Report from the field and the lab: Challenges and opportunities developing AKE ventures (Part II)

Things are wrapping up at the GESCI hub in Nairobi with the start-ups preparing for the last pitching event on the 28th and the Policy Forum on the 29th which will officially close the GESCI-AKE program.

The first pitching was used as a baseline survey of how well the Start-ups were prepared for fundraising. The judges of the pitching session where: Lydia Ndiho (Camscorp), Mitoko Dennis (14West film Production Company), Geoffrey Otieno (ADMI training institute), Duncan Onyango (AKE consulting Games tutor) , Tom Manda (AKE consulting Animation tutor), Victor Omondi (AKE’s Manger) and Jerome Morrisey (GESCI director)

Based on the emerging gaps identified on that event, the start-ups have been doing work around 3 themes:

  • Developing a viable business plan: Start-ups needed a more solid understanding of their market and emerging user needs.
  • Selling ideas in a clear way: Everybody was told to work and develop more effective presentation skills and to polish the resources they where using (e.g power points).
  • Pitching effectively: The Start ups elevator pitches were not yet up to standards and needed more work.

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 15.45.13

While working on that we will share here some of the probes sent by the start ups this week. Thanks to all!

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 16.17.52

Kiwo Films working at the GESCI-AKE hub

For Kevin and Ian from Kiwo Films the most challenging thing they are facing right now is “lack of equipment to get work done”  But they are confident they are “a team of reliable and dedicated individuals with a common interest“, which is a good and promising direction for the future.

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 16.23.34.png

 Screenshots of some of IocincCode current prototypes, and an image of the team debugging together in front of the screen.

Mista from IonicCode reports that they have been conducting a bit of  research for their projects  “with the help of  our tutor Duncan who bought some cool kids text books where we got inspiration for various concepts. At the moment we are working on tap math game, a painting game, a pattern game and picture maker all in both languages Kiswahili and English. Right now we have to take them for testing to primary schools. As soon as the schools reopen we will be able to get enough feedback from teachers and from the school kids on how to improve them further”. The games are still in development phase and the team is constantly improving on them.

The IonicCode team feels that their biggest challenges are now. 1) getting good illustrations artists to add the African feel to their educational games. 2) recording the sounds needed for the games, as finding the right people to do that had been time consuming. 3) Of course the issue of bugs in some of the games. Coding is always tricky, but they are confident: “we were able to achieve the logic of the game, they  can be played in our devices!”

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 16.53.08.png

VerbHouse’s value proposition, team and details from their current portfolio


Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 17.00.18

Snapshots of Makossiri’s web presence







In the News: Week of 17 October

Screen Shot 2016-10-16 at 9.29.55 AM.png


Malika: Warrior Queen, a fifteenth century West African queen and military commander will be the protagonist of a graphical novel

Mentoring spurs tech innovations in Kenya

Kwaito culture spawned a number of cultural industries including magazines, fashion, radio stations, websites and television shows.

Infographics for cultural and creative industries in Africa and the Middle East

Participant Interview – Artari kreations

Artari kreations is one of the several media ventures under development by AKE participants right now. They describe themselves as a techno-artistic company that specializes in music production, sound design, animation, web design and mobile development who are harnessing all the learning and skills they have been developing during AKE program. The team behind Artari hope they can have a full fledged startup by December as they have already started doing projects and have received many requests for their services. We spoke with Maurice Makau and Wilson Andika, 2 of the members of the team, who shared with us some thoughts on Artari and their story so far.

Q: Your venture seems to be precisely at the essence of the GESCI-AKE programme, could we ask you to tell us about your experiences? How the Artari Creations came to be?

A: We are glad about the compliments you raised over the existence of our small venture that is yet to grow. The set up for Artari Kreations was drafted on February, early this year. We wanted our venture to address challenges in four artistic areas: music design & production, animation & motion graphics, web design & application development and finally graphic design & illustration. After realizing that we had among ourselves what we needed, the real formation came to be. The team came together during the first stages of the AKE up-skilling face when we started doing things to prove that it could work and that we could deliver the right things to the first clients we encountered. It’s a good experience having this venture, although there exists a few challenges here and there. For a start we are good to go.


