IBM launches new innovation space at Nairobi’s iHub

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IBM used the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi over the weekend to announce the launch of a new innovation and collaboration space at the iHub incubator.

IBM will tap expertise from its existing Innovation Centre and Research Lab in Kenya for the new innovation space, which will be an open working environment for software developers and startups.

The space at the iHub is designed to foster entrepreneurial business growth and provide open access to IBM’s years of global expertise in tech-based innovation.

“Africa has millions of entrepreneurs who are experts in their own markets and who are now looking to technology to differentiate and compete on the global stage,” said Nick Nesbitt, country general manager for IBM East Africa.

“With the IBM Innovation Space @ iHub, we are extending our presence right into the heart of the local technical community so that entrepreneurs and startups have access to the tools and expertise to succeed in this exciting new era of Africa’s economic development.”

Early-stage entrepreneurs and startups will be offered access to IBM expertise, education and technology tools, especially in the areas of cloud, big data analytics, mobile and security. The space – the first of its kind in Africa – aims to boost the fast growing tech entrepreneur ecosystem in Kenya and beyond.

“iHub and IBM are passionate about supporting and empowering the success of African entrepreneurs,” said Erik Hersman, co-founder of iHub. “By setting up an IBM Innovation Space within the iHub community, we are giving local developers and startups unique access to IBM’s expertise, business connections and resources which will help propel them to the next level.”

The Innovation Space will be open to any of iHub’s 17,000 members, who will be able to drop in and get insight, advice and training from IBM experts in business and technology. IBM will conduct monthly workshops and events for developers, who will also be able to join the IBM Global Entrepreneur programme.

One startup set to benefit is Bitsoko – a digital currency startup funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that has been working out of the iHub for the past six months and has used IBM’s Bluemix to develop a mobile wallet application based on Blockchain technology.

“There is a real buzz in Kenya and across Africa right now in the entrepreneurial community as technology and increased access to global markets is propelling us into a new era of African innovation,” said Allan Juma, Bitsoko co-founder and chief developer.

“As a Kenyan entrepreneur with global ambitions, being able to interact with a company like IBM and discuss ideas, extend our professional network and access cutting-edge technologies is a potentially game-changing opportunity.”

The IBM Innovation Space will open next months, joining similar similar spaces in New York, Boston, Uberaba, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Bangalore, New Delhi and Singapore. IBM said more African spaces would be opened in the coming months.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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