Renewing Hope for the Silicon Savannah: Quick Thoughts From the Special Tech Roundtable

Yesterday, Nailab hosted the tech community consisting of bloggers, startups, geeks, investors and generally all who care about the tech ecosystem, in a special round table following the collapse of Kenya’s first cloud computing company, Angani. CIPIT was of course in attendance, represented by yours truly.
The discussion was informed by the fall out at Angani between its founders and investors. Find both sides of the story on the Angani saga here and here. The purpose of the techroundtable was to chat up a way forward, identify gaps in the tech scene and figure out solutions to identified gaps.

From the discussions it was evident that problems start grappling with tech entrepreneurs at the point of looking for investors and consequently allocating a percentage of shareholding to the investors. While the Silicon Savannah has many talented techies advancing their innovations every day, there is a gap in business skills, a gap in knowing how to monetize talent and how to formulate boards leading to the lack of understanding between investors and founders.
For Angani, that was the problem, and probably many other startups grapple with the same.

‘The real meta-narrative of this story is one of inexperienced management and subsequent irresponsible behavior of startup founders, and how that reflects on the Nairobi tech ecosystem at large. It’s about growing pains and learning, and also about a community coming to terms with the need for more professionalism when scaling and growing companies. It’s about what independent board members and investors rights and responsibilities are.- @whiteafrican’

What is the effect of this to innovation? If tech entrepreneurs have limited knowledge on business management, innovation is not necessarily hampered but the success of innovations and the ability to impact positive influence in the country is hampered. Ms. Erin Smith, an angel investor in Kenya technology firms suggested the introduction of operating partners, as is the norm in the Silicon Valley.
Nevertheless, the tech community is not about to let these challenges affect the tech scene- the tech roundtable was a demonstration of unity and zeal to stand together to gather solutions for the emergent problems which face startups. It was a chance for startup founders to share experiences and learn from each other and in the end, Erik Hersman and Phares Kariuki, of Angani made it known that that they are working together to resolve the issues. Ultimately, there is a lot for startups to learn from what happened at Angani.

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