This week I had the pleasure to attend and participate at the Demo conference held at the Hyatt Hotel in Silicon Valley. The Demo conference does live up to its billing as the launch pad for emerging technology and the presentations were nothing short of awesome. Over the past 20 years, Demo has reviewed over 20,000 technologies and 1,500 companies have participated in the event.
The techpreneurial vibe in the valley is tangible and lends to an excitement that I haven’t quite felt before, which lead me to the conclusion that we need more platforms to showcase innovation across Africa.
The focus must be pan african so that we can draw from a cross-section of ideas but more importantly provide the opportunity for the ideas , concepts and startups to scale and gain required traction and numbers that may be difficult to attain if the initiatives are solely country or bloc based.
A look at the demonstrator and alpha pitch profiles reveals ideas from a varied number of segments namely – cloud technology, consumer services, social media, mobile technology and enterprise solutions, each with very well thought out products and services.
One of the key takings from the organization of the Demo conference, from a launch platform perspective is that it provides the tools for startups to put their best foot forward on a level playing field as well as providing access to varied media and investor pools that would be otherwise out of reach for many of the companies. At each DEMO event, a hand-selected group of new products are introduced to the world for the very first time to global press and prolific bloggers; investors; corporate acquirers; strategic partners and buyers.
What struck me though is that the startups pay to play, with the participation fee pegged at USD 18,500 for those selected but with provisions for deserving startups to get sponsorship. This goes to show the value attached to a quality platform by startups who more often times would have found a different use for such funds.
Maybe I should throw the challenge to the ICT Board, to make a platform such as this, a permanent fixture in Kenya’s annual technology calendar as a start towards creating an africawide initiative.
My bet is, if we pull it off well, other tech inclined countries such as Rwanda and South Africa will come onboard and in no time we will create a vibrant innovation spotting ecosystem that spans the entire continent.