Members of Artari Kreations with other fellow participants of AKE2016 during a showcase event completing the AKE skilling phase at the GESCI Office in Nairobi (Image by GESCI)

Q: What are the most pressing issues now? Where are you putting effort these days?

A: Artari Kreation is just in its genesis phase, we should grow and develop. Like any other business, marketing and sourcing for clients is an inescapable hurdle. Fortunately the challenge gradient has been less steep for us because of the strong network and friends of the team members. Also, we believe we have an interesting mix of multidisciplinary thinking in our team. This allow us to come up with productive and commercially feasible ideas that can easily make sense to our clients and that we can sell.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.35.07

An interactive visualization of the skills of Artari team made for their website. (Image by Artari Kreations)

 Q: How are you getting the word about Artari out there?

We already have our website launched ( and are now busy working in a couple of job requests. We have developed a strong social social media presence on networks like Facebook , we created a youtube channel, and constantly work to fine tune things like google search. We are working under the concept of ”artari creative brothers”.

We are still exploring more mechanisms of instilling more marketing features into our branding system at the same time that we try to utilize all the already available resources and information.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.50.00.png

Artari team members at work, creating!

Q: What is the most pressing issue for the future of Artari?

Improvement and quality! It is our dream and desire both for the whole AKE program (and your research), and also our clients and our business as well.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.52.38Artari creations is a joint creative effort of: Francis Ndambuki, Maurice Makau, Wilson Andika, Pharis Mukui and Kennedy Njeri Wangombe

They are joined by Chela Nancy and Edna Taabu as special guests.


It seems AKE program is managing to provide an inspiring place where like-minded and complimentary skills meet to learn, try out things and help each other.

Question of the Week: Who’s a great innovator?

Congratulations on the Showcase  to all participants and tutors! And onto next challenges…

Case studies of success are often used in business studies and strategy building to analyze and emulate smart decisions and creative solutions.

This week, we’d love to get your input for such case studies:

Who do you find to be especially successful and noteworthy innovators?

They don’t need to be people (only), they can be projects or businesses that you think do brilliant, unique, innovative work creatively, or in terms of branding, marketing and sharing their vision, of product innovation, of exporting their goods…

So, please comment below:

  1. Who/what is your “innovator hero” (you can mention more than one)?
  2. What makes him/her/it especially noteworthy and unique? What kind of innovation does s/he/it engage in?
  3. Can you share a link /image/any other further resource with us?

We will share a summary of your findings here on the blog.

Thank you again!

In the news: Week of 6th of June

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 20.21.45

Google search for: Dazzling Graphics, Africa

Question of the Week — for the United Nations

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.34.35 AM.png

Dear Participants and Tutors!

You are experts. You are concretely working on creating art and artifacts… Music, games, soundscapes… An earlier Question of the Week highlighted that you will be offering people cultural products, locally, nationally, and globally.

Innovation by entrepreneurs, ICTs, and creative industries is a hot topic globally, also at the United Nations.  The UN is organizing a related symposium on 6-7 June in New York.

You have been asked to share your views, to be presented at the UN symposium:

What, in your opinion, is the role of creative industries and innovation in development of a country/region, or the world?

Please respond below as a comment to this post, by Thursday, June 2nd!

(In your answer, you can refer to cultural, political, economic, environmental, youth development — or any other kind you want.)

Please let the world know how you, current and future professionals in the field, see this!

We will summarize your answers for the event, and for you here on the blog.

Thank you!

[4th gen #7] Case study: mLab Southern Africa

Case study: mLab Southern Africa

By: Päivi Lakka

In this post, I will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a living lab called mLab Southern Africa. MLab is based in The Innovation Hub in Tshwane, South Africa. The living laboratory defines itself as a mobile solution laboratory and startup accelerator emphasizing the creation and development of innovative mobile applications and services. As also Kenya has a fast developing telecommunication sector, I will analyze how using mLab South Africa as an example, could help develop a Kenyan hybrid model combining innovation and education to help forward creativity, skills, leadership qualities and entrepreneurial knowledge.


