Category Archives: iHub

From Huawei to Makmende

Last Tuesday was a roundabout day that began with the Equity Bank half year results announcement at and ended with Safaricom launch of a U8220 Android phone made by Huawei.

In between I shook hands with James Mwangi, Churchill dodged my paparazzi snap attempt, a friend of mine missed out on a free giveaway of the Huawei phone, and I missed out on buying some shares in Equity Bank as my stockbroker (temporarily) misplaced my funds.

At the Huawei launch, I had interesting chats with one pal on Kenol and another who found out an interesting tale about mobile spectrums – basically Kenyans should ignore mobile phone company promises and forget about 4G as it is reserved for the Kenya military until further notice.

Huawei and Safaricom were jointly launching an android phone to the Kenyan market and since the Safaricom COO was late in traffic as per his boss, Michael Joseph the CEO stepped up and launched the phone on his behalf. The CEO seemed underwhelmed by the occasion, maybe because his retirement was about to be officially announced or maybe because it was because the Smartphone being unveiled would cost about Kshs 30,000 and was nowhere near the $100 (~Kshs 8,000) price for a smartphone which he has commented as being a key target for future data growth.

This ambivalence perhaps cascaded down because when Safaricom ran adverts for the new phone in the next day’s paper, they were advertising a VF845 costing Kshs 16,500 ($206) and not the U8220, which had just been launched. The ‘correct’ ad for the U8220 then ran the following day pricing the phone at 27,200 (~$340)

Two days later, Bank of Africa formally opened their Ngong Road branch at Bishop Magua Center. This is their second branch opening this month after Nakuru and they have set out to go after the not for profit customers. They have launched a Goodwill Current Account with goodies for NGO’s including waiver of monthly ledger fees, cheque book costs, (Kshs) withdrawal/deposits, internal transfers, incoming wires, banker’s cheques, interim statements and a minimum operating balance.

And finally on Friday, in the same building, the iHUb hosted a launch by Kuweni Serious (Get Serious) of a series of clips aimed at getting young Kenyans to participate in the constitutional referendum and in public life and starred Makmende.

Here’s one clip

Venture Capital in Nairobi – VC101

A talk on venture capital (VC) was given by Vincent Kouwenhoven and Brian Hirman of the eVA (eVentures Africa Fund BV) at the iHub in Nairobi. They both have about 15 years experience in VC and enumerated the criteria the fund uses for investments including that target companies in Africa should have profitable track records (not start-up’s) to qualify for VC investments of between 25,000 and 250,000 Euros (~Kshs 2.5 million to Kshs 25 million).

The fund was launched in January 2010, and in the ½ year they have invested in 5-6 companies. The founders are seasoned travelers in Africa and their interest was piqued by observations they made over the last three years including;
1. Chinese investment interest in Ghana and Kenya
2. Arrival of fibre optic cables
3. More African returnees returning from the Diaspora who were setting up their own companies (it’s a good sign). They have been exposed to Kenya for many years and sense that entreprenual spirit in Nairobi is very good as are competence levels in high technology sectors.

– All their investment are active in the digital scene – whether mobile, internet, communication platforms – and include a leading internet company in Ghana, while in Kenya, they have Jumuika, Ratio Magazine, and the latest deal signed today is for an investment in Verviant (w/ Liko Agosta better known for Pesapal)

– They invest growth funding in companies and try and cultivate a healthy portfolio, unlike other VC’s who make several weak investments in the hope that one or two will payoff and offset the failures. Their investment clearly spells out the use of proceeds/funds which can vary, but ideally should not be for increased salaries or other debt repayment (unless to retire expensive debt). They also mentioned that their investment criteria is a guide, not cast in stone (e.g. Jumuika was a startup)

– They get involved in the operations of the company; whether marketing, technology, financial, entrepreneurship, HR policies. They act as a sounding board and advise owners (use skype a lot) on how to scale up e.g. when they get traction, how to set up customer care capacity

