"Techies are used to problems that can be solved intellectually. Social problems often involve community building…"

I have the opportunity to evaluate start-up ideas and currently I’m part of a team that will decide on a number of start-ups who will get a chance to receiving funding.

The majority of ideas I come across lack something. A plan to mobilizing/organize a community towards solving a specified problem and then introducing the technology as just an enabler. 

Every aspiring Rwandan technology entrepreneur should read these tips.

I was watching the news on the President of France, François Hollande, in the US. Among his agenda was to visit Silicon Valley along with French business people who accompanied him. His objective was to meet with successful Tech entrepreneurs and probably discuss with them how best they can establish in France (Most of them have been fleeing the country to establish Europe offices in Ireland).

But François Hollande also participated in an Event happening at the French Tech Hub in San Francisco. This triggered some kind of curiosity for me to know what that tech hub is and what it does. It’s mission is to help French technology startups to help french entrepreneurs succeed in North America.

I then got carried away with a thought that perhaps it would be relevant for African countries and more specifically my own region, the East African Community, to establish something similar as a way to bring our innovations and opportunities to top american entrepreneurs but also a way to lobby so that popular tech products and innovations from the US get faster to our population through accelerated customizations and partnerships.

My thoughts on how this would work:

The EAC would establish the East Africa Tech Hub in Silicon Valley like it would establish an Embassy there.

The Tech Hub would offer 2 main services:

  • The Information Service with the mandate to maintain a large base of information on the East Africa Tech and Innovation scene but also anything relevant to doing business in the region. The information center would also organize events where relevant EA people would give Keynotes (including our Presidents and other Top officials when they visit the US).
  • The Innovation Center which would host promising EA Tech Startups for a period of 6 months to 1 year. These startups would during that period not only work to refine their products within a conducive environment but would as well be exposed to US Tech startups, Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors, etc…

The EA Tech Hub would be the liaison between Silicon Valley and local tech hubs in the EA countries.

My opinion is that if this was to succeed, we would see an acceleration in US Tech Company establishing in East Africa, Venture Capitalists funding EA tech startups, EA Startups exporting expertise and products to the US and partnering with US innovative companies. 

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to be a judge for the ICT for agriculture hackathon at kLab.

As usual, I was disappointed by the fact that most of the group thought and approached the challenge thinking inside the box. Mainly proposing SMS based applications supposedly because “farmers can only afford a feature phone as technology”. And most of the solutions would assume that a farmer will learn how to format how to format an SMS in order to receive a response back that will answer their questions. I tend to think that this will never really get to be a successful model. An example would be eSoko which doesn’t at all serve its purpose to allowing farmers better sale their products.

Fortunately, there was this group that won and which proposes to produce an electronic based sensor that would enable a farmer (or extension worker) to test the soil quality and get automatic fertilizer needs advice on the phone in less than 1 min. Even thought it was at prototype level and that it is only an assumption that it will work, the idea and realization demonstrated aspects that are common to successful technologies:

  • Solves a real problem for the farmer (saving fertilizer by accurately using what’s needed) and for the environment (reduce overuse of fertilizers)
  • It is easy to use. You just plug in the sensors in the soil and the rest is done for you
  • It’s outreach is unlimited  Measures that are taken by each farmer can over time constitute big data that will be invaluable to Agriculture planning

This come at a moment I had just watched an episode of Shark Tank (Season 5 Episode 2) where for the first time all sharks invested all together in a company that produces a sensor for breath that sends results on your smartphone. In the episode, Mark Cuban one of the sharks and a tech investor says “Sensors are the future of technology”.

I AGREE and I think we, african tech entrepreneurs, should be more thinking of the integration of hardware (and sensors specifically) and software while solving the problems of our continent. Why not a cow milking device equipped with sensors that tracks productivity or diseases? 

tumblrbot Asked

I spend time with my family or play Tennis or look at my Business Plan

This week I was at the ITU World 2011 Event. At First I thought it would too political without any tangible business opportunities.

It ended up being an amazing discovery of things that are happening in other Developed and Developing countries and an eye opener on huge opportunities that we as a startup can tap into.

In this photo, I was showcasing one of our products to the President of Burundi.

  1. Camera: Canon PowerShot G12
  2. Aperture: f/2.8
  3. Exposure: 1/60th
  4. Focal Length: 28mm

MTN Has launched a competition for people to create applications based on the Android Platform.

At AXIS we would like to develop one and I’m spending this whole week trying to find a great idea of an Android Application that would make sense within the Africa/Rwanda context.

I will be sharing some of our thoughts on this blog in the coming days and we are open to receiving proposals, enter into partnership agreements with anybody who has great ideas and needs a team to develop them.