African Tech Hubs and Nairobi as an innovation city.

 

A fortuitous sequence of events led to Dirk-Jan Koeman taking on an adventure into Africa. His startup in his native Netherlands had just failed and he thought to take time out by traveling to Malaysia. And, in 2013, while there, he describes how getting a call from a consulting firm ended up as his first foray into Kenya, and he has decided to call it home.

 

“DJ reveals that while formal entrepreneurship incubators do not exist in abundance, Kenyans general resourcefulness inspires entrepreneurship. Children are stimulated to contribute to household income, and are therefore always tinkering, especially in this digital world.”

 

To date, DJ Koeman runs Poa! Internet, a venture which provides low cost internet to low income neighborhoods in Nairobi. DJ describes Nairobi fondly, as a city full of character as well as a primate city that has experienced tremendous growth over the past years. And as infrastructure has yet to catch up, he remarks light-heartedly that if you have yet to be stuck in heavy traffic, while being harrassed by street-sellers, then you have not been to Nairobi. Further adding to Nairobi’s charm, is the fact that Nairobi is the only city with a national park within city limits.

 

And in this environment, DJ reveals that while formal entrepreneurship incubators do not exist in abundance, Kenyans general resourcefulness inspires entrepreneurship. Children are stimulated to contribute to household income, and are therefore always tinkering, especially in this digital world. Moreover, employers value employees with entrepreneurial mindset and encourage it , as long as it does not detract from job focus.

 

But this entrepreneurial thinking is of a different flavor when compared to the Western world. While in the developed world, one might start a business to establish a legacy, the Kenyan entrepreneur is gearing towards sustenance. The latter has to engage in a business that should generate immediate income, as opposed to spending years prior to monetizing.

 

And as part of the sharing economy, Nairobi has a few tech-hubs. Their success has been in facilitating natural interactions between people interested in technology, thus fostering greater collaboration and better networking opportunities. This is in contrast to common measurement metrics which parrot number of startups, or capital raised as sufficient ways to gauge how well incubators are doing.

 

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  1. […] The lack of business capital is often lamented as a major reason why African startups haven’t seen success at the same scale of other tech ecosystems.  But of late, Africa has seen major strides in terms of investment poured into startups with well over $500 million in venture capital for the year 2017. Similarly, there has been an upsurge in the number and size of start-ups that have sprung out of the continent, with cities like Nairobi now regarded as tech hubs. […]

  2. […] all doing social and tech innovation. They can be managers of innovation hubs, hacker spaces, innovation community spaces and also individual inventors and change makers – all focused on improving their communities. […]

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