– They seek out committed entrepreneurs – not part timers, or people with one good idea they have not developed, or people with a dozen ideas (not focused). They want to invest in people with the gut and belief to start a business and are willing to eat bread & water to hack it put (not one who relies luck) – and who also enjoy what they are doing. Other “no no’s” include people who ask for too much money that dilutes their equity (EVA want founders to retain at least 51% at all timea), or which enables them to run the business without risk for two years (i.e. with the VC’s funding)

– On exit strategy their preferred rout is a buyout of the company within 3 to 7 years by multi-national or larger company. In cases where an investor may not be ready to sell, the VC can sell their stake to another VC.

VC Coffee Chat

On Monday June 28 at the iHub in Nairobi there will be a talk on venture capital, in continuation of a series of events that bring together local financiers and entrepreneurs.

In preparation for that, we had a chat with Eline Blaauboer of TBL Mirror Fund which is a Dutch venture capital fund that has made four investments in Kenya and are also branching around East Africa.

The Fund invests a minimum of EUR 100,000(~Kshs 10 million) taking minority stakes in companies that show fast growth and the potential to be market leaders. They look for well-managed ambitious and visionary SME’s and TBL invests in all sectors particularly where the partners have extensive industry knowledge, as a VC focused on a specific sector is not sustainable here yet. It’s interesting to note that, while it is said in local banking that women are not ambitious enough to dream big and attract large funding, ½ of their investee are women-led companies

– TBN are hiring both an investment manager and an investment analyst.
– On Monday June 28 at the iHub in Nairobi there will be a VC 101 event with a talk on venture capital given by Vincent Kouwenhoven of the EVA Fund
– Recap of recent VC activity in the region by Ratio-Magazine.

IHub Launch

My A to Z notes from two days later;

thanks to @ushahidi, @ihubNairobi @whiteafrican @kenyanpundit @jessicacolaco @wanjiku, Conrad

Access thanks to @wanjiku gave me the iHub password and introduced me to Dorothy Ooko of Nokia

Comments you get fewer of these at blog, the more active you are on twitter

Developers filled the launch. did not meet @iddsalim who on the same day published a nice piece on when Safaricom met developers on possible improving times & relations for developers wishing to partner with mobile giant safaricom.

Forests – chat with @ngeny and @swmaina on the danger of man-made forests – don’t support ecology (crops around them die forest die) no animals inhabit them,

F1 – Formula one about to start, will be watching with @moseskemibaro and anyone else welcome to join and chat

Funding is the next step to work on at iHub according to Eric

Gatecrashers 250+ attendees according to iHub launch tweet, (was supposed to be 50) many had to cool off with Tusker on the balcony

Geeks are Cool – phrase coined by Mrs M

ICT board CEO Paul Kukubo spoke and they will be represented at iHub in future by @kaburo

iPub open bar was flowing, until the people switched to Yoghurt

KTN anchor Larry Madowo uses his TV platform to highlight tech happenings better than anyone else in Kenya – his news piece about the launch.

Mamamikes makes friends – Segeni’s roommate was Moses and one of their good US customers is now back in Kenya as an art gallery boss.

Management stress; talked with @kaboro on the fatigue of management (being strangled by neck ties)

Museum for technology was my pitch to Google’s Joe Mucheru to remind people how far things have progressed in a short time. Put up a display with a 28.8 modem (one day a developer will ask what’s a modem?), Ericsson flip phone or cupboard TV set that only works from 5 PM to 11PM.

Photos event galleries at Kenyan Poet and Africa Knows

Sevilla, Mr. Joe an icon of the Strathmore University institution, tech before there was tech (IDPM)

Shirts to mark the iHub launch ran out, got a small size which is fine.

