Beasts in business: Our Top 10 from Nairobi

Posted on Jul 01, 2014 | Tags: Nairobi, Kenya, Top 10, Highlights, Ecosystem |

While charming, Kenyans are Startup beasts. Kind of like these giraffes.

Seedstars World returns to the vibrant startup scene in Nairobi. Join us for the 411 of the Startup ecosystem.


1. Busy Social Calendar

There is always something on in Nairobi. There is a plethora of entrepreneurial events that educate, help build your network, or be part of the vital discussion around the startup ecosystem. A prime example is the Tech4Africa Event, which was held at the iHub. The event featured great speakers, informative panel discussions, and refreshing networking sessions that weren't just the typical business card swap. 


2. Getting Together

Entrepreneurs are plentiful here, though they mostly pursue ICT projects. The sense of community that you’ll find in Nairobi is pervasive throughout the hubs and striking up conversations is incredibly easy. With the wealth of startups in Kenya, one gets reminded on the daily that You Are Not Alone.


3. Ladies' Night... of Tech Jams

Women often have it more difficult than men in the entrepreneurial world. From the beginning, there are entry barriers and family members will pressure female founders to look for more secure jobs, for example within the government. Co-founded by Judith Owigar, Akirachix is trying to change that with education sessions on tech and biz dev for women, who are often either attending high school, living in slums, or both.


4. Gov 2.0

The government is still unsure of how to support the booming ICT sector, and many of the attempts to stimulate the economy through young entrepreneurs are well-intentioned, but misguided. However, a dialogue is underway, such as on Nailab's Social Media Day, where government officials were part of the panel discussion featuring the blogger and tech community.


5. Lönneberga VC

Investor are coming to Kenya, much to the envy of other East African countries. Interestingly enough though, some of these are not from where you might expect. The Growth Hub for example, has brought in capital from way up North, i.e. Scandinavia.


6. Which one, which one?

While in other countries startup struggle to find good co-working spaces or simply entrepreneurial communities, the problem in Kenya is more one of choice! There are several excellent startup initatives to get involved in, such as iHub, home to #SSW14 #SSWNairobi, the Mara Foundation, Nailab, Growth Hub, Mlab….


7. It's all here

Secure and fast internet? Check. Several flexible payment solutions, such as mobile money? Check. Smart phone penetration? Yes and it’s 67%, outpacing the rest of Africa. Nairobi has the infrastructure to start an ICT business. And thankfully, the audience in Kenya will be grateful for any product that makes their live easier, says Gareth Knight of WeDo. So get your product out there!


8. The Iconoclast

Kenya is a role model to other East African countries. It has set a standard for how startups should be run, and how they should scale. Doing well in Kenya will be difficult due to the internal competition and external parties that want to scale into the country, but make it big here and the lessons learned will be able to take your startup throughout Africa.


9. Smells like Startup Spirit

There are two things that strike me as pervasive throughout Africa: First, family and friends is not always accepting of entrepreneurs and want you to get a more ‘stable’ position. Second, lots of founders prefer to ride solo. In Kenya, these are still true, but thankfully, one thing is changing: the discussion around the challenges of building a business. Too often valuable insight is lost because startups don’t want to share their experience from their failures. While Kenyans will still bristle at the issue, the dialogue is heading in the right direction.


10. The Jump Off

If you want to scale in Africa, Kenya is a great place to get started. The market is big enough to get valuable customer feedback and revenue, so that you can implement best practices in the rest of the African continent.


Bonus points go to the beautiful nature in Kenya. What you may have thought a Hollywood cliché is all too real here with Elephant orphanages, Giraffe parks, and several safari grounds that get you as close as possible to the animals.

Nellie Horn

(Seedstars World Travel Team)

Nellie graduated from University of Mannheim with an Economics Major and has lived in the USA, Germany, and Spain. After part being of the Deutsche Bahn’s Investor Relations team, she specialized in Innovation Management. Nellie has gained expertise in many aspects of the R&D process, thanks to her multi-million euro project assistance at the Helmholtz Centre Berlin, co-authoring a publication on German cities’ innovative behavior at the Center for European Economic Research, and working at the pioneering SAP Innovation Labs. At Seedstars World, she will pair her financial experience with tech savvy while organizing the 2014 tour as one of our scouts!

Connect with Nellie or follow her on Twitter @Nellie_Horn

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