slap that inside a custom built 6-wheel vehicle (4 in front, 2 in back) and then skin it all in croc-skin. His denim ANIMAL is already pretty slick, so his next car can only get better, and it sounds like it’ll be a lot more powerful and meaner too!

A quick sketch of Samuel's next car

A quick sketch of Samuel’s next car

How You Can Help

It’s difficult for designers like Samuel to get far on their own. He’s looking for someone who can take him to the next level. We’re setting up an email address for him now, but you can reach him on WhatsApp at 0822 110122 for now.