Reverse engineering an android application

Tech Trend, Workshops

February 27, 2015

On the February edition of #TechTrend 2015, Samuel Kihahu ( Security Engineer) affiliated to Infosec Kenya and Africa Hackon was the guest speaker.
This was a follow-up edition to Solomon Jade’s edition of GSM security during September 2014 #Techtrend

TechTrend is an m:lab East Africa initiative that focuses on technology trends in the mobile developer world and mentoring sessions for upcoming mobile developers by incubated startups, individuals or established tech companies.

Security is a major concern to the world today. It affects data’s:


  • Confidentiality
  • o

  • Integrity
  • o

  • and Availability

Samuel took the devs through a step-by-step process where they were able to return their .apk files (android compiled program) back to .jar file using dex2jar and jdgui
The full presentation can be found on his blog.
Most developers have always thought their applications were full proof after compiling to .apk
It’s thus necessary for developers to always secure their code through:


  • Obfuscating code
  • o

  • Protecting one’s API’s
  • o

  • Encrypting data at rest/ at transmit
  • o

  • Always filtering user data


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Getting started with Ushahidi Platform

Tech Trend, Workshops

February 4, 2015

Ushahidi is free and open-source software (LGPL) for information collection, visualisation, and interactive mapping. It came to be in the aftermath of Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election. Ushahidi collected eyewitness reports of violence reported by email or text messages and placed them on a Google Maps.
The Ushahidi platform is built on the Kohana web framework and includes support for Nexmo wholesale SMS API and Clickatell SMS Gateway.It also provides the option of using OpenStreetMap maps in its user interface, but requires the Google Maps API for geocoding.
The organisation uses the concept of crowdsourcing for social activism and public accountability, serving as an initial model for what has been coined as “activist mapping”—the combination of social activism, citizen journalism and geospatial information.
On the first edition of #TechTrend this year, Angela from Ushahidi gave developers an overview on how to get started with Ushahidi platform. She gave a hands-on experience on how to install, plugins that can be used and new features included in their latest release.
You can download the ushahidi platform or use it cloud based at
Feel free to also improve the Ushahidi code base by writing code, building plugins/extensions, and strengthening it against vulnerabilities. The documentation can be found at their WIKI page

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Top 10 list of most disruptive technologies in Kenya in the last 5 years

Tech Trend, Workshops

December 19, 2014

The technology scene in Kenya has grown rapidly over the 1st half of the decade.  Behind this steady growth lies the emergence of tech hubs, government support and of course the emergence of different technologies.
The emergence of tech hubs and labs and institutions like mlab East Africa, iHub, Nailab, Emobilis, Growth Hub amongst many others have proved to be great initiatives in terms of accelerating growth in the ICT sector. They do this through accelerator programs, Ideation programs, Hackathons, Incubation , Entrepreneurial/ Business coaching, meetups amongst others. The education sector has also followed suite whereby  institutions like Strathmore University, Nairobi University and Kenyatta University have also set up hubs within their campuses to enhance the same. In Strathmore we find the ilab while in Nairobi University we find the C4D lab. Kenyatta university in particular recently introduced the Digital learning program where students are given tablets enabling them to study anywhere anytime.
The government through the ICT Board has also made major strides in pushing the ICT sector. In the recent years they have introduced the Digital services, Projects and initiatives, research documents that have shaped the technology landscape in Kenya. Some of the most notable ones are National Optic Fibre Broadband Infrastructure (NOFBI), Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI), County Connectivity Project (CCP), Digital Villages- Pasha, Tandaa Grants, Huduma Centres Research Report, Communication Authority of Kenya ICT Reports and the Vision 2030 Konza Technology Park. They have also had partnerships with major industry players like IBM Research lab, KITOs, NASSCOM, Oracle, SAP and  Huawei.
However, all this growth  has been made possible by the emergence of different technology inventions that have been leveraged by developers to create different platforms and softwares that have made this possible. It is with this in mind that the m:lab East Africa this year came up with the TechTrend initiative.

TechTrend is an m:lab East Africa monthly initiative that focuses on technology trends in the mobile developer world and mentoring sessions for upcoming mobile developers by incubated startups or established tech companies.

