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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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How to Use Mobile Phones to encourage information sharing within the agricultural value chains

Agriculture, Wireless Wednesday

August 15, 2014

Smallholder farmers form majority of the farming capital in Africa, yet more often than not they are left out of the value chain’s growth. Mobile is a powerful tool in Africa. In fact, according to a report by GSMA, Mobile penetration across the region was 54% in 2012 and contributed over six per cent of the region’s GDP. Most farmers have access to a mobile phone, can they leverage mobile technology in strengthening agricultural value chains and in enabling them to become agriprenuers and more actively engaged in market-led agriculture? Can mobile innovations help in impacting the agricultural value chains?

A farmers speaking during the event

A farmers speaking during the event

On the 30th of July 2014, mobile application developers, farmers, government representatives, NGOs, exporters, Investors, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector met at m:lab east Africa to discuss this during Wireless Wednesday event sponsored by USAID. The meetup was meant to help the attendees have an understanding of what factors are necessary for value chains to thrive, development of the value chain and how mobile technology can encourage information sharing within the value chain to the benefit of the smallholder farmer. Some of the Highlights from the event: Extension Officer’s Ratio: According to an extension officer from Kakuzi, Mr Mwaniki,their ratio is 1 officer for 15,000 farmers. He reckons that mobile tech can help them in information sharing more efficiently, fast and to masses. Farmers suffer because of information lag and lack of proper advice from extension workers on disease outbreak, weather updates, good practises, just to mention a few. Mobile technology can bridge this gap. Government Involvement: According to Grace Agili, government would like to support mobile innovations in agriculture but they have inadequate resources. In fact they have so much information in the govt websites that are available for all stakeholders for free, but very few know this. She encouraged developers to leverage on that, to share useful information to farmers

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in simpler,more effective ways. Govt currently disseminates information to smallholder farmers using radio for free, but farmers have to buy directories, documentaries and manuals. When asked about government working with developers, Grace Agili Said, “We do not have to reinvent the wheel or compete with developers but support you to reach more farmers and create more awareness about available solutions in Agriculture.” Government is a key player in the value chain and their participation, in terms of policy and infrastructure can impact the value chain immensely.

A farmers speaking during the event

Attendees the event

Engagement: Farmers were urged to share information and adopt the family approach to integrate youths in agriculture. And in order to grow the value chain they were encouraged to take the wheel and team up with developers, give them guidance and together build solutions that not only connect with farmers but solve pain points in the agricultural value chains. Awareness: Farmers need to give or receive some information to / from other farmers, buyers, government, extension workers, agro-vet etc from time to time.But they normally experience hardship accessing or sharing information required during farming activities or at post-harvest level because they don’t know available technology solutions to help them. Farmer present at the meetup agreed that mobile phone could help speed up, and open up flow of information within agricultural value chains. Actors in the agricultural value chains – (including farmers, agro-vets, buyers, extension workers, government, financiers etc) stand a realistic chance to benefit from improved information flow if there can be mobile phone solutions working a large scale (the scale at which M-PESA operates or even on a global scale). Public Awareness is missing. Farmers need to be sensitized and informed especially on these factors:


  • Market and pricing information
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  • Type of Crop to plant
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  • Crop Management and Ecology .
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  • Potential Buyers
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  • Profitability of the crop

These information can help a farmer make sound decision even before he/she starts planting the said crop. Improved information sharing within the agricultural value chains will benefit all the stakeholders in the chain.

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Devs mentorship by

Incubation, Tech Trend, Workshops

January 31, 2014

A great idea can be built with almost any technology. They all have their pros/cons. No matter what stack you choose, you’ll pay a certain price for whatever advantages it offers. But really, the success or failure of your project has more to do with vision, leadership,execution, and market than technological choices – Matt Aimonetti.

Johann & Paul from giving a talk to developers

These were the opening words of Paul Schwarz from during a meetup dubbed Tech Trend that was held on 30th Jan at the m:lab. The meetup will be a monthly initiative that will focus on technology trends in the developer world and mentoring sessions for upcoming developers by incubated startups or established tech companies.

In the Tech Trend debut,  Johann & Paul were the guest speakers and they gave a general talk of their start-up from a technology point of view. This included testing tools, development language, framework, analytics tools amongst others. provides a secure accommodation marketplace connecting travellers looking for a cool place to stay, with hosts and their empty beds. It was launched in November 2012 and currently provides over 1,000 accommodation options in Kenya alone. The site has seen traffic grow to 50,000 unique visitors and 130,000 page views per month. They have had numerous successes including winning PIVOT EAST 2013 in the enterprise category. They are currently incubated at the m:lab.

