During our visit to Dar es Salaam, the cadets on my team, Molly Prins, Jake Moffatt, and Charlie Braman, spent time interacting with, and interviewing young tech entrepreneurs. These interviews are the raw data input for our “Developing Network Models of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems,” project. The following excerpts are their third of four summaries of their impressions and conversations:
After visiting DTBi and the Buni Innovation Space, we had the opportunity to visit KINU, another business incubator/tech hub with a bit of a different business model. KINU is a Swahili word that means mortar, as in the tool that is used to grind ingredients in a pestle. The analogy is that KINU aims to be the space where different skills are combined to create locally built solutions for community problems.
The KINU group is a hub for entrepreneurs to access training, desk space and resources that would be otherwise unavailable to them. The founders started by hosting workshops, and after several of these sessions decided to set up the formal organization we saw today.
The environment at KINU is very friendly and inviting, and members appear to work closely with each other. The members in the hub are like a big family, noticeable from the moment anyone were to walk through the doors. KINU’s entrepreneurs all work in one large room, which fosters a friendly and tightly knit work space. Furthermore, the nature of the setting is suitable for the exchange of Innovative thoughts and ideas. Though working on different projects, the entrepreneurs express great interest in each others work, and are able to provide timely assistance.
All of the entrepreneurs we interviewed were eager to discuss their company and the network that they perceived within Tanzania. In addition to the survey, we spent a good deal of time talking with them about cutting edge technologies and how their proliferation could improve the outlook for small tech businesses.
KINU also offers training classes and has several lectures available ranging from how to use different software to different ways to run businesses. Our group was asked to present on the importance of counseling later this week. We chose counseling as our topic to discuss because the military, unlike many other organizations, effectively counsels everyone to improve work.
Among the group of interviewees we met with a lot of Android-based mobile solutions, presumably due to the developer-friendly nature of the operating system. KINU even facilitated these developments by offering Samsung Galaxy testing phones at the center. Arduino, an open source microcontroller, also turned out to be popular with the group. What we found most interesting about the platforms discussed was that the Raspberry Pi, a small bare bones computer, has also become widely known; one of the technologists even proposed an improvement to the computer through which developers could link the system to GSM.
After many long and enlightening discussions, we came to the conclusion that most of the entrepreneurs have an interest and, more importantly, very good understanding of how these technologies can be applied. However, in many cases they lack the access to the development platforms. KINU has taken a very big step in the right direction offering the environment, connectivity, and tools for developers to carry out their work.