So here goes the list of my top 10 most disruptive technologies that have shaped the Kenyan tech scene 1st half of the 2010 – 2020 decade. My rating is biased on the impact the technology has had on the Kenyan people. One major aspect to note is the tendency of all technologies to focus towards mobile capabilities.
#10 Content Management Systems
The most common of them that I have come across include Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, SilverStripe or MODX. Before 2011 the most commonly used platform was Joomla; It has being overtaken by WordPress which is now perhaps the leading platform because of its blogging capabilities. The other uses of these CMS are Websites, shopping carts, discussion forums etc. Thousands of blogs exists in Kenya, from personal blogs, Corporate blogs and major News sites. Alot of major websites and shopping sites are also powered  by these CMSs
#9 Application Frameworks
Hundreds of Application frameworks exist in the market today.These are software applications that are designed to support the development of systems. They have greatly reduced the amount of time needed to create big applications because they provide libraries for database access, templating frameworks and session management, and they often promote code reuse.
The development of HTML5 has brought major capabilities in developing Hybrid applications that can be used for both the laptop and mobile phone. Hybrid Frameworks like the Intel App Framework, Phonegap and the Rhomobile Suite enable HTML5 apps to be converted to different platform apps like Android, Windows or iPhone Apps.
Front end web developers and back end web developers have Codeigniter, Laravel,  Ruby on Rails, Bootstrap just to mention a few that they use for their different developments. Thousands of Corporations, Startups, Companies have their ICT technicians develop on top of these frameworks.
#8 USSD/SMS Technology
The market for smartphone in Kenya is steadily growing. Keen to note though is the use of USSD and SMS and how startups and companies have been able to tap its use. The Eneza Education for example uses this to impact lots of children lives in the education sector. Other companies leveraged on it via subscription services such as Love/Alerts SMS, betting, buying music  etc. Banks also use it for mobile banking among other uses. Hundreds of Companies and Startups, have tapped into the capabilities of this technology and its impact influences many in the Kenyan Society.
#7 Smart Phone
Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and many other hundreds of apps are as a result of the proliferation of smart phones. The capabilities of smartphones is transcendent considering the different innovations being inputted into the phones with every new upgrade. The IoT is also something to watch for in the next few years as we see our phones become connected to our household items as well as gears like smart watches.
#6 Payment Gateways
A few years back we only knew of Paypal, we now enjoy PesaPal, Jambonet and iPay amongst others which incorporate Kenyan modes of payment. This has led to the rise of local ways of purchasing through our phones and websites using our local means of cash exchange.
#5 NFC Technology
I call it ‘tapping’ technology. Its basically the use of an NFC enabled card with a phone or other mobile device to enable transfer of cash. The Public transport in Kenya rolled the Cashless system however its yet to be adopted fully in all PSV vehicles. Already, players like Beba Pay, My1963 Card, Abiria Card have formed partnerships with major banks KCB and telcos like Safaricom. We will see what becomes of it the next few months as we get into the second half of the decade. The technology is also used for loyalties, school going children and as access cards. This year also saw the first Kenyan startup to head to the Silicon Valley, Card Planet.
#4 Optical Fibre Technology
In the recent years the fibre optic in cable was laid down in Kenya and it has since increased the internet speeds to great levels. The internet providers such as Jamii Telcom and Zuku have come up with interesting packages and ways to sell their bandwidth to the Kenyans. Its impact affects millions of Kenyans and thats why it features at no. 4 of the disruptive technologies in Kenya list.
#3 3G Technology
With the growing number of smartphones that have 3G capabilities, the Telcos are battling day and night to create packages for mobile data. The major telcos have enabled 3G technologies in major cities in Kenya. Recently, Safaricom introduced 4G capability via their network and in the next half of the decade we will see the other telcos follow suit as well as emergence of other innovations via the same.
#2 Cloud Computing
In 2009 it was generally thought of as a fad, it has grown to become one of the biggest technological strides in our generation. It involves delivering hosted services over the Internet via services like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The cost of servers, their sizes and computational power is now not a headache to various tech companies who now simply just have to pay for the different services and gave it hosted over the cloud. Windows Azure and Amazon web services, are greatly used by many developers especially to integrate web and mobile services as well as create cross platform networks with different capabilities. In Kenya startups like Kili, Kenyan Cloud and corporates like Safaricom have leveraged on the opportunity with their Cloud computing service. Softlayer recently partnered with mlab East Africa to provide the services to startups.
#1 Mobile Money
Kenya is undoubtedly the most innovative mobile money market in the world. Mobile money transfer service providers moved over $20 billion and over 700 million transactions last year. Its impact is widespread throughout Kenya. Mobile money agents, integrations with banks, microfinance institutions, companies, megastores and many other startups have build other systems on top of the mobile money. Mobile money technology has had the most impact on the Kenyan economy and continues to improve peoples lives on a daily basis. It proudly features as the #1 most influential technology for the 1st half of the 2010 – 2020 decade.
Technologies to watch for in the next half of the decade:

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{RECAP} Monetizing your apps and business with Bitcoin and BitPesa

Tech Trend, Workshops

December 1, 2014

On the 27th of November, Charlene Chen & John Karanja from BitPesa were the guests of the final TechTrend  edition of 2014 at the m-Lab East Africa.