Developers need to know alot of new stuff based on the technologies have incorporated in their development such as test driven development, virtual machines such as Vagrant,  deployment tools such as Capistrano amonst other technical details. Many questions were asked pertaining to Google analytics & Mixpanel analytic tools which are necessary in today’s development due to the need of studying consumer behaviour and measuring out site performance.


Developers at the Tech Trend talk at m:lab’s boardroom

Paul encouraged developers to develop their programming skills so as to be experts in their particular area of specialisation. He personally follows Uncle bob blog and gets involved in open source projects. He is also active in reporting bugs of whichever platforms he uses which have seen him grow immensely and gain other skills in the process.

Feeling a sense of having missed out! look out for February’s Tech Trend Talk.


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Enhancing interaction in the classroom using technology

Education, Wireless Wednesday

December 6, 2013

One of the common mistake that entrepreneurs and developers make is assuming  what the end user wants. Most of the times what you think the end user needs might not be what they really want. Most developers and entrepreneurs in the edTech ecosystem assume that educational games are mostly what the kids like so everyone is developing educational games for the kids. But that is not the case with most of the kids who attended Wireless Wednesday for kids.


Left: Enock Liech and Derrick Owino from Thika Road Christian testing the Samsung tablet before Wireless Wednesday for kids

Steve Blank emphasizes on “getting out of the building” he says, “in a startup, no facts exist inside the building, only opinions”. Unless you get out of the building, get out of your comfort zone and talk to potential customers, entrepreneurs stand the risk of build a product that nobody wants and talking to customers after spending a lot of your resources, and many times don’t have enough resources left to achieve success.

m:lab East Africa for the first time held Wireless Wednesday on edTech for kids. The meetup was aimed at giving the students a chance to sample some of the applications in the edTech ecosystem and share their thoughts on how learning can be made more interactive using technology. The forum enabled the students, who are the end users of the mobile innovations in education a chance to tell the entrepreneurs and developers what they want and how they want it.

Wireless Wednesday Kids

Participants during Wireless Wednesday for kids

 “Technology is interesting but it can be distracting at the same time” says one student. Most students especially in Secondary school said incorporating things like video clips to accompany the theory part especially in sciences can make learning more interactive. It is easier for the video clips to explain more about the theory part just like practicals in school but the difference is, with video clips the students can keep referring back.

One student from Precious Blood Riruta Secondary School suggested that developers can come up with an education social site like chat/WhatsApp where students can be sharing what they have learnt in a certain subject say Biology and get to ask their friends in the group questions where they did/do not understand. This creates a more relaxed way of learning for the students at the same time they get to interact with each other.


Edgar Odeng from St. Mary’s Secondary School being interviewed by a journalist from Germany Radio about the event

Students are willing to use the available applications in education for learning but the problem is they do not know about the existing applications in edTech. This is a challenge for the developers and entrepreneurs in the edTech ecosystem. How well have you marketed your application? Do the students know about it? have you partnered with the relevant people like schools, the teachers name them. Students are looking for applications that will help them study, no parent will refuse to pay for an application that helps their children. It is every parents wish to see their children excel in their studies and if it means paying a fee for an application that is of help to the children then why not!

Samsung, the sponsor of Wireless Wednesday for education informed about the tablet they are planning to roll out late December or early January. The tablet can be used by grown ups and also kids. It has a kiddie mode where when your kid wants to use the table you switch it to kiddie mode then all the games and fun activities that the kids like come up. The parent can be able to control what the kid does with the tablet. The tablet comes in bright colors that are attractive to the kids.

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How can technology make learning more interactive in the classroom!

Education, Wireless Wednesday

November 25, 2013

We need to make learning interesting, interactive and relevant if we want the learners to participate and learn. How then can we use technology to make learning more interesting and interactive for the learners?

The m:lab will for the first time host Wireless Wednesday on edTech for students. The meetup will focus on students and their experience with technology in learning. Before the meetup, the students will be given devices to test the various education apps at the m:lab, then they can give feedback on the applications during the discussion as they also discuss the theme of the meetup. Students are invited to do this from 10.00 am.


Previous Wireless Wednesday Meetup on edTech

The meetup will attract students from across the country, both primary and secondary school students from private and public schools. The key discussants of the meetup will be students. Anyone interesting in attending the event is welcome but the students will be the ones running the show.

The meetup is themed: “How can technology make learning more interactive in the classroom”!

Date: 4th December 2013

Venue: m:lab East Africa (Bishop Magua Center opposite Uchumi Ngong Road)

Time: 12.00 – 2.00 pm

To attend the event kindly RSVP HERE. Parents feel free to register your kids for the event.

