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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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Mobile app testing at m:lab picks ups in 2013

Mobile Testing

December 30, 2013

m:lab East Africa’s testing facility is one of a kind in Africa. As of December 2013 the facility hosted over one hundred and thirty mobile devices on these platforms : Bada, Android, iOS, Blackberry,Symbian, Windows and Windows Phone 8.

Free access to mobile devices for testing has benefited individual application developers since the announcement of free testing. This was occasioned by the signing of a year long partnership agreement between Qualcomm and m:lab East Africa.

We have compiled for our readers monthly statistics for 2013 on key aspects of application testing at our facilities as follows :-

  1. Number of in-facility testing

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    testing hours

  2. Number of days of overnight lending for devices

  3. A list of most demanded devices

  4. Frequency of testing instances for each mobile applications platform

At the close of 2013 , we can summarize the cumulative statistics as :-

[table] [tbody] [tr][td]Number of in-facility testing hours [/td][th]1680[/th][/tr] [tr][td]Number of days of overnight lending for devices[/td][th]746[/th][/tr] [tr][td]Number of devices in the testing room[/td][th]136[/th][/tr] [tbody] [/table]

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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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Role of Stakeholders in the edTech Ecosystem in Kenya2013

Education, Wireless Wednesday

November 1, 2013

Education is not just the responsibility of school leaders and teachers. Education involves different stakeholders who play a role directly or indirectly.Some of the key stakeholders in the edTech ecosystem are; Learners (kids and grownups), teachers, publishers, tech entrepreneurs and developers, Government and its parastatals including Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, Parents, School owners, board members and the administration, device manufacturers, Telcos and ISPs among others. All these stakeholders have a role to play in the edTech ecosystem.


Previous Wireless Wednesday Meetup on Education

Technology has now become part and parcel of our education at all levels starting from early childhood development education up to university level. The introduction of free laptops for class one students in Kenya will encourage the students to embrace technology at a very young age. The laptop project is a good initiative (this statement is debatable) but the question is, as the project is being rolled out, what is the role of the different stakeholders in ensuring that the project and many other such innovative initiatives in the education sector are continuous, effective and embraced in our education system? How can all the stakeholders work together to ensure that the edTech ecosystem is a success?
m:lab East Africa in partnership with Samsung Kenya will bring together stakeholders in the edTech ecosystem in an informal meetup dubbed Wireless Wednesday to discuss the role of different stakeholders in the edTech ecosystem.
The meetup is themed: Role of stakeholders in the edTech ecosystem in Kenya”
Specifics of the event;
Date: 13th November 2013
Venue: m:Lab East Africa’s offices (3rd Floor, Bishop Magua Center, Ngong
Time: 12:00 Noon – 2:00 pm
Register HERE to attend.
You may find blog write up of the previous meetup here

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What are the challenges of uptake of mAgric solutions?

Agriculture, Wireless Wednesday

October 30, 2013

m:lab East Africa held one of the most interactive mobiles for agriculture meetup in partnership with USAID today. The meetup attracted key stakeholders in the agriculture sectors who met with the farmers and developers to discuss the theme of the day. The Key discussants were; Anuj Tanna VAS Product Manager, Orange, Qureish Noordin, Program Officer, Extension Support Function, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Spencer Morley, Farmforce Implementing Manager Syngenta Foundation for sustainable Agriculture. We also had an Extension officer from Tala and farmers from Nyanza, Western and Eastern Provinces The uptake of mAgric innovations is still slowly picking up especially in the rural areas where most of the farming is taking place. In the previous Wireless Wednesday meetups that we’ve held,most farmers do not know about the existing innovations and for the few who know about the existing innovations not all of them are using them. In today’s Wireless Wednesday, we visited some of the challenges of uptake of mAgric innovations and suggested ways to increase awareness of the innovations. 1421022_608830812509732_1960025827_o Some of the challenges mentioned include; Cost – Are farmers willing to spend money on available solution? that is one questions that has been asked several times during the meetups. Developers come up with solutions that are expensive for the farmers hence farmers do not use the innovations available. Some of the farmers said they are willing to spend money on a solution that adds value to their production. Targeting the wrong customers – Farming is widely diverse and thus some might require different solutions. Most developers target “all customer” in agriculture without having to factor in the needs of the different customer segments, this leads to unsatisfied customers for example the needs of a dairy farmer might not necessarily be the same as of those of a maize farmer. Blanket information: Most developers put information about everything in the app/solution. The information is not localized or customized for a particular region/type of farming/ specific crop or a specified farmer. Simplicity – The type of message and language used in your solution can contribute to slow uptake of your application. The message should be simple, in a language that is familiar and understandable to your target customers. Do not assume that everyone knows how it works, explain clearly each and

every step of your solution. Ensure that your solution is easy and simple to use Need-driven – The solutions should be more need driven than demand driven. More often developers are more demand driven rather than need driven hence developing a product because it is on demand rather than focusing on the real need of the customers. Linkages and partnerships – Finding the right and trusted organizations to partner with is a big challenge especially for developers. When it comes to marketing your product partnerships is very important. Partnership with trusted organizations/Government gives your product credibility hence creates trust with your users.