Developers at the TechTrend meetup at mlab East Africa

They talked to developers on how they can leverage on their apps & services using Bitcoin.” It is simple to get started, and our team can help get you set-up” they said.
How it works:

This means that you do not need to worry about forex rates, credit card fees, or long waits to receive your money.  The end-to-end cost of using BitPesa is just 3%, absorbed in the margin we charge the client.

Bitcoin, the world’s first global digital currency, provides an unprecedented opportunity for individuals, businesses, and companies to accept payment from anywhere and anyone in the world at a substantially lower cost. Major travel companies like and accept Bitcoin and have reduced their costs and increased their business doing so! Even EBay is about to start accepting Bitcoin. 
For more information visit

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The Cheetah Fund Crowdfunding Bootcamp


October 3, 2014

searchThe 1%Club and the Dutch National Postcode Lottery is pleased to introduce you to The Cheetah Fund.

 What is the Cheetah Fund? 

A matching fund of €400,000 that aims to support 100 African pioneers with seed money to kick-start or boost their world-changing projects.

If you manage to crowdfund 30% of your target amount in 30 days, The Cheetah Fund will match the rest (70%)
Check out the Cheetah Fund website to find out how it works!
In a bid to assist entrepreneurs successfully apply for this fund, the 1% Club in conjunction with Nailab, iHub, mLab and iBiz have organized a crowdfunding bootcamp. The two-day event will consist of workshops, keynote speakers sharing their expertise and successful Kenyan crowdfunding stories to inspire and motivate you as you prepare to launch yours.
What? The Cheetah Fund crowdfunding bootcamp
When? Thursday October 9th and Friday October 10th 2014
Time? From 09.00 to 18.00
Where?  mLab, Nailab and iHub offices, Bishop Magua, Ngong Road. Nairobi
How it works
[list type=”bullet”] [li]The bootcamp is a one-day event: you can either participate on the 9th or the 10th[/li] [li]Sign-up is free of charge. All you have to do is create a campaign on the Cheetah Fund website before the bootcamp starts.[/li] [li]Two’s definitely better than one so come with a partner- someone that you can work with on your campaign[/li] [li]If you sign up before October 7th you will receive a free t-shirt![/li] [/list] If you’d like to join the bootcamp, sign up HERE

Should you have any questions regarding your application for the bootcamp, feel free to contact Amber at [email protected]

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How to make the best out of GSM technology

Tech Trend, Workshops

August 22, 2014

The guest speaker of #TechTrend (August Edition) was Co-Founder & CTO of Eneza Education, Kago Kagichiri at m:lab East Africa,who demonstrated how to make the best out of GSM technology focussing mainly on USSD/SMS technology. TechTrend is a m:lab East Africa initiative that focuses on technology trends in the mobile developer world and mentoring sessions for upcoming mobile developers by incubated startups or established tech companies.

Eneza Education (formerly known as MPrep) utilizes SMS technology with the goal of improving student learning. The program seeks to provide quality educational resources to schools in Kenya.

USSD applications are accessed by user request and make use of short codes (*—#) or text strings to trigger certain services in a session-based communication, while SMS  allows for short text messages to be sent from one cell phone to another.
Kago gave examples of basic GSM technologies like cell broadcast, flash messages, SIM menus, and Dial-in Tones. These can be used for various kinds of businesses including advertising, subscriptions or premium services. To make use of GSM technologies, one should partner with a  Premium Rate Service Providers (PRSPs), work directly with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) or MPESA/SMS providers e.g Twilio. Common charging models for USSD/SMS are usually 5/ 10 Ksh USSD, SMS transactions or Rental SMS/ USSD services.
See an overview of the meet-up below:

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Rapid Experimentation, Catalyst for Innovation & Lean UX/UI Session

Finalist, PIVOT East, Workshops

August 18, 2014

PIVOT East Participants during a previous training.

PIVOT East Participants during a previous training.

