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Pivot East call for application for startups opened


March 13, 2019

PIVOT East, one of the most prestigious startup competitions and conferences is now open for entries through its PIVOT East Startups Community Network. The competition officially opens its application portal for entries on March 12th 2019 and will continue to accept applications until midnight EAT on April 13th 2019.

PIVOT East is organised by iHub . The competition aims to catalyse the growth of  East Africa startups, so as to amplify and consolidate the gains of East Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.  The key objective for this year’s event is to ensure that we provide maximum opportunities for all stakeholders to engage before, during and after the competition. It is only through this open engagement that we can surface learnings, which will go into ensuring a more robust ecosystem.

Applications to compete in 2019 will be entered as detailed startup profiles which describe the customer pain, the solution, revenue streams, team composition and commitment, market traction, projections and milestones among other aspects.  The overall startup profile will be used by the competition judges who will be experienced entrepreneurs, investors, startup enablers and business coaches to score the potential of the startup to become a sustainable high growth enterprise.

The competition has five categories in both software and hardware which are;

  1. Finance – including digital or mobile payments, banking, insurance, cryptocurrencies, e-commerce etc.
  2. Enterprise – including ERP Systems, CRMs, Recruiting platforms, value chain management, marketing, production,  etc.
  3. Entertainment – including gaming, social networking, e-magazines, music, video, photography etc.
  4. Social Impact – including education, agriculture, health, governance, and other social development themes.
  5. Utilities – A catch-all category including applications for enhancing the usability and versatility of technology etc

Start-ups across the region that meet the requirement can start applying for the competition. Information on how to join, including eligibility criteria, is HERE. The finalists will receive training and coaching on how to pitch to potential partners, customers and investors, sales, digital marketing, legal and employee retention.

The deadline for submission of applications is on 13th April 2019. Applicants are encouraged to start building and curating their startup profiles early as they might need to research or source some of the information required widely.

We are also looking for investors and partners if you would like to know more about this read HERE

For more information visit Follow:

Email: [email protected]

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How to participate in Pivot East 2019.


March 12, 2019

 Eligibility, Criteria and Intellectual Property

PIVOT East is a startup competition and conference held annually since 2011. PIVOT East has officially opened the call for applications for its 2019 edition and will continue to accept applications until midnight EAT on 13th April 2019.

Startups from across the region that meet the requirements can start applying for the competition. Startups may join the competition here

Eligibility criteria:

  • Participating startups must be domiciled in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia.
  • Entries to the competition will be considered to be startups as per the universal definition of a “startup”* or a startup company (*as done below)
  • Participants must fill the co-founder’s details, startup profile and startup details. 
  • Participating startups must also indicate details of at least two members of their team in their application profile
  • Companies that reached final 25 lists of previous PIVOT East competition cannot compete with products/services previously submitted for the competition, the judging panel will have the discretion to disqualify entries in breach of this requirement.
  • Competitors selected to the final 25 must have set up a legal entity (business name, limited company etc) for their business by the time the call for application closes. Competitors with legal entities already set up will have an added advantage at all judging stages.
  • Decisions of the judging committees at all competition stages will be final.

How to enter the competition:

Make sure you have a venture profile published on the VC4Africa platform

Startups that meet the eligibility criteria may enter their application into the competition through the following steps:-

  1. Go to VC4Africa platform and set up your startup profile HERE
  2. Curate your Startup profile according to given profile headings: Co-founder’s details, Startup profile and Startup details. 

Applicants are advised to use all components available under the profiles section to best describe their strengths and potential for growth.

What is a startup?

For purposes of PIVOT East competition, the definition that “a startup company or startup is a company or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model” will apply. The competition will accept treatment of innovative software and hardware solutions fronted by companies that otherwise have other solutions as separate startup entries. This will be on the expectation that the innovative solution entered in the competition can be:

  • New products/services by new startups
  • New products/services by former Pivot East finalist
  • Spin-offs from existing companies with the potential/intention to grow into a separate autonomous company.

Intellectual Property and visibility of Startups’ information:

Information submitted through the PIVOT East competition application process and the associated intellectual property belongs to the startups. The information will be visible to organizers of PIVOT including the judging panels for purposes of identifying the best startups to showcase and support through the competition only.