Image by MLab

MLab South Africa living lab is taking advantage of the trend of growing use of mobile phones and different applications, happening all around Africa. They offers entrepreneurs and mobile developers help with developing new and creative innovations in the form of mobile applications and services. In practice, they offer help with learning to code, hiring developers and finding funding. mLab offers a shared space for entrepreneurs to network, have the possibility to use different tools needed for their work, receive consultation from experts and finally, start up their own business. The living laboratory participates in all the steps of creating innovation and working in support of various stakeholders. Local programmers, designers and mobile application developers can join the living laboratory and offer their expertise. At mLab, there are several ways of developing an application, from joining an education program to hiring someone to do the work for you.

mLab is working in co-operation with two organizations: CSIR Meraka Institute and The Innovation Hub. The CSIR is a predominant scientific and technology research, development and implementation organization working in Africa to improve the national competitiveness as well as the quality of life of the country’s people. The Innovation Hub is a Science and Technology Park based in Pretoria, Gauteng in South Africa, considered as the most important location where innovation and knowledge is created in the region. There is a space concentrating specifically on the networking of different stakeholders, such as high-tech entrepreneurs, global businesses, academics, researchers and venture capitalists. mLab is also working in collaboration with Microsoft, Qualcomm and Nokia. mLab declares to offer top end events, connections, equipments, applications and technological devices and claims to be in close contact with local businesses, the public sector, civil society and universities around the whole of South Africa.


Image by Mlab

Through this co-operation, mLab can offer talented young people the resources, such as network connections and expertise they need in order to carry out their ideas into new innovations. GESCI-AKE could learn from the example of mLab in how they are closely connected with the above mentioned stakeholders. Widening the partnership to local academic institutions, other living labs, technology experts and funders is relevant in order to widen the innovation ecosystem.

mLab Southern Africa also created the CodeTribe Academy in collaboration with The Innovation Hub. The idea of this academy is to develop the talents of young people skilled with ICT and distribute scholarships for these young people in order for them to participate. In the class, students themselves teach and learn from each other coding and hacking. mLab states ambitiously that the academy is training ”the next generation of software developers.”

In conclusion, I decided to investigate the case mLab because of its strong connection with the telecommunication sector and mobile applications. Kenya has such a strong growth of mobile industry and the use of phones. In my opinion, the sector should be made a part of these living labs in a stronger way. The mobile money service M-Pesa already helps tech startups and this should be considered, also because three out of four adults use mobile payments. Working in co-operation with these mobile payments platforms helps digital entrepreneurs, but it has not yet been completely discovered in the case of Kenya.

When observing the SWOT-analysis of the Kenyan current situation, there would still be problems integrating the model of mLab Southern Africa into Kenya. The living lab model of mLab Southern Africa could offer help with the challenges of the Kenyan current situation concerning the problems of concentrating only on talents with high educational background and neglecting the disadvantaged part of the population. As the goal of GESCI-AKE is to offer people coming from disadvantaged background the possibilities to work with the digital creative industries, it could follow the example of mLab Southern Africa in offering talented young people more teaching for free, as a big part of Kenyans are still struggling with poverty. By doing this, the country could discover new talents in the field. The GESCI-AKE policy brief also mentioned that Kenyan industry needs more talented workers in order to respond to all the rising opportunities on the field and that digital evolution is already changing the job market in the country. In South Africa, just as in Kenya, university and college education is still focusing on preparing students for already existing jobs, instead of encouraging the students for an entrepreneurial career.

GESCI-AKE could also offer solutions in offering funding for new start-ups. As we mentioned in the background information about Kenya, the economy of the country is growing, but Kenya needs to develop its business environment to maintain this competitiveness. Kenya’s weakness is still the lack of funding and business angels at the prototype stage of new startups. The country does not have a lot of investors working in the early stages of startups and a big number of startups are self-funded. These entrepreneurs should be encouraged and supported in building networks to finance their ideas. mLab could show GESCI-AKE the example in how actively they work on finding funding by connecting the founders of new innovations with seed, venture and angel investors.