Twitter folk: @egmphotos thanks for tip on how to use a binoculars as a zoom lens for a camera, @jwanyama and @sheilaafrica taught me photo edit tips and how to send photo submissions to Africa knows, but also (ate) my plate of nyama choma, @sportinkenya – clock is ticking, @edobie- first time meeting this
– People did not see but saw them in photos: @pesapal, @afrinnovator @kachwanya, Vincent Wangombe (KDN), @gotissuez, @creditsms.
– People I saw but did not get proper chat with – Isis Nyongo (Google), @kenyanpundit (made a future date), @pkukubo, @mato74, Denis Gikunda, @ToneeNdungu (a very busy MC),

Uchumi is across the street for foods & stuff @jmugambi and I passed there to try and keep it profitable

Vandalism of fibre cable is not a bad as some people claim and seems to affect some companies more than others according to Riyaz

Yoghurt Kahenya’s presentation on natural yoghurt was the highlight of the evening, despite him having a car accident that day.

Tech Moment: Nairobi iHub for Innovation and more

iHub Nairobi: Our fabulous friends at Ushahidi are in the news for their recent technological endeavors which have been used in earthquakes rescue & relief in Haiti and Chile. But back here in Kenya, is something even more momentous, which is the unveiling & launch of the Nairobi iHub on March 3 2010.

It’s the culmination of many months of talks, visualizing the concept to plan, searching for appropriate buildings and finally the hard work of transforming an empty room to an innovation hub via teams of volunteers, advisers, and technicians while side-stepping others who were already hogging the free internet. Congratulations!

Other Tech Events in Nairobi this month:

The Pan Africa Media Conference from18-19 March 2010, a rather top heavy conference (lots of Current & Ex African presidents and leaders) but which has interesting speakers and panelists like Dr. Mo Ibrahim, H.H. the Aga Khan, Chris Kabwato (Highway Africa) Guy Berger (Rhodes University SA), Rose Kimotho (MD Kameme FM), Ory Okolloh (Ushahidi) Matthew Buckland (Media 24), Patrick Quarcoo (Radio Africa) and a talk on New Media – the possibilities, limits, and risks offered by blogs, SMS, MMS, social networks.

The Kenya ICT Board has
– A meeting for mobile developers (follow up from #MWEA10) on March 2
– BPO/ITES Centre of Excellence on March 4
– Tandaa Symposium on Local Digital Content on March 8

The ICANN Nairobi conference takes place from 7-12 March 2010.

The Nairobi 1% event takes place on March 12.

The Institute of Software Technologies launch their new brand, IT training center, and premises on March 11.

E-Fraud News: The Business Daily has a write up today about Kenyan banks combating fraud to protect their customers even as they roll out new technology channels for their customers to access more convenienct services from the banks.

In the blog world there have been some recent tales of e-fraud and bank fraud:

Room Thinker received the latest 411 letter from Tim Geithner at the US Department of Treasury
Wanjiku lost some money through old fashioned inter bank transfer
Idd Salim warned of the dangers of SMS banking fraud as a ticking time bomb warning that SMS can be intercepted on its way from your phone to telecom, changed & edited, delayed, deflected & even deleted before it ever gets to bank.
Gmeltdown writes about a recent mpesa fraud> and there’s even a related facebrook group but thankfully this is very rare occurrence among the millions of Mpesa customers.

You don’t know my name: Seems I spoke to soon in lamenting registrars mistreating retail investors in a bid to clean up their records, cut fraud, and authenticate investor information. My own stockbroker CFCStanbic (formerly CFCFS) wants the same of me, asking via an ominous warning letter, about Know Your Customer requirements, that (after about 5 years of trading through them) to confirm my identity as an individual. I’m as an individual supposed to provide copies my documents (CDS account opening form, my ID, 2 colour photos, PIN copy, utility bill, bank statement or pay/slip which will be certified by their panel of lawyers). There are also additional requirements for partnerships, informal groups, trust accounts, accounts for minors (birth certificate & parents ID’s) sole proprietors, foreign corporate, companies and Diaspora investors (certified passports, photos, utility bills, bank/c.card statement)

Compliance with the new KYC will enable me to continue transactions with them after March 31, but there’s’ no mention of what will happen if there’s no compliance by the March 26 2010 deadline.