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Pivot25 – Startups, East Africa and Mobile Innovations

Web Foundation · June 15, 2011

Yesterday and today it’s all about start-ups: I’m in Nairobi, where the Web Foundation is sponsoring one of the most visible initiatives of the mLab East Africa project: Pivot25. Pivot25 - Regional mobile apps and developer conference and competition. June 14th and 15th 2011

Pivot25 is a 2-day conf-etition (sorta kinda a mix between a conference and a competition for start-ups): there are heated discussions and panels on topics that go beyond the technical aspects (you should have been here yesterday for the ‘Women in ICT’, to see a proper discussion); there are also 25 East African start-ups presenting their products, their vision and their plans for the future.  You can see the live stream here:

Why Nairobi, as a tech hub of the East African region? I guess this video says it all:



PIVOT25: East Africa’s Biggest Mobile Tech Event from Pivot25 Conference on Vimeo.


It’s the very nature of being a start-up that has inspired the event’s name (I assume, please correct me if I’m wrong…): ‘to pivot’ is one of the verbs that I’m hearing more often in entrepreneur-land in these days, and in some of the presentations one could see that the companies have been through a couple of change in strategy, keeping the same vision. Nobody so far – however – has used the ‘lean start-up’ secret lingo, which is good for clarity and simplicity of the presentation.

The average of products and services showcased is of  high quality, and the guys responsible for the selection of the start-ups did a very good job in finding a wide variety of companies, at the different stage of product development, in sectors as diverse as agriculture, education, government, health, entertainment, mCommerce, productivity & utilities.

I was one of the judges yesterday morning on the ‘entertainment’ category, so I’ll try and be as neutral as possible in what I say about the competition (until tomorrow, at least…). It was a pleasure to see how some of the judges – especially in the afternoon – put their black hat on, and tried to highlight the idiosyncrasies of some start-ups, with extremely good ideas, and some more work to be done on the business model side of things.

photo by mLabSA

Most of the pitches started with a very personal story to give context (the highest density of photos of mums than I have ever seen). And most of them ended with a request for funds (with the interesting exception of Uha$ibu – accounting service for cash economies – who want partners, not funders).

More info on the start-ups, winners and inspirations tomorrow.

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