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All posts by Erik Hersman: In Kenya

  • Why 2012 could be the year of the African startup

    The past few years have been about building an infrastructure that improves the chances of the technology startups in Africa to succeed. Seeing this buildout in action in 2011 was exciting, but it should be recognised for what it really was: a setup for 2012 and beyond. You see, all those labs and hubs around the continent, the startups and the media coverage? They’re all about getting attention and increasing the awareness of...

  • Michael Joseph and Mpesa: A missed opportunity

    Michael Joseph was the CEO of Safaricom, taking the mobile operator from 5 employees to dominating the Kenyan mobile operator market with over 80% market share in his 10 years at the helm. Regardless of your personal feelings on the man, you have to admire the tenacious approach he took growing the business, and his willingness to invest in his company’s future, thereby decimating his (often inept) competition. Possibly MJ’s (how he’s known in local Kenyan parlance) greatest business move was also a measured risk --that is being the company to take a software created by parent Vodafone Group...

  • Village Telco: Addressing the issue of rural connectivity

    In the words of African telecommunications expert Steve Song, Village Telco is "an easy-to-use, scalable, standards-based, wireless, local, do-it-yourself, telephone company toolkit". He’s just put out a new video making it very clear just how useful this system is. The team over at Blinktower has done an exceptional job of creating a short, concise and eminently understandable video of what Village Telco is. The Village Often, we get caught up in our high tech wizardry and get overly excited about the newest Android app or the best new web app built in African Megalopolis #5. And by “we”, I mean “I”, since...

  • Kenyan startups jump on the ‘Groupon’ bandwagon

    Groupon has been a massive success in the United States. It’s a deal-of-the-day site, with projected revenue of US$500m in just it’s second year of operations. It uses the framework of "collective buying", which means that if enough people sign up for a particular deal, then it’s on. If not enough people sign up, then the deal is off and everyone walks away. Revenue is shared per deal, which means that Groupon only wins if the company doing the deal wins. Of course, this framework has caught the attention of savvy business people in Africa. Rupu Rupu is a similar site...

  • Developing a great idea into a business

    Being able to make something doesn’t mean you’re an entrepreneur, being able to make a business out of it does. I’ve met many great developers across Africa, some who would be considered "top of the class" in any country in the world. Unfortunately, some confuse starting a company for running a business. It’s easy to get a legal entity, a company name and even a prototype out into the market. It’s hard to earn money off of that idea, even enough to make it self-sustaining, much less profitable. I can think of a couple reasons why this might be. Sometimes I...

  • Kenyan startup proposes solution to modern-era information overload

    In an age of information abundance, curating meaning is key. Nine months ago that is just what Jon Gosier set out to do as he took over the reins of the SwiftRiver initiative at renown crowd-sourcing activism site, Ushahidi. Recently he announced the Beta release, and unveiled a new website at Swiftly.org. What is SwiftRiver? SwiftRiver Open Beta Announcement. from Ushahidi on Vimeo. “SwiftRiver is an open source intelligence gathering platform for managing realtime...

  • Do banks block mobile money innovation in Africa?

    A recent blog posting by Dr. Bill Maurer on the CGAP website spoke about mobile money’s innovation crisis. The author claims that nothing new has happened in mobile money since Mpesa was launched in Kenya, with the possible exception of the launch of Mkesho this year in Kenya as well. Besides that development, he contends that everyone around the world is just trying to duplicate what Safaricom is doing in this space. Why is this the case? Dr Maurer argues that, “There may also be one partnership in particular that could be hampering innovation—that with the banks. Historically, these two players have taken very...

  • DukaPress: A WordPress eCommerce system from Africa

    DukaPress is a new customised WordPress eCommerce platform. It allows you to easily set up a fully featured online shop which can be used to sell digital or physical goods to customers all over the world. I’ve been using WordPress for many years, and am a huge fan. When I saw DukaPress last week, I was impressed to see that it was built in Nairobi, but I also wondered why another eCommerce WordPress build was needed, as there are already good ones available such as WP-ecommerce and Shopp. I interviewed Kelvin Jayanoris, from Nickel Pro, about DukaPress: ON WHY THEY DEVELOPED A...

  • Kenya’s mobile money innovation boom

    Kenya is quickly gaining a competitive advantage in the mobile payments space. Led by mobile operator giant Safaricom with their Mpesa product, the market locally sees huge value in mobile money transactions. Add to that a regulatory system that is relaxed enough for innovation to be encouraged, and you have a great space for interesting things to happen. Pay.Zunguka The team at Symbiotic always have more than one iron in the fire. I was...