On the  27th of August 2014, we will have a training that is one of its kind. The training is aimed at the technical members of the startups teams.  The session will take place at m:lab East Africa from 9:00am to 12:00pm . The sessions will be on Rapid Experimentation, Catalyst for Innovation & Lean UX/UI with Solstice Mobile. Solstice Mobile is one of the leading provider of enterprise innovation and mobility solutions in the US. With the largest dedicated mobile software engineering team in the United States, they have deep expertise across iOS, Android and Windows 8 platforms. Their other specialities include:  Enterprise Mobile Strategy & Innovation, Internet of Things, M2M, Mobile Architecture, Mobile Governance, User Experience Design, Mobile Infrastructure & Security, iOS, Android, and HTML5 Applications, Mobile Testing & Support, Agile Transformation. They have won several awards in the USA .
The sessions will be conducted by:
 jschwanJ Schwan, the Founder and CEO of Solstice Mobile. He was recently inducted into the Chicago Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, was awarded the University of Illinois College of Engineering Young Alumnus of the Year award, was named one of Chicago’s Tech Week 100 and has had recent work inducted into the Computerworld Hall of Fame.

Angelique Rickhoff,

Angelique Rickhoff, User Experience Consultant at Solstice Mobile. She received an Associate’s Degree in Digital Design, a Bachelors in Interactive Media, and a Master in Human Computer Interaction. Her studies embodied coursework around visual design, ethnography, designing for accessibility, usability methods, and user research.

mark-wallaceMark Wallace, a management consultant focused on mobile and contextual technologies. He has deep experience in product management and implementation services in both the healthcare and financial industries. Mark has worked with several consumer-directed healthcare startups to build their products and launch. He also served as a lead on the Knowledge Management Team with Ernst & Young, developing intranet strategies for their domestic and international telecom partners.
“Rapid Experimentation and a Catalyst for Innovation”
Disruptive technologies continue to change expectations from already demanding consumers, forcing brands to create more contextually relevant experiences. But how does the enterprise keep up with these emerging technologies and focus in on which ones to harness? To be successful, brands need practices and methodologies that span the gap between short and long innovation horizons.
Join Solstice Founder and CEO, J Schwan, as he shares how rapid experimentation and lean prototyping are accelerating enterprise innovation.
“Lean UI/UX”
Stemming from the Lean Startup Movement, Lean UX advocates for trimming down traditional user experience methods so they can be applied effectively to a fast paced Agile environment. The key principles of Lean UX include early customer validation, collaborative design, solving user problems, measuring key performance indicators, applying appropriate tools, and nimble design. Lean UX provides “just enough” documentation to keep everyone on the same page and allowing the team to iterate as they learn more.
Join user experience expert Angelique Rickhoff from Solstice Mobile, as she shares how these approaches can be applied to your work.
To attend this event, RSVP HERE. (there are only 25 slots available)

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BARCAMP NAIROBI 2014 – Who’s Your Data’s Daddy?


July 31, 2014

The 8th Barcamp Nairobi will be held on Saturday, 30th August, 2014. Barcamp is produced by Skunkworks Kenya – a disruptive collective of Kenya’s best looking and best skilled techies – and will be jointly hosted for the 2nd year by m:Lab East Africa, iHub, and Nailab  at Bishop Magua Centre, Ngong Road.
Barcamp is an unconference – participants run it. Anyone and everyone can attend. Please join us by registering here. Attendees set the agenda for what’s discussed, lead the sessions and workshops that fill the schedule, and create an environment of innovation and productive discussion.
The theme for Barcamp Nairobi 2014 is: Who’s Your Data’s Daddy?
Is privacy and security online possible in Kenya?
barcamp1_white-bgWe entrust our most sensitive, private, and important information to private technology companies. At the same time the increasing usage of technology has attracted the attention of authorities eager to provide caveats on the openness of the Internet and the range of freedoms, which we enjoy online.
At Barcamp Nairobi 2014 we are eager to talk about privacy and surveillance, we will explore if there are any strategies and solutions that Kenyan citizens, corporations and governments are using to protect their privacy and security online.
Who should attend: the curious, the unconventional, the brilliant, the resilient, thinkers, hackers, crackers, builders, coders, techies, writers, artists, ninjas, everyone.