Participants interacting after the discussion

With an aim of increasing awareness of the mAgric solutions, the following key points were suggested; Partnerships – Partnerships with the right organizations is very important, Developers can leverage on existing networks on the ground like NGOs, farmer groups and Extension officers who can link them to the farmers directly. Such partnerships can help developers reach a good number of farmers at once saving them on cost. Partnerships with also telcos is important as developers can leverage on their mass market reach. Leverage on existing research – Before jumping into your primary market research head first, it’s important that you first seek out existing, relevant research. This not only saves your startup time, but also prevents wasted funding on a product that would have duplicated existing results. In conclusion, developers should strive to make their innovations accessible, affordable and appealing to the right customer target.

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Winners of the QDevNet SignUps Announced

Training, Workshops

October 23, 2013

Qualcomm is a company that manufactures wireless chipsets, license technology and provides communication services around the world. Its ideas and inventions have driven the evolution of wireless communications, connecting people more closely to information, entertainment and each other. They also have several tools that are very useful to developers on their developer network(QDevNet.)


On 16th September, Qualcomm in collaboration with m:lab East Africa and Mobile Monday hosted Mobile Monday with Qualcomm. The event took place at iHub from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. While gearing up to the event, qualcomm requested developers to signup on their developer network to familiarize themselves with the platform as well as learn about tools they could use to make their apps different, like AllJoyn SDK and Qualcomm Vuforia™. The first 10 developers who signed up on the QDevNet  will receive gift harpers Courtesy of Qualcomm this Friday 29th October from 3.00 – 4.00 pm at m:lab East Africa. And the 10 lucky winners are;


  • Neville Masheti

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  • Margaret Adhiambo

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  • Theophilus Machogu

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  • Harris Geift

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  • Vincent Omondi

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  • Samuel Waithaka

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  • Stephen Maingi

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  • Gitonga Joseph

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  • James Chege

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  • Nimrod Kibua

Still in the the spirit of working with developers, Qualcomm will be conducting a FREE developer training workshop for 2days at m:lab East Africa. The workshop will take place on 7th and 8th November. There are only 25 slots available, sign up HERE.

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PIVOT EAST 2013 Winners! Four months down the line

Incubation, PIVOT East, Winners

October 23, 2013

Pivot East is one of the most prestigious startups pitching competition and conference in the region. This year’s event went down on 25 -26th June 2013 at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala Uganda. There was  stiff competition between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania startups in all the five categories. The competition culminated to the announcing of the winners at the gala dinner. The winners received a grant of 10,000USD

Four months down the line, the startups are making tremendous progress in terms of securing partnerships, grants, creating employment and scaling up their businesses. We have highlighted progress made so far by the startups in this article.

SleepOut_300dpi_300wSleepOut: Kenya-based accommodation marketplace SleepOut has been named among the top 50 global startups in the run up to WebSummit 2013 to be held in October 30th and 31st in Dublin, Ireland. SleepOut made it to the top 50 list after having applied for the widely celebrated conference’s ALPHA Program. They have also been invited to exhibit, together with a selected number of individuals and startups from around the world.

SleepOut participated in Angel Fair which was held on 25th – 26th September at Sandton Convention Center, Johannesburg South Africa. Angel Fair 2013 aimed at bringing together accelerators, incubators and their emerging businesses from across the African continent and angel investors to do deals.

SleepOut makes it easy for you to make booking of accommodation online, they provide a secure accommodation marketplace connecting travellers looking for a cool place to stay, with hosts and their empty beds. Currently SleepOut is launching their new Africa and Middle East portal with listings in over 20 countries. They have also been selected to launch at this year’s DEMO Africa conference to be held in Nairobi, Kenya in October 24 and 25, 2013. SleepOut won in the Enterprise Category at PIVOT EAST 2013. For more information on SleepOut view their profile HERE

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KytabuKytabu:  Kytabu is a textbook subscription app for android tablets for students that drastically reduces the cost of buying textbooks. Kytabu has won several accolades including PIVOT EAST 2013 best startup in the mobile society category and the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) competition which was held on October 12, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia where Kytabu emerged winners. Global Innovation Science through technology is an initiative of CRDF Global and other partners to  help launch ideas or grow businesses of most promising entrepreneurs in these emerging economies through seed funding, training, networking and by providing mentoring from the best entrepreneurs in the world, angel investors, and venture capitalists.

