Starting 2009, Kenya has been slowly emerging as a hotbed of innovation and differentiated thinking in matters technology. Numerous accolades and awards later, are we resting on our laurels?
I have in the past couple of months had the opportunity to interact on a day to day basis with many developers – from solo fliers to organized teams based in Nairobi. While it is a given that the town is awash with brilliant ideas, I think we need to increase the rate at which these ideas get into the market. The ideas and concepts need to be given the opportunity to stand on their own and scale, or fail and fail fast, to allow for the crucial pivot or a trip back to the drawing board. While the current growth in co-shared spaces has been a shot in the arm for a hither to ailing developer ecosystem, it may also create a cocoon of comfort that sees what I call continuous development in the pursuit of perfection.It seems that we may be massaging and coercing many ideas to make business sense while in the real-world with brutal honesty some models are not viable for the current market and may best be shelved, hibernating as the market develops into one that will be conducive for their growth. We need to find a way to deliver the honest truth for the many ideas that are out there. Maybe culturally we are a polite people or more appropriately we are afraid of expressing honest opinion to colleagues operating in the same space.
Two of my close associates who have had the opportunity to secure funding for their startups have had to learn hard and fast the intricacies of delivering value to their shareholders. Rolling out and iterating their service offerings to a point of tears. But what this exposure has done to them is allowed them to finally get on the road to building a business and not nice tricks that would not amount to much if we were to compare ourselves with other regions in the world that are also riding the innovation wave.
We need a new poster child for the innovation that is happening in Kenya. We need to see more success stories and failures as well from the many ideas that are currently being implemented. We need to show that this is not just a well funded bubble. To break free from a comfort zone that I feel we are settling down to.
Most importantly though is that we need to be brutally honest with ourselves and see our ideas for their real potential. Beyond labs and hubs, we need to see some real action.