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Kopo Kopo secures $2.6 million in Series A Financing


November 22, 2013

Mobile Money in Kenya has come a long way. Since inception, it has grown exponentially increasing from sh166.5 billion ($1.9million) recorded transactions in 2008 to 1.5 trillion ($17.7 billion) in 2012, this is according to The Kenya London News article dated October 23rd 2013.


Kopo Kopo team at their office on 1st floor of Bishop Magua Centre

 Kopo Kopo, East Africa’s and perhaps the world’s first mobile money merchant acquirer, has raised $2.6 million in series A Financing. Kopo Kopo is hoping to use the new capital to hire top talent, expand its platform offering and accelerate global growth beyond East Africa with the goal of incorporating millions of merchants across the economic frontier into the formal financial system.

Kopo Kopo makes it easier for small businesses to accept mobile payments from customers and over time offering a number of value adding services. Kopo Kopo got an opportunity to be incubated at m:lab East Africa in July 2012. The company grew out of the incubation period within the first nine months of incubation moving to its newly acquired premises on the 1st floor of the same building (Bishop Magua Center) where they are currently located. Kopo Kopo started with a team of four, currently the firm has over 25 employees.


The Kopo Kopo team discussing human-centered design

 In 2012, Kopo Kopo became an official partner of Safaricom and began to extend its “Lipa na M-Pesa service to merchants across three Eastern African markets namely Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. With the reduction of charges for Lipa na M-Pesa, merchants can now enjoy using the mobile money platform to pay for goods or services at the exact value of the item sold or service rendered. With the mobile money spreading across East Africa and the whole world, Kopo Kopo is the company to watch out for.

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Should the Government give the role of Curriculum Development to the Private Sector?

Education, Wireless Wednesday

November 15, 2013

As learning is becoming more digitized in Kenya, its important to know how the stakeholders in the ecosystem can work together to make the edtech ecosystem grow. We identified key stakeholders in the edtech ecosystem as learners, policy makers, platform makers, publishers and teachers who set the tone for a great learning environment.

Learners who are both kids and grown ups play an important role in the ecosystem but tend to be ignored most of the times while coming up with innovations and also while making making decisions. Also when coming up with these new innovations some of the teachers feel left out because not all teachers are IT literate hence there is a big disconnect.

The government plays a big role in the edTech ecosystem because they are the policy makers.Policy sets the pace for everything. Some of the roles of the government in the ecosystem highlighted during the discussion include;


Participants during the edtech meetup

Curriculum development –  The government through its parastatal Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development conducts research and develops curriculum for all levels of education below the university. From the discussion it was suggested that the government should give the role of curriculum development to the private sector while they oversees and monitor the whole process. According to Njeri Wangari a publisher at East African Publishers, “If Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development is providing content and at the same time regulating the content, we run the risk of having substandard content being used by schools”

Policy making – Policy affects how everything runs in the edtech ecosystem. A good example, students are not allowed to use devices in the classroom hence most developers developing mobile innovations in education target the after school setting. The government should work on changing the policies to create an enabling environment for the edtech ecosystem.

Strengthen Public, Private Partnerships (PPP) – Public Private Partnership is really important because the government can not do everything on their own. The partnerships will ensure everyone plays a role in developing the ecosystem.

Quality control – The government sets the standards and enforces control in terms of what curriculum is to be used in schools, which are the examining bodies, what colleges are registered and on what basis. This ensures that we keep up the standards of our education system.

Content is an important aspect in education. Two very interesting questions came up during the discussion; is there right or wrong content? and should mobile developers be left to develop content?

According to Anne Salim from iHub Research, when it comes to content it depends on what you want the content to do for the learners, are you trying to solve illiteracy problem? are you trying to help them gain problem solving skills or creative thinking skills? depending on which category of learners you are targeting, it helps you to structure your content then determines how it is deployed in different devices.

Opportunities for entrepreneurs in the edtech ecosystem

There is a big opportunity for entrepreneurs in the edtech ecosystem provided you have the right content and the right business model. When it comes to content there is no shortcut, developers have to partner with publishers who will help with the content aspect as developers focus on the technical aspect. “Do not go for the big publishers because it is hard to get them, start with the small publishers and eventually you will get the attention of the big publishers” says Njeri

Business model is another important factor, it was noted that most developers in the edtech ecosystem use in app advertising and in-app purchase business model. According to Njeri Wangari, Parents hate advertisements in applications. Wangari also said that if you let the child run the bill for the parent in the case of in-app purchase you stand the risk of having the parent uninstall your application from the device.


