GIST Innovation Hubs are designed to build strong and vibrant networks of young science and technology entrepreneurs around the world.
Through community-led meetup groups, the program aims to bolster the participants’ networking and entrepreneurial skills to build durable, long-term, supportive networks. The ultimate goal is to stimulate local entrepreneurial activity and ensure participants can grow their skills and businesses together - both in their home country and through global connections.
We recently spoke with GIST Innovation Hub Nairobi leader, Florence Kamaitha about the state of Kenya’s startup ecosystem and how the IHub initiative is playing a role in helping entrepreneurs in the region.
Tell us about the startup ecosystem in Kenya.
Kenya is often referred to as the hub of innovation in Africa due to its mobile money platform M-Pesa. The government and the private sector have also helped foster an entrepreneurial culture, by sponsoring or promoting competitions for seed funding, mentorship and trainings. More young people are encouraged to start their own businesses and create employment. We are seeing more recent graduates innovating products to change and improve lives in their community.
What are the challenges facing startups in your region?
There’s a lack of information and awareness on how to run a business. Most entrepreneurs we have encountered are technical people. They often feel they can’t effectively run a business. Marketing, accounting, hiring, branding are things they are learning as they go, which can be overwhelming.
We are working with accountants to have sessions on taxes and book keeping. We are also engaging marketing experts to educational workshops.
Another issue is the lack of experienced mentors. We are creating a peer-to-peer mentorship program where entrepreneurs can support other upcoming entrepreneurs to guide them.
What do you hope to achieve from participating in the GIST Innovation Hub program?
We hope to have an informed network of entrepreneurs who create products and services to solve social challenges we face in Kenya.
What topics have you covered so far during your meet up events?
Pitching, investor readiness, volunteerism, and fundraising.
The topic of a recent GIST online event was "failing forward." What are the most common setbacks that startups experience in your ecosystem?
Editor’s note: Watch the recording of Failing Forward: Using Setbacks to Drive Success here.
The high cost of running a business is one setback. There are too many costly licenses. Even basic utilities like internet and electricity are expensive.
Another setback is the mindset that young entrepreneurs will be the next Facebook. They set out to create something without finding if the market needs or wants their product or service. After investing a great deal of time and money, they learn that they are not able to sell the product to anyone.
Other GIST Innovation Hub Activity
Learn more about other GIST Innovation Hubs.
GIST Innovation Hub Lima
GIST Innovation Hub Beirut
GIST Innovation Hub Kampala
[Image Credits: Florence Kamaitha/GIST Innovation Hub Nairobi]