What uniquely defines entrepreneurship in Kenya? I’d say three things:
And by drive I mean an almost suffocating need to succeed. This manifests in several ways. There are those entrepreneurs who can’t seem to catch a break (just yet), but heck nothing seems to stop them. Season after season you see them in competitions, bootcamps, at Startup Weekends either pitching the same thing or having moved on to the next thing (sometimes its a very dramatic shift in direction). I don’t know what you would say to these guys, but I’d never have the heart to stop them. When they finally do catch a break we’ll all be telling a different story ;-)
Another really good indicator of drive is bottom-up innovation initiatives. Unfortunately in these parts of the world, government or just generally public sector responses to present needs is literally at a snail’s pace. So many very obvious things are left to us to fix for ourselves. Easy example is physical addressing. Probably one of the reasons web commerce is yet to really skyrocket is because it’s hard to give directions to your home without a street name or a house number. OkHi has found a simply novel way around this. Any time you order pizza or shop online and it’s delivered via their network your location is mapped. That’s profoundly it. Ambulances and fire trucks will have a much much easier time responding to emergencies. Similar problem all across Africa.
The thing about being in Africa is that you have too much room to innovate. This is a very good problem to have for us entrepreneurs. Over and over again we have shown that solutions that work extremely well in developed parts of the world won’t necessarily work the same way here and vice versa. It’s all about context. Understanding the culture, the people and their mindsets, the infrastructure in place, the season… I could go on and on. Another easy example? Eventbrite. To anyone else, it’s the perfect events solution. It makes total sense. But it really doesn’t for us. The major factor why it’s not ideal is the means of payment:
(i) Only accepts a handful of currencies, paying in dollars is not the norm for many people here.
(ii) Only accepts payment by card. Credit cards here, not so much. Mobile payments? All day, any day.
(iii) Payout is either through Paypal or a US bank account. It is a (very expensive) pain trying to get your money out of Paypal. Also, not too many Kenyans just happen to have a US bank account.
Once you understand context then you find that your solution can be extremely simple yet profoundly relevant and effective. Take Sendy for example, which does for motorcycle courier deliveries and customers in Nairobi, what Uber did for taxis and passengers in San Francisco. If you live in a large African city then you know exactly how inefficient driving around can get, bad roads, traffic, high fuel costs… motorcycles are a god send. Also, this doesn’t just stop at courier services. This is the spark that will revolutionize web commerce because they have dealt with a very major underlying factor: logistics. Motorcycles are already commonplace, you find them at every corner of the city, a network of them remains lean and agile without the overhead that official courier companies carry. Simple. Relevant. Effective.
Ever heard the phrase, “It takes a village”?
Well, not even technology can change that truth for entrepreneurs in Nairobi. Beyond the glam (most of the time you don’t see the glam), entrepreneurship is hard, it’s draining, it’s frustrating. You kiss goodbye any social life you once had. For some, it’s a serious fight to prove to the people in your world that you can walk down the road less traveled and come out the other side alive. Constant sleep deprivation and almost burn-outs. Work/life balance is a myth, right up there with Loch Ness and unicorns. Actually I take it back, there is no glam.
This is exactly where Startup Grind fits in. A lot of what entrepreneurs need is provided already by tech hubs, incubators, accelerators, funds, consulting firms etc. What Startup Grind does and does well is connect entrepreneurs. Is it talent? Is it a co-founder? Is it investors? Is it access to industry leaders? Is it mentors? You are bound to run into any of these people at our events. But most of all, we connect you to other entrepreneurs who understand exactly what you are going through. Our sole mission is to make your journey, less lonely, more memorable and more connected.