iHub has “compass rather than a map” – director

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Kenyan incubator iHub has a “compass rather than a map” when it comes to plotting its future, according to executive director Josiah Mugambi.

iHub, which was launched in 2010 as an open space for technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers, with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers, celebrates its fifth birthday this week.

Mugambi said in a commemorative blog post on the company’s website though the iHub team certainly had a strategy for what direction iHub would take in the future, they would avoid “planning out each and every detail” and keep focused on what they stand for and want to achieve.

“Our ultimate goal is to continuously fuel an ecosystem of innovation and technology that allows people to create enterprises that creatively solve problems around them using technology, while shaping the way African innovation is viewed by the world,” he said.

He said nobody could be sure what iHub would look like on its tenth birthday, whether it would be the same entity, a campus of companies, or even a university.

“We couldn’t even have guessed in early 2010 what the iHub would be today. What I am sure of is that if we keep to our commitment, our core mission of catalysing the tech community growth, creating opportunities for people to change the world that they live in, we will have not only achieved what we set out to do, but we will also be on a path for continued innovation and growth,” Mugambi said.

He said it was exciting to see how much iHub had grown since the idea for the hub was born at Barcamp in 2008.

“During some of the initial brainstorm meetings in early 2010, we wondered if we would even be able to fill up the community space on the fourth floor,” he said.

“Two months after opening, it was full. A year on, iHub Research started, as well as the m:lab. A couple of years later, our User Experience Lab and Consulting initiatives started. In the last twelve months, together with Sanergy, Ushahidi and BRCK, we have started Gearbox, which will be a design and rapid prototyping facility strategically located in the industrial area of Nairobi.”

Mugambi said iHub had become an amalgamation of different initiatives geared towards catalysing the growth of the Kenyan tech community.

“It has done this by acting as a connector, allowing world captains in business and technology to meet with aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as developers, engineers, investors and founders,” he said.

“Through our initiatives, we have been working with individual entrepreneurs and startups towards their establishing or becoming successful companies. The iHub has surfaced information that is useful to startups, corporates, and other organisations and people in the tech ecosystem. In most cases, this is made easily available, accessible and digestible as we believe in creating a new centre of knowledge, with insights from our ecosystem, for the local and  global technology community. The iHub is not merely an incubator – that’s what the m:lab does – or a co-working space – that’s on fourth floor.”

He said whatever it looked like in the future iHub would continue to support startups throughout their innovation journey, connecting them with opportunities through its initiatives.

“After all, the iHub is for all parties in this ecosystem that are involved in this entrepreneurship journey of taking an idea from concept to a company,” Mugambi said.

“We want to be at the forefront of igniting the growth of successful company after successful company.”

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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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