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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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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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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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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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Eneza Education Scoops an Award at the GIST Tech-I Competition in Malaysia


October 18, 2013

Gist-finals-150x150Eneza Education scooped an award at the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) which was held on October 12, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Held for the third time,  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.

Eneza Education which is currently incubated at m:lab East Africa made it to the finals competing against 15 other startups in the startup category. Eneza Education emerged Runners up in the competition receiving a grant of  $10,000.

The summit awards top ventures in startup and Idea stage categories. The awards filters entrants of the competition in two stages which includes expert review and public participation through online voting. Prior to the summit, GIST alumni undergo a mentorship, training and pitching program.

Since inception, Eneza Education has won several accolades which includes Pivot East 2012 competition where they emerged First in the mobile society category and the Milken PennGSE 2012 , an Education Entrepreneurship Competition where they also emerged first.

Eneza Logo

Eneza Education was formed with an ultimate aim of solving problems that lead to students failing, Eneza connects students to study tools, teachers and parents to data to help their children improve, and educational leaders to resources. Most importantly, they are creating a network in which the dialogue around student learning grows, enticing schools to collaborate and compete. For more information about Eneza Education visit their website.

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ICT4Ag Hackathon National Winners Announced


October 14, 2013

The ICT for Agriculture (ICT4Ag) international conference and its parallel hackathon (dubbed “Agri-hack championship”) will take place from 4th – 8th November 2013 in Kigali Rwanda. The conference seeks to examine how ICTs are truly empowering producers and consumers along the entire value chain. Earlier this year, the Technical Center for Agricutural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) placed a call for expression of interest for hubs to hold national events across East Africa. 9 Hubs, which are among the key ones in East Africa, were selected. Each of these hubs organized national hackathons or selection events.
The winning teams from each hub’s national event are as follows:


  • Hive Colab (Uganda)- The Agripreneur – Digital Platform to connect and harmonize key Youth stakeholders along the agricultural value chain. By Byamugisha Donald and Denis Izakare
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  • OutBox (Uganda)- ENSIBUUKO: Leveraging mobile and web technologies to improve access to finance for better household livelyhood. By David Opio and Gerald Otim.
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  • iBiz Africa (Kenya) – Kosmerc Systems: Mobile app providing location based information to farmers on favourable crops, seeds, fertilizer, farm management and soil type. By Jeffrey Cherogony and Clinton Busolo.
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  • C4DLab(Kenya)-  FARM DRIVE: Digital book keeping app to enhance credit-worthiness for a 21st century farmer by James Macharia Kimani and Caroline Mbithe Muteti.
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  • Habaka Madagascar Innovation Hub – HighHay: Project Management application for farming by Joelisata RABEHARISOLO and Miradontsoa Asafa ANDRIANARISON.
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  • Buni Hub(Tanzania) – AgrInfo: Farm Plots GIS by Rose Peter Funja and Grace  Slyvester Makanyaga.
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  • Kinu Group Limited (Tanzania) – HabariMazao: SMS, USSD, and Web based platform for collection and sharing of market price data – from markets to the farmers by Elilaki Bariki Guard and Ntomoka Sugwejo Kaboda.
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  • IceAddis (Ethiopia) – mAgric: by Mr. Nebiyou Yirga Wolde and Dr. Abeselom Samson Joseph
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  • iHub (Kenya)– was selected as non competing hub. They will send a team to showcase their product but will not compete with the teams from the other hubs. The team that will represent iHub is Smart Agriculture- Automatic weather stations that sends updates on when to plant to farmers, etc via sms by Tom Ekajja  and Cyrus Baraza.

CTA1During the Finals of the Agri-hack Championship in Kigali (04 to 07 November 2013), all applications will be fined-tuned. National teams will received advices from key stakeholders and users. Each national winner will get a prize. After a pitching session, the best three applications selected by a panel of judges will receive awards as described below:


  • Cash Prizes

5000 Euros for the Overall winner
4000 Euros for the Runner Up winner
3000 Euros for the Second Runner up.


  • Six month incubation and mentoring

The winning teams will be offered incubation and mentoring for six month in the hubs that they are affiliated with to support finalization of their applications and hopeful kick start their businesses.