Ken Mwenda Managing Director Emobilis interacting with a participant after the meetup

Way Forward

Public Private Partnership (PPP) is very important in the growth of the ecosystem. The Government should partner the with private sector where they delegate some of the roles and then they oversee or monitor the progress. Developers also should partner with content developers to come up with great innovations. There was an emphasis of the bottom up approach for developers when it comes to partnerships. Developers should first build a minimum viable product (MVP) that they can use to test it with the customers, this will help them start building a customer base which gives them traction. “Start small then build baby steps into the large ecosystem” says Jessica Colaco from iHub Research. Big partnerships at the initial stage for developers are kind of a waste according to John Kieti lead m:lab.

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What is the role of different stakeholders in the edTech ecosystem in Kenya?

Education, Wireless Wednesday

November 11, 2013

Even as the digital education revolution continues to spread across the country, concerns are being raised about the sustainability of projects like the laptop project and other mobile innovations in the education sector. What are the roles of different stakeholders in the edTech ecosystem in ensuring sustainability of the innovations in education? Join the discussion on “The role of stakeholders in the edTech Ecosystem in Kenya” that will be held at the m:lab on 13th November 2013 from 12.00 – 2.00pm.


Previous Wireless Wednesday Meetup

Some of the key discussants who will spearhead the discussion are;


  • Joseph M. Matara – Regional Director GrayMatters

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  • David Tole – Strategy and Content analyst Safaricom

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  • Thomas Brown – Investment Analyser GrayMatters

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  • Davinder Mdhur – Samsung

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  • Moses Sitati – Nokia

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  • Tony Hutia – Samsung
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  • Anuj Tanna – VAS Product Manager Orange

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  • Among others

You may find blog write up of the previous meetup here

RSVP HERE to attend. There will be a live twitter stream during the event, you can join the discussion using the hashtag #WirelessWednesday.

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Windows Phone 8 Developer Training – Applications for evening course open


November 5, 2013

Last month, m:lab East Africa  conducted a four-week training on windows phone application development, sponsored by Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative.  Following the success of the training, the mlab will conduct another similar training on Windows Phone 8 development from the 18th November – 12th December 2013 at the m:lab East Africa training facility.


The training is aimed at providing interested participants with knowledge on the key features and tools of the Windows Phone 8 platform. With the training, developers will be able to develop windows phone 8 applications to be published in the windows app store.

The training will be offered through evening classes to favour individuals with busy daytime schedules. Interested participants must, in their application, submit an idea of the app(s) that they intend to develop in the course of the training.

The application deadline for the Windows Phone 8 training is 13th November 2013.

Selected participants will be required to pay a refundable commitment fee of Ksh 3,000.

Interested participants may apply BELOW:

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Alumni of PIVOT and mLab training set the pace at Transform Africa

challenges, PIVOT East, Training

November 3, 2013

An alumni of PIVOT 25 this week emerged winner at this year’s Transform Africa summit held in Rwanda. Hehe Limited, headed by Clarisse Iribagiza, received US $7,500 (Rwf4.8 million) cash prize. The company was one of 25 finalists of PIVOT 25  held in 2011. PIVOT 25 was the first edition of the m:lab’s regional mobile startups competition and conference which is currently named PIVOT EAST. Alumni of the m:lab’s mobile entrepreneurship training program also continued to excel with two of its past trainees taking the second and third position respectively.


George Mwangi and Mukeli Mati on each side of Rwanda’s President Kagame – Photo Courtesy of New Times

On second position was George Mwangi’s Mobicraft Solutions winning US $5,000 cash prize. George Mwangi was in the m:lab’s  fifth wave, a four month infoDev funded mobile applications development and entrepreneurship training course early 2013. Mobicraft Solutions winning product is a faith based SMS product.
Mukeli Matei with Fishmate, a service that links Kenyan fish farmers with their markets was placed third. Mukeli was one of the beneficiaries of the m:lab’s first wave of mobile apps and entrepreneurship training in 2011. Fishmate gets US $3,000 ahead of other ICT entrepreneurs from across Africa.

Other winners were South Africa’s Powerbox, a phone charging innovation startup and Ghana’s Mnotify Ltd, which received US$2,000 cash each. The Transform Africa summit was graced by Heads of State from African countries including Mali, South Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda Burkina Faso, Gabon,  and Kenya
The Transform Africa Summit is a concept of the Rwandan Government aimed at pushing for a major ICT revolution across the continent. This 2013 summit held from 28th – 31st October attracted over 1,500 delegates.

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