Top 5 Kenyan startup developments in 2016

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Another busy year in Kenya, one of the flagship African tech startup ecosystems.

There were major funding rounds, new launches and expansions, and a series of new accelerators and incubators. But what are Disrupt Africa’s pick of the five top developments in the Kenyan startup scene?

A bigger, better iHub

Kenya’s flagship tech hub the iHub launched in 2010 to provide a home for Kenya’s tech community and allow developers and entrepreneurs to connect and work on ideas. This year saw the iHub make some big decisions as it looks to become sustainable.

The hub raised funding in March in order to help it scale operations, tighten up its service offerings and reach sustainability. It then took the decision to move to a new home, and will relocate to Hurlingham in March.

In even bigger news, the iHub announced it would be launching a fund to invest in startups across Africa. The fund is initially seeking US$10 million for a Nairobi pilot, but plans to US$40 million over time and target other countries.

Growth for e-learning startup Eneza

It was a big year for Eneza Education, which uses low-cost mobile technology to give users educational lessons and assessments using SMS, web and Android platforms. The startup started the year by partnering with Safaricom to roll out Shupavu 291, a revision study tool that works through SMS and USSD.

It only got better from there, with the startup subsequently revealing it had surpassed the one million user mark. Investment was also secured, firstly from Global Partnerships and the Eleos Foundation, and after that from Safaricom itself.

The funding will enable Eneza Education to scale to more users and more locations; with the app currently already available in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Benin and Iraq.

Merck helping Kenyan startups

More and more international companies are entering Africa, but it is still not common enough for us to fail to celebrate each one. In Kenya, it was global healthcare firm Merck that made the biggest waves in 2016.

The company announced in January it was launching an equity-free e-health accelerator programme in Nairobi, aimed at fostering the growth of high potential, early-stage e-health startups. The three-month programmes support startups with working space, funding, and links to Merck’s global network of experts for ongoing coaching and mentoring.

Merck is already a number of cohorts in, and has helped exciting e-health startups like Flare and Matibabu get off the ground. Long may it continue.

Kenyan startup winner of global prize

It isn’t every day a Kenyan tech startup cleans up at a major international award, but that is exactly what happened in October when Magic Bus Ticketing was named winner of the US$1 million Hult Prize.

Magic Bus Ticketing allows commuters to check in real-time the location and cost of their bus, as well as book and pay for a seat. It describes itself as the “Uber for buses, but offline”. Its USSD application can be accessed from any basic phone, with the startup looking to address the long waiting times and overcharging that commuters face on a daily basis.

It beat off competition from five other finalists chosen from 25,000 applicants to walk away with US$1 million in seed capital. The team is made up of four students who met as undergraduates at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, and has been piloting in Nairobi since May.

Buni.tv gets bought

Last year it was Weza Tele, and this year Buni.tv was the Kenyan startup chosen for acquisition. The video on demand (VoD) startup was acquired by French music video TV network TRACE TV, and has now been relaunched as TRACE Play.

Launched in 2012 as one of the first VoD providers focusing on the African market, Buni.tv claimed to have become one of the three largest VOD services on the African continent, alongside iROKOtv and Naspers-owned Showmax.

The startup had taken a number of steps to alter its business model over the past year, as the startup sought survival while the African VoD market matures. It has now been bought out, in the only major Kenyan startup acquisition of 2016. Congratulations to the team.

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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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