The most useful tech innovations are coming from Kenya’s young entrepreneurs, according to Bob Collymore, chief executive officer (CEO) of Kenya’s dominant mobile operator Safaricom.
Speaking to Disrupt Africa, Collymore said Kenyan entrepreneurs are living up to the “hype” which surrounds them, and create useful innovations that cater to real market needs.
“There is a lot of hype around innovation in the market in Kenya particularly among young developers. That does not, however, take away from my perception that most of the useful innovations are coming from young entrepreneurs in Kenya,” Collymore told Disrupt Africa.
“In general they are more agile than larger companies and often have a better understanding of the market needs.”
According to Collymore, more needs to be done to support tech startups; not only from a cash funding perspective but also in terms of practical business skills.
“Most tech startups fail because they run out of cash or they didn’t get themselves structured properly in the first place,” he said.
“We have been doing some work in this area around incubating them, giving them not only technical support but also helping them get a better understanding of to to form partnerships, how to build a business case etc. These are the things that are frequently overlooked in the rush to get innovations out to the market.”
In this vein, Safaricom last week announced the launch of a US$1 million investment fund – the Safaricom Spark Venture Fund – aimed at supporting mobile ICT startups in Kenya, and enabling the development of innovative mobile solutions.
Disrupt Africa recently reported Safaricom announced a partnership with Kenyan startup Dynamic Data Systems, for the launch of M-Pesa financial tracking app M-Ledger. Safaricom said it was the first in a series of planned collaborations with local startups.
“A recent good example of how these engagements can benefit Safaricom, and by extension our customers, is the launch of M-Ledger. This originated in one of the App Developer competitions we had last year. After a bit of refinement we launched the App last week and it gives the customer full and free access and analysis of their M-Pesa records. Previously the customer didn’t have access to much of this information and the limited information they did have was inconvenient to access and at a cost,” Collymore said.