2 years @iHub

The iHub Green Members 2014 onboarding session. Photo courtesy: iHub

The iHub Green Members 2014 onboarding session. Photo courtesy: iHub

It’s a few weeks shy of 2 years since I joined the iHub. When I joined, I wasn’t quite sure what being a Community Manager meant exactly. Or if I would survive in employment after being a freelancer for a whole year before that. But meeting with Jimmy Gitonga (former iHub Hypemaster) and Nekesa “It’s handled” Were who had both been working here for a while, I was convinced that it must be a cool place to work.

And it has been one exciting journey.

Working with individual iHub members and seeing them grow has particularly been exciting. This heartwarming list includes Jackie and Ondieki of Kleva Solutions who met in the space and have since built a payments solutions business that employs 6 developers, Cynthia who built Ujirani App within her first couple of months at the iHub, has already launched it and is incubated at the Nailab. Ian who builds beautiful functional mobile apps in just 2 days, Kenneth, who runs an international startup and has recently qualified to be one of 5 GDEs (Google Developer Experts) in Africa. Startups like Card Planet; first Kenyan startup to be accepted into Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups, and Kidogo ECD that has since received investment and proceeded for incubation at m:lab East Africa, and Twiga Fruits, first African startup to win the overall 1776 Startup Challenge Cup in Washington DC. I have seen real exciting growth.

I have seen more engagement online and offline.

Offline with our current Green and Red Members braving life away from their laptops and engaging more with each other, hanging out together at the iHub for BYOB Friday, and forming impromptu (karaoke) bands together, then coming together and working on startup projects together.

I have seen our social media following grow from 42K to 82.9K today. Increased engagement, courtesy of a kick-ass team.  I have seen the launch and constant improvement of our community portal courtesy of our amazing web team, which has seen iHub take the online engagement of its global community to the next level.

Personal growth

I have had the chance to travel to conferences across the world and speak on behalf of the iHub about the Kenyan tech ecosystem.

I was challenged to start a tech blog, did that despite feeling very un-qualified at the time, and I have found my space in writing about tech.

The 5 year tech bash was a feat in mobilization and the sheer logistics of planning that party required us to become giants overnight. And step up we did. I was involved in coordinating online communication for the bash. This involved putting up content on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube as well as coordinating the 3 step release of 3000 tickets on Eventbrite. Convening Nairobi’s biggest tech bash and having everyone in one place reaffirmed for me the importance of the work that the iHub does and how critical the tech community in Kenya is for the country’s economic growth. I learnt by interacting with many of you, that to sustain an industry as vibrant as ours, community and collaboration are key. I will carry this lesson with me, always.

I have seen some things go wrong and made some decisions where hindsight swiftly kicked me in the behind. But I’ve seen a lot of things go great! I’ve had a lot of achievements. And many times just stood in awe of my teammates, because the team at iHub is made up of rockstars.

iHub is truly the nexus.

While at the iHub, I have met people I never thought I’d have an opportunity to meet so easily and effortlessly. From Ban Ki Moon, UN Sec Gen, Joi Ito, MIT Media Lab Director to founders of well known global companies, and African Government officials for ICT, to young genius men and women resident at or visiting the iHub.

I have been mentored, advised, and supported by some amazing people including Erik, Juliana, Jimmy and Nekesa who by constantly interacting with, have made me step up my game. Awesome Ninjas like Scott, Mutheu, and Dennis taught me that your next big idea can come from anywhere.

I can say with confidence that if iHub’s resident members are anything to go by, Kenya’s tech community will continue to dazzle the world with endless big innovations. I am inspired everyday by the go-getter attitude here and I will hold the iHub resident members close to my heart.

As I move on to the next chapter of my life, I can only stand in gratitude for what iHub has done for me, and confidence that my vision for the community, seeing them turn their innovations into sustainable, scalable businesses, will be achieved.

From “Just Geeky” to Savvy Entreprenuer

image from www.thefilmthugs.com

image from www.thefilmthugs.com

Your traditional image of a geek overlays comfortably with that of the mad scientist.
Hair unkempt, shabbily groomed, largely introverted and ill at ease in social situations prefers to sit and work away from everyone else, mostly in their bedroom at home. And of course, the compulsory geek glasses.

Your traditional geek (who we shall call Geek. Let’s allow Geek to be a he) is extremely intelligent, comes up with brilliant innovations and products. However, (s) he is largely lacking in social skills, has no idea how to pitch his/her product to a potential investor or partner. Geek has no clue on how to make his product attractive to a client, and is at a loss on how to begin letting people ‘out there’ know that it exists!

Because Geek is brilliant at what he does, he assumes that the market will just gratefully receive his app or e-platform, what with it being the perfect solution to the problems he identified. And tends to get rather easily disillusioned when the client critiques his ‘baby’.

So one day, through referrals, Geek lands his first big client. The down payment is larger than any amount of money he has ever received before! Yes!!! It’s time for Geek to go shopping! It’s time he upgraded from this tired, old computer anyway! A new high-performance smartphone is also necessary. After all, these are the tools of his trade. Connectivity, no?
To Geek’s rude shock, within 3 weeks, (2 weeks before he is done customizing the app for his client), his bank account balance is alarmingly low! Now he has to trudge on with this job, with hardly any of the comfort the down payment was meant to guarantee. Bummer! And who knows when another deal will be closed?

The iHub Jumpstart Series, whose maiden unconference took place on the 4th and 5th September at the iHub, is the answer to Geek’s dilemma.

iHub Hypemaster @Afrowave

iHub Hypemaster @Afrowave

Conceptualized and by Jimmy Gitonga (@afrowave), Jumpstart consisted of eight sessions in total (4 on each day) that were unconventionally facilitated by an expert and a start-up. They were tailored to address Geek’s questions.

• How do I manage my finances?
• How do I protect my idea?
• How do I go about ideation and testing my prototype?
• How do I brand myself and my product?
• How do I pitch to an investor/partner?
• How do I incorporate a company, and register a business/product name?
• Which business model would work for me?
• Where do I get funding?

Bootstrapping 101 with @TheMacharia

Bootstrapping 101 with @TheMacharia

The expert addressed the how-to, while the start-up gave their experience on the topic, including challenges and how they overcame them. The participants engaged the speakers in vibrant debates, sometimes having to stop on account of time.

The Branding session by Fadi (@fadzter) of @ARKnative is the expert session that stood out to yours truly. Simple. Clear. I understood not only what a brand is, but I felt I could verbalize the whole vague concept that is branding.

The start-up session that I enjoyed the most was Macharia’s (@TheMacharia) bootstrapping session. A candid poignant narration of his PesaTalk experience.

The iHub jumpstart series shall be a quarterly affair with the next one expected in December.

~Her Royal Geekiness~