Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Kenya Trip 2016 - Bustling Nairobi

This year I decided to visit Nairobi and Kenya in general after a long hiatus. I was there last in 2009, just before my family moved back. Otherwise most of my formative years have been spent there and I have many fond memories. So this year I decided to bite the bullet and visit the long lost high school and family friends. Arriving in Nairobi and staying in Kilimani was an eye opener. So much has changed in half-a-dozen years. Kilimani used to be farmlands and forests, now it is crowded with high rise apartment buildings.
Had to work hard to get past the Askaris at M-Kopa
Several successful start-up are located here as well. I managed to visit M-Kopa (which manages to turn a profit while selling/loaning solar panels to the poorest people), BRCK which has built one of the worlds first completely sealed and mostly waterproof educational tablets thanks to Qi chargers.
Apartments are being built everywhere in Nairboi
The top floor of the same building houses iHub, a co-working space allowing freelancers and start-ups looking for contract workers to meet-up and work together. The view from iHub is amazing as well.
The view of Nairobi from iHub, with a little bit of the human element
Gearbox is downstairs from iHub, it is geared towards hardware start-ups with soldering microscopes, lathes, CNC mills and of course a mandatory 3D printer. It is run by former theater props maker, skilled in wood and other materials as well.

My former high school friends have got their university educations in country or overseas and are itching to move forward with business plans. There is an IBM research lab and a Bitcoin start-up called BitPesa working in the remittances arena. I took UberX everywhere and stayed at an AirBnB with fibre access (albeit intermittent power). It felt like being in a hybrid world.
Three men on a pole - standard overhead cable fixing practice
Overall it was a great eye opener in the way Nairobi has changed in the last decade. A place to keep on the radar for future movers and shakers.