Nairobi's Tech Scene - Personal Highlights for Quarter 1 of 2011

My last article in this blog was posted in December 2010. That makes almost 5 months since I made a serious post.  It was by no means intentionally staying away from writing for this long. It was rather more of  'the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak'. To kick start blogging again I shall lazily try to recap the noteworthy developments I have observed in my small technology world during the first three months of 2011.


Mobile Monday with Pesapal - January 17
That was an inspiring moment especially listening to Agosta Liko of PesaPal. It was impressive to see a local technology startup begin to penetrate the corporate market place - with schools and banks. I still have not heard much from them regarding one of my wish list items though. They should think more through the possibilities for Kenyans paying monthly rent using PesaPal - their great payment information service. Liko's powerpoint presentation can be downloaded here.


OpenMRS meetup  - January 24
Despite the rainy morning, we had a great meetup with OpenMRS friends at the iHub that was ably organized by my friend @JWesonga. On the same day there was an opportunity to engage students at the university of Nairobi's School of Computing and Informatics which I had helped organise. It was lovely then to listen in to @ and @ as they sensitized the local computer science students who were mostly in second year on software development for good. 

Fireside Chat with Ken Oyolla - January 27th
I had this great opportunity to listen to Ken Oyola - Nokia's General Manager for East and Southern Africa during the iHub's monthly Fire Side chat. I had first met Oyolla when I was a form one in Mangu high school - he had 'cleared' from the great institution and was coming back as a mentor a year after. During the FireSide chat, it struck me how people do not change even after a decade or more of exposure to the world out there. Ken was still the same candidly inspiring strong personality. Am sure he will achieve another 'first one', beyond being the first African to hold such a high ranking position in Nokia.

Mid-Feb Transitional Period
Mid February was a transitional period for me as I left my fairly comfortable, no-real-pressure state corporation Job. It was time to take up a more challenging role with m:lab EAST AFRICA. The new role is really exciting and much worth the career shift as it fits magically into my ICT4D leadership aspirations. More so, it seems like the best opportunity to amplify my modest contribution to East Africa's knowledge economy.

Mobile Monday with Microsoft Guys - 21st February
In all honesty I do not have a history of being a fan of Microsoft's products. Having to say something about m:lab at the event, attending this Mobile Monday was mostly a duty call. I was impressed to see how Microsoft has been working hard to contribute towards positive social transformation across the world. They had a video of previous Imagine Cup winners from somewhere in Asia which was impressive. It was also my first event to hear about Craft Silicon's ELMA platform for rapid mobile application development of mobile banking solutions. The thought of having a mobile applications generator, for development without much coding sounded interesting - only I thought it will remove control and gratification from the local application developer.

It is a shame I missed February's Fire Side Chat with Larry Wall  (on 24th February). Larry Wall is the creator of the Pearl Programming Language for readers who would care to know.

iHub one year anniversary - 11th March
In the dying hours of the year 2010, I was reflecting and thinking to myself that inception of the iHub had been the greatest thing that had happened to Kenya's tech scene that year. I really wanted to blog my thoughts then but I realized I needed to avoid looking to oversell my hurriedly done late application for green membership. The thought passed by and in March I was happy to participate in iHub's first anniversary. Meeting the bigger iHub community was awesome although I had a rude culture shock of members murmuring away as ICT board's Paul Kukubo gave his speech. With me coming from a government background - it felt awkward. A parastatal CEO like Paul was meant to be revered and accorded maximum attention in public service circles - the murmurs felt radically different. Culture shock and assimilation aside, I look forward to a ground breaking year 2011 for the iHub community in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Mobile Monday with Moses Kemibaro of Dealfish - 21st March
This event was a must attend for me - not because of any duty call but because @MosesKemibaro is one of the most respectable bloggers in Nairobi's tech scene for me. I needed to find out what he had been up to after rumor had it that he was no longer actively involved with his DotSavvy company.  Moses is Regional Manager for Dealfish. His presentation helped to demistify Dealfish - currently a constant fixture in Nairobis outdoor bill boards and online google ad-words for the Kenya context. With tweets like this :- "RT @ Dealfish are not sure how to monetize their service yet - they are not worried about this either ", the message was loud and clear that Moses' new venture had deep pockets behind it. Moses fell short of being forthright on the issue of when Dealfish would start making money. His update later that Dealfish would turn on its money making machine at its own chosen time was quite telling on how serious the South African firm was about the Kenyan online market place.

During this Mobile monday it was also enlightening to know of m-order, an upcoming service from Hilda Moraa and her troop who were students at the Strathmore university. Nairobi's chapter of Mobile Monday has some good pictures of the event in their website here

Fireside Chat with John Waibochi of Virtual City 24th March
The iHub did it again with its March fireside chat. Then it was John Waibochi, the CEO of Virtual City on the raised floor. Virtual City is the Kenyan company that won 2010's Nokia innovation challenge with $1 million prize money. Mr. Waibochi's story was intriguing and inspiring as well. With the entrepreneurial tips of 'riding the wave'  and exiting just before the wave's peak, Waibochi did well to motivate budding tech-entrepreneurs. His talk was much of a consolation also for me - to know that my corporate, MBAish background had a place in tech-entrepreneurship. It got me dusting down my  ERP, ISO 9000 and balanced scored card salesmanship cap with some rather unrealistic ambitions for my new career situation. Waibochi also offered tips on important global trends such as android and impact investment which he thought were more important than looking up to real life mentors.

Anticipation for Second Quarter of 2011
There were many developments and events I missed on in the first quarter of 2011. Indeed Nairobi has a thriving tech scene that no one person can keep track of all happenings. Watching the iHub's event calendar helps a bit though. In the months of April, May and June 2011, there are some important events I look forward to. One of them is iHub's Fireside chat for April which will have Mr. Joe Mucheru of Google Africa on the raised floor on 21st April. I also have much anticipation for this year's Pivot25 event that will see 25 mobile applications being showcased at Nairobi's Ole Sereni Hotel in June 2011.