  • Challenges

The teams from each hub were given these challenges to work on:
Challenge 1: How can bi-directional information sharing and communication between farmers and extension workers be encouraged or improved? Key areas of interest include information sharing and advisory on soil fertility, fertilizers, weather information, pests, diseases, access to localized farming inputs, multimedia content and ability to verify counterfeit products
Challenge 2: Through ICT applications, how can access to financial services be made easier for farmers through a disruptive, innovative tool?
The teams will now work on their product as they await the finals where they will be required to pitch infront of expert judges, mentors and fellow entrepreneurs. They will also be required to have working products by the time they are presenting during the finals.
kLab, are the hosting hub and will conduct their national selection event on 19th and 20th Oct. If you are in Kigali and would like to participate in this event,sign up HERE:
The Agri-hack Championship is organized by CTA in partnership with various stakeholders including MINAGRI (Rwanda), MYICT (Rwanda) and with the financial contribution of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). m:lab East Africa is the technical manager of this event.
For more information, visit;  Email: [email protected]

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M-Farm receives funding from M-Pesa Foundation


October 10, 2013

mfarmMFarm has secured a partnership with the M-Pesa Foundation.The partnership has seen MFarm receive a grant of KES 20 million (USD 230,000) from M-Pesa Foundation.

Linda Kwamboka co-founder and CMO of M-Farm said “We are thrilled to have secured the funds we need to continue to grow the business. Now, we will be able to help even more farmers beyond the over 8,000 farmers already using our platform, and improve their standard of living.”

MFarm limited, an award winning software solutions and agribusiness company provides vital market information and trading services to farmers via mobile app. Their mobile app enables smallholder farmers in rural Kenya to access market information hence make informed decisions on where and how to sell their farm produce.


MFarm team

M-Farm which earlier this year graduated from incubation at m:lab East Africa has come a long way since its inception in 2010.The company has been featured much in both national and international media. In 2011, during Pivot 25 where MFarm was a finalist, the company caught the attention of Techfortrade, an international impact investment organization, Techfortrade later invested in MFarm. Techfortrade recently funded Jamila’s visit to London to meet with supermarket retailers to discuss potential partnership opportunities, and to speak at this year’s Africa Gathering conference.

The company has also in the past years won many accolades including winning the IPO48 competition in 2010 and becoming one of infoDev’s top 20 SMEs in 2011

For more information about M-farm visit their website or twitter handle @mfarm_ke. For more information on their partnership, you can reach MFarm through this email address [email protected]

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Mobile Monday with Qualcomm is here!


September 13, 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 are world leaders in 3G, 4G and next-generation wireless technologies.Earlier this year, they brought two new high-end processors to market. The Snapdragon 600 quad-core chip and the Snapdragon 800.  The Snapdragon 800 quad-core chip utilizes LTE carrier aggregation for data rates up to 150 Mbps – double what current LTE speeds offer. It is Qualcomm Technologies’ most advanced and powerful mobile processor to date.


Several interesting platform is the Qualcomm Vuforia™ that transforms real-world objects into interactive experiences for use in gaming, interactive media and instructional applications. With its industry-leading computer vision technology, Vuforia has been embraced by nearly 30,000 developers and adopted by leading global brands to drive engagement with advertisements and product packaging.

According to the Billy Owino, Business Development Manager Qualcomm, “By using Qualcomm Snapdragon SDK’s for Android, developers can differentiate their products and create extraordinary user experiences via the unique and powerful capabilities in Qualcomm’s industry-leading family of Snapdragon processors.” To find out more about the tools available from Qualcomm to developers, sign up on QDevNet. The first 10 developers who sign up  will receive gift harpers Courtesy of Qualcomm.

mobile monday invitationOn Monday, 16th September, Qualcomm in collaboration with m:lab East Africa and Mobile Monday will host Mobile Monday with Qualcomm. The event will take place at iHub from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.

Key speakers during the event will be:


  • John Waibochi – CEO, Virtual City
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  • Billy Owino – Director, Business Development at Qualcomm Incorporated
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  • Robert Ngeru – Chief Operating Officer, Samsung Electronics East Africa
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  • Alex Siboe – Senior Manager Programs at Safaricom

The MC will be John Kieti- Manager, m:lab East Africa.

To attend the event, please RSVP here. To further engange with Qualcomm, Like their page on Facebook and or Follow them on Twitter

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