Kytabu has been invited to TechCrunch Berlin on 28th – 29th October to showcase Kytabu Android on their tablets. Currently they are working on a desktop application which will be launched later this year in partnership with Microsoft. For more information on Kytabu view their profile HERE

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Ma3Route-2-LogoMa3Route: Ma3Route is a mobile/web/SMS platform that helps you get to your destination easily and quickly. Ma3Route helps citizens share/access info about transport and current traffic conditions for a city. Ma3Route is currently working to finalize their App on Windows and iOS platforms which will be up and running very soon. They are also optimizing their website for mobile.

Ma3Route is growing in terms of its team, currently they have a team of 8 people with 3 full time employees based at their offices at m:lab East Africa. Ma3Route has been able secured partnerships over the past few months. They have partnered with Nokia in their upcoming windows app and they are also in talks with Nation TV to propagate their data on the AM Live show.

Apart from taking part in PIVOT EAST 2013 where they won in the mobile Utility Category, Ma3Route participated in Angel Fair which was held on 25th – 26th September at Sandton Convention Center, Johannesburg South Africa. They were also in the semifinalist of VentureOut Internalization Challenge. For more information on Ma3Route, view their profile HERE.

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Kola-StudiosKola studios: Kola Studios is a developer and publisher of Social Mobile games for the web, smartphone & tablet devices. Matatu, a local Ugandan card game, is one of their most popular games with over 4 million games played in a year, a localized version for Kenya, Karatu was recently launched. On 16th August, Kola studios officially launched the game MATATU at Outbox in Uganda. The launch was graced by Airtel UG Managing director V.G Somasekhar. Kola studios emerged the best in the mobile entertainment category at PIVOT EAST 2013. For more information on Kola Studios view their profile HERE

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gofinanceGo finance: GO Finance believes access to finance is as vital to a community as access to clean water.  GO works to bring a range of financial solutions closer to underserved small businesses and people at the base of the pyramid through using technology, business value chains, and by collaborating with strategic partners.

According to Geoffrey Ndosi Executive Director Go Finance, “Winning at PIVOT EAST has elevated our profile regionally as well as with multinational organisations. Not only have we reached a critical juncture with regards to equity financing from a seed venture fund, but we are also collaborating with Microsoft 4 Afrika and have had conversations with the International Finance Corporation (the World Bank’s private sector arm), and the FMO (Netherlands) as a result of participating in PIVOT EAST.” For more information on Go Finance view their profile HERE

Currently two startups (SleepOut and Ma3Route) are incubated at the m:lab incubation facility. Go Finance is incubated virtually.

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Waabeh makes it to the finals of VentureOut Internalization Challenge


October 18, 2013

Discovering African audio content buying has been a problem for a while now. International solutions do not address the local market and even those that have the content don’t have payment solutions that make it easy for local purchases. There is almost no discovery, distribution, monetization, collation and marketing of African content to the scale achieved with external media


Waabeh, Africa’s audio market place (music & online-radio) solves the problem of discovery and distribution of audio content from the continent. Currently Waabeh is available on the Web, and as native apps for Android and Windows 8, all with delightful and easy to use design that takes the headache out of discovering new as well as vintage African sounds and puts the focus back on what is important; hearing what you love.

Since inception to date, Waabeh has over 8,000 downloads, with 1,500 plus registered users, over 227,000 users plays/strems music on their website and over 1000 downloads on google play and Samsung App store.  75% of the content is premium.


The team, from left; Jeff maina Lead Designer, Tim Rimbui COE and King’ori Maina CTO

Recently Waabeh applied for an international challenge called VentureOut Internalization Challenge which is an initiative of infoDev  and CRDF Global to propel expansion-ready mobile entrepreneurs into enticing international markets. The program helps entrepreneurs through hands-on training, virtual learning opportunities, mentorship, international exposure, and seed funding.

Waabeh is the only startup from East Africa that made it to the finals of the challenge. They will be competing against 12 other startups from all over the world for $10,000 in seed funding in the Dragon’s Den in Chisinau, Moldova during an international mobile meeting on 30th – 1st November. For more information on ventureOut Challenge, visit their website

For more information on Waabeh, visit their website, you can also check out their android app here and Android app demo here.

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