Spurring Innovation in Nairobi’s ‘Silicon Savannah’

 Team Juhudi Kilimo is in Nairobi, Kenya working with Juhudi Kilimo to develop a strategy for structuring, financing and operating a new innovation lab, dubbed “Juhudi Labs”, which will support the continual development of Juhudi Kilimo services to rural smallholder farmers.

Before our trip, we knew that Nairobi is one of the most prominent and fast growing cities in East Africa. Yet, I don’t know if we were fully prepared for the culture of innovation that Nairobi breeds. Also, we didn’t quite realize the impact that we would have as we developed the business model for Juhudi Labs, an innovation lab that would partner with outside entrepreneurs and streamline internal resources to develop micro finance solutions.

Image

Week one started off at our client’s headquarters: a brand spanking new second floor location in the posh Kilimani area – boasting reliable Internet, a generator, and security guards.  From our balcony, we interviewed local entrepreneurs and Juhudi’s team to delve more into the structure that Juhudi Labs would undertake.

 Image

 That first week we also ventured to iHub, a co-working space and business incubator for local entrepreneurs, designers, and developers. iHub is heavily funded by big players such as Microsoft, Samsung, and Google; and is the heart of Nairobi’s Silicon Savannah.  And although locals deride the term “Silicon Savannah” since there is no real manufacturing capability here, the bigger picture is that Nairobi is abuzz with innovation and entrepreneurship, and our project with Juhudi Labs is positioned to be right at the center of it. GrowthHub, our next stop on the Nairobi tech movement discovery and as equally impressive, offers mentorship, access to capital, and training.

 Image

 Week two took us into rural Kenya, our client’s satellite stronghold. Juhudi offers micro financing to rural farmers, and Ned our strategy professor would say, that is their internal fit. And what a fit it is – we spent about 48 hours over 5 days in a rented matatu, a Kenyan minibus, on Dramamine-required dirt “roads”, visiting farmers throughout El Doret, Bungoma and Masaii Mara (okay that last town was for a safari trip but I digress). We came face to face with the Kenyan spirit of kazi ngumu (hard work), from the farmers who worked tirelessly tending their dairy cows, the cooling plant operators who collected and distributed the milk to brokers, and Joseph our matatu driver who never seemed tired while we uncomfortably slept through most of the ride.

 Image

A lot of us came to business school and chose Berkeley specifically for its proximity to Silicon Valley and the Bay Areas’s ecosystem of entrepreneurship. What we IBD’ers at Juhudi were privileged to experience was not just Mother Africa and the best she has to offer (oh yeah safaris and beach houses!!) but the ability to spur innovation and this ecosystem through Juhudi Labs in the ever-growing Silicon Savannah.

 We are very grateful to IBD and Juhudi Kilimo for the opportunity to meet, work with and learn from such an amazing group of people!

Asante Sana!

Thank you! Merci! Gracias!

Image

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s