For the last five years, the Kenya ICT Board has been involved in several initiatives like BPO, content and the latest is Konza City marketing initiative. You can read more about ICT board here.
The discussion on tech start ups was led by a team from Dalberg consultants and was calculated to include the voices of Kenyan tech startups and what they would like to have at the Konza city in order to relocate to the remote location.
In my estimation, the meeting was poorly attended with less than 30 people, I guess the start up space is not that big or the event was poorly marketed. Some of the people in the room who I could recognize were; @kahenya @agostal @roomthinker @bankelele @bytebandit @kaboro @ kachwanya @njathika @themumbi
For the people involved in Konza city discussions, both offline and online, there are two levels of interests:
1. Those who genuinely want to see the tech industry grow but with forproper foundation
These are the kind of people who argue that we should solve elementary issues such as digitizing government services before investing in massive hardware, that we art out basic social amenities like power before building a high speed train, how will this help if there is no power?
These people argue that the tech start ups should be supported now, instead of waiting Ten years for the city. For instance, software start ups can not take their business plans to the bank and get loans, all these money going to international consultants should find a way back to the tech industry. Please note, I talk of affordable bank loans, not grants that are not accounted for.
Do we have to wait for a city to get a favorable banking sector services? I would love to hear Jimmy of iHub cluster explaining High Performance Computing to a bank Manager, pitching for a loan. Imagine him justifying that this is the future of kenyan tech.
This group of people isn’t exactly loved because they are not seen as pro development and are seen to philosophize things, especially when you compare Kenya t south Korea and they say the two countries invested in education and social amenities differently?
2. Those who don’t care about tech, “this is a business opportunity, seize it”
We all like to say we are in group one but for those selling land around Konza and those working as consultants, this is a business and we concentrate on what we are making, not on existing or future problems. Make your money now, worry about viability later.
I am also looking at the inside lane in this group but no one seems interested to let me in. I can wrk as a consultant, I will google and write a report on basic stuff that others have written. I will regurgitate suff and claim to be what the community wants. I have thequalities but I have not been invited to the table, I guess we are many waiting 🙂 and we are perfecting our abilities to suck up to whoever.
Now that you know about the interests at Konza, let us go back to the discussions at iHub.
@kahenya started the question time by saying that it was a bad idea badly executed because with the struggling start ups, they will be dead before Konza can help them. He also argued that weneed to invest in social systems capable of supporting the grandiose projects.
Kahenya was shot down on the argument that the Dalberg team was only concerned with what start ups want at Konza, not any other attendant challenges. I agreed with the consultants, if they were paid by the IFC to only talk about what start ups and what they want, it was unfair to start telling them the problems that Kenyans face and why some of the start ups are notsurviving to celebrate third birthdays.
For a moment, the debate seemed to move on, until @kaboro came in and started talking about the social investments that had been made by the countries we are trying to emulate. consommé point one of the consultants answered “I am not even Kenyan” and from this point, the debate seemed lost.
@roomthinker runs a software company that serves the banking sector; his office is within ten minutes of his major clients so he is able to give faster support, which is his competitive edge over international firms ahis the employees live within 20 minutes to the office. He sought to know why he should stomach Mombasa road traffic and move to Konza.
The consultants danced around the question and sad that companies like Accenture, HSBC etc will be setting up offices in Konza and will be providing new business. The journalist in me wanted to ask if there are any commitment letters but seeing the way the other questions were being handled, these guys could have started giving meexamples of how TSBDEC set up shop in Tunguska tech park and it is now doing well.
@agostaL this guy is the poster boy for tech start up success without a grant from the ICT board, i don’t know f the grants have had success 🙂
Liko has been concerned with finance availability and it is understandable. Many small companies are knocked out of big tenders because of unavailability of money or lines of credit to support deployments. He was told of how Equity bank will be setting up shop at Konza, but that can start now. Again, the consultant reminded participants that they were not bothered with those existing problems, only what they would like to see at Konza.
I wondered why the consultants kept on plugging in Equity bank like there was no other bank in Kenya. Later on it hit me that last year I met a lady fom Dalberg who told me that they were involved in setting up the Equity Bank foundation.
I am crowd sourcing responses from other people who were present, will update with responses.