  • Come prepared to: share ideas, challenge ideas, engage with others
  • o

  • Bring: gadgets, code, designs, community attitude, friends, deodorant
  • o

  • Don’t bring: wordy powerpoint presentations, hubris, suits and ties

Hashtag #BarcampNBI


  • Have time? Volunteer for Barcamp Nairobi 2014 here.
  • o

  • Have money? Sponsor Barcamp Nairobi 2014. Email [email protected] for more information.
  • o

  • Want to attend? Register for Barcamp Nairobi 2014 here.
  • o

  • Want to speak? List your topic here.

Barcamp Nairobi 2014 is free to attend. Stay tuned to for more details.

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PIVOT East Winners attend Venture Investment Course.

PIVOT East, Winners, Workshops

July 31, 2014

PIVOT East 2014 Category Winners attended a Venture investment course on the 29th and 30th July 2014. “Find.Make.Grow.Realise.Venture investment” course is a collaboration between Knife capital, the University of Cape Town (UCT) Graduate School of Business and Savannah Fund. The course was facilitated by Investors: Keet van Zyl, Andrea Boehmert and Mbwana Ally.
The entrepreneurs were trained on Finding & Making great investments on the first day and Aggressive Growth & Realisation options and strategies on the second day. Some of the topics they covered were: Investor approach/deal selection, Financial Management for startups, Due Diligence process, Investment terms and rights, Engineering growth, Traction Verticals and Positioning a company for premium-priced exist just to mention a few.
There were also insightful sessions from: Erik Hersman Co-founder  of BRCK, on how to have killer crowdfunding campaigns, Dylan Higgins CEO of KopoKopo on Due Diligence and their fund raising journey as well as Toni Maraviglia, Co-founder of Eneza Education on impact Investments and their journey.
PIVOT East winners during the Venture Investment training PIVOT East winners during the Venture Investment training PIVOT East winners during Savannah Fund training

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Fundraising Investment and Closing Deals – Finalists Workshop Recap

PIVOT East, Workshops

June 13, 2014

The Semifinalists and finalists of PIVOT East competition have been receiving training, coaching and mentorship in the last two weeks. The trainings are aimed at assisting the finalists to improve key elements of their business models and the positioning of their startups to the rich audience at the conference. The finalist will pitch to Investors, Venture Capitalists, judges, government officials and other delegates on 24th – 25th June 2014. The semifinalists and startups in the waiting list will benefit from the training sessions unlike the previous years where online the finalists took part in the training sessions.

John Kieti Director m:lab giving a presentation on how to pitch to investors to PIVOT East finalists

John Kieti Director m:lab giving a presentation on how to pitch to investors

The first two training sessions focused on Fund Raising, Investment and Closing deals, and how to pitch to investors. John Kieti the Director m:lab East Africa gave a presentation on how to pitch to investors. The presentation highlighted some of the important things that investors look for in a presentations. They include; the product’s traction, the market size, revenue stream and unfair advantage (a product or a service that cannot easily be copied). When pitching to an investor ensure that you start your presentation strong, connect with your audience from the onset, maintain high energy levels and always end with a strong call to action. The most important thing is practise. Practise your pitch as many times as you can, before a friendly audience, in front of a mirror or even record yourself, review and adjust accordingly.
Toni the Co-founder of Eneza Education giving a talk to PIVOT East Semifinalists on fundraising.

Toni the Co-founder of Eneza Education giving a talk to PIVOT East Semifinalists on fundraising.

Toni the Co-founder of Eneza Education one of the startups incubated at the m:lab and a winner of PIVOT East 2012 in the society category shared with the semifinalists the tips on fundraising. She shared her experience with both local and international investors. The second session was on Investment deals which was facilitated by Open Capital Advisors. Open Capital Advisors is a financial services and strategy consulting firm based in Nairobi that supports high-impact businesses, investors, and innovative solutions throughout East Africa. They enable sustainable businesses to plan their growth and raise capital while helping funders to allocate capital efficiently.
Open Capital advisors giving a presentation during PIVOT East workshop

Open Capital advisors giving a presentation during PIVOT East workshop

The presentation focused on some of the important things to consider when negotiating

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deals with investors. Annie from Open capital also talked about convertible debt which is often a good option for startups. The advantages of convertible debt is that it does not require a valuation, the interest rate is lower than a straight debt, its faster to negotiate and close a convertible debt and often convertible debt does not require security. Startups can opt for convertible debt when it’s hard for them to agree on a valuation with an investor, especially early-stage startups or when multiple investors are interested in investing in your startup it can be easier to get aligned on a convertible instead of the “lowest common” valuation.

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