Wednesday, 4 December 2013

What If: The current Tech-startup scene in Kenya

Complete the following sentence: 

What if Mark Zuckerberg was a Kenyan …………
Who would have invested in him in Kenya?
Would the Facebook we know today exist?
Who would be the local Peter Thiel, Sean Parker??
Who would have been patient enough for 5 years after making the early investment?
Will there be a Sequoia kinda VC fund with local partners?

Now as you think about that in relation to the current Tech-startup scene in Kenya here are a few sobering things you need to put into perspective.
We have Konza City coming up, its many things to different people…popularly called the silicon savannah but with all honesty we cannot replicate the success of Silicon valley easily. Why? Silicon Valley has no geographical boundary. It’s an ecosystem made up people, companies and systems. It’s a way of life, an approach to fixing problems and making serious money out of it. The valley comprises of universities that supply the great talent & knowledge, the entrepreneurs who do it all to work on their ideas, the angel investors who identify and invest in these daring teams at early stage, the incubators that nurture the talented teams and brood over their ideas, the mentors that shine the light, the successful entrepreneurs that share their experiences, lessons, knowledge and tricks, the media/blogs that expose these people and push their products out to users who adopt and pay for the products these startups create. When these products become sound businesses it is the VCs that put in the big money to scale their operations. That’s what Silicon Valley is to me.
Of-course we have the big brands that acquire these products or acquihire talented teams. Or screw them up altogether. It’s competitive. You win or your startup dies.
Now back to Konza; this noble concept will not save boot-strappers in KE hubs and incubators any time soon. Well not soon! I have heard someone mention a KE tech bubble, but I forgot to ask who of the local guys in tech making serious money or well funded. Not Jumia, not Olx, not Cheki…not apps that win prize money at hackathons, not poorly developed clones, not fancy sites built from free themes.
Tell me about people building serious proprietary software, founders who aren’t running a social enterprise to monetize on grants and donor funding, the Kenyans who built something techie-ish and made serious money without funding.
Tell me about the guys who developed something you use today from their dorm room in campus. Talk to me about the local entrepreneur, investor, billionaire, celebrity or corporate honcho turned angel investor in KE tech. As you think of that remind me of the few locally owned startups with young founders who got adequate funding for their ideas at early stage.
This is #Kenyaat50, so after you read and share all the nice features on VB, Mashable or TC always remember where you’re from. Until fear is gone to talk about our tech ecosystem, our failures, struggles and lessons we’ll always make minimal strides in entrenching a successful startup culture in the country.
We have miles to cover here to get where this needs to be to look sexy as it is elsewhere, and this requires the persistence and resilience so let’s not rush this or benchmark ourselves with Silicon Valley. Let us do this our way, make our mistakes, develop our own case studies and work on our success stories.
To do that we have to make the decision to be courageous to get the authentic story out there.
Above all Blame no one! Expect nothing! Play your part! Do something!

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