From a retrospective view of East Africa’s mobile ecosystem in the last three years, it is difficult for one to ignore Nokia’s supportive role to East Africa’s mobile application developers. Through organizing competitions, trainings and hackathons, the large multinational has assisted to increase the depth and breadth of local mobile application development skills. Nokia has also supported major independently organized events such as Pivot East, Mobile Monday and Demo Africa among others, that have helped much to identify and showcase talent in East Africa’s mobile ecosystem.
It is a progression of Nokia’s relentless and innovative approach to growing the mobile ecosystem that a partnership with m:lab East Africa began mid 2012 to support mobile startups through business incubation services. The new focus on business incubation is a transition from an existing focus on developers to entrepreneurship support. The aim is to move a further step forward to help build sustainable businesses around mobile applications technologies, a shared objective between Nokia and m:lab East Africa.
In the partnership, Nokia and m:lab East Africa are hosting five mobile startups at the Green House building along Ngong Road – Nairobi’s emerging tech corridor. Apart from getting physical space to work out of, internet and other business facilities at subsidized rates, the startups in the program also benefit from intense and customised entrepreneurship training. In the program which is facilitated as an extension of m:lab East Africa’s incubation program, the startups also have access to hours of coaching and business advisory. The incubated startups also receive support, advice and linkages to access early stage funding.
The five promising startups currently at the premises just 2 kilometers away from iHub and m:lab East Africa premises are :-
Planet Rackus Limited – A company founded by some talented Kenyan individuals with an inspired vision and shared passion for telling African stories through a sustainable Digital Educatainement Framework. The company’s products include Ma3Racer – which got them awarded best overall winner prize at the Pivot East competition / conference of 2012. The company also has through Ma3Racer got shortlisted to the finals the meffys in 2012. In August 2012, Ma3Racer also got the company a much prominent coverage in the starting paragraphs of a much cited article in the economist. Planet Rackus’ other product is Matatu Mania Episode 1 which is a digital comic telling the story of Wambua and his rise through the Kenyan society from a humble beginning as a matatu tout (conductor). Both Ma3Racer and Matatu Mania Episode 1 are available for free download in the Nokia Store. More about the company may be found on their website.
Fomobi Solutions Limited – This is one of the companies whose formation was inspired by m:lab East Africa’s mobile applications and entrepreneurship training program. Founded by Jacob Mwema and Dickson Nganga, the startup has achieved much traction with its two flagship products – mTracker, and SchoolBursar. mTracker is an asset tracking system with innovative propositions over and above traditional asset tracking systems especially in the vehicle security industry. Through the mTracker, the company is one of the few companies accessing the Kenya ICT Board’s Tandaa grant worth $50,000 in 2012. The company also won the Financial Services Category of the Pivot East Competition / conference of 2012 through SchoolBursar, a mobile payment solution that streamlines use of mobile money payments in schools – the single largest institutional recipients of mobile money payments in Kenya. More information about the company may be found on their website.
Elimu Learning Company Limited – This is a company originally inspired and formed at the iHub. Its product, eLimu is an interactive, engaging and fun application for children inthe Kenyan Primary School education system to learn and revise for their exams. The company incorporates animations, videos, songs, music, games and quizzes into the content from leading local textbook publishers based on the Kenya national primary education curriculum. Through the eLimu platform, the company was the winner of Mobile Web East Africa’s applications contest sponsored by inMobi. The company was also shortlisted for finals of the Meffys in 2012. More information about the company may be found on their website.
Zoe Alexander Limited – This is a for-profit organization aiming to create sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor maternal health. Through “Malezi-Bora” a mobile application providing content on maternal and newborn health, Zoe Alexander aims to educate and empower mothers with the knowledge required to make educated decisions regarding their health, and the health of their newborns. From participating in the Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge for Development, the company won a Seed grant to implement and scale “Malezi Bora”. More about company may be found on their website.
Lipisha Consortium Limited – The company builds payment bridges that enable businesses to link their mobile money accounts to their existing bank accounts. Their product, Lipisha Payments Pro facilitates collection of revenues such as school fees and rent payments through mobile money, credit cards and other cash equivalents to the institution’s bank accounts. Their other product named Lipisha Outflow Pro, on the converse facilitates bulk outward payment of amounts from institutions’ bank accounts to designated mobile money accounts. The company also has an emerging international money remittance service called Tellele that allows people from all over the world to send each other money from their mobile devices or computers. Their accolades include being InterNews Innovation Grant Finalists in 2011, App Circus 2012 first runners up, and being placed second at the Nairobi IEEE Exhibition of September 2007. More information about the company may be found on their website