Second day at Pivot 25 – the mLab East Africa initiative to bring focus on the mobile developer and entrepreneur community in the region; tension started growing a little bit for the participants to the competition, but informal chats and business cards exchange are the most common stress-relief, it seems. Each of the start-ups has a shiny black stand where they can be found but it is easier to stumble upon them while queuing for the coffee or trying some of the sponsors’ geek toys (among the others: Huawei IDEOS, sporting Android OS; Samsung phones and tablets; Nokia N8s).
The risk in cases of a conf-etition like Pivot25 is that panels and talks and all things around the competition itself are just time fillers. It wasn’t the case this time, at least for me. One example over all, the talk by Dennis Gikunda of Google, highlighting 4 trends they had identified in mobile Web uptake. Among the others, 2 points struck me:
- 50% of people who use the Web from a phone for the 1st time begin with search
- In 2010 Africa overtook Western Europe for mobile Web monthly ads impressions
Now, I usually am very strongly against panels (ask me why), and so I think there is still something to improve, but a good starting point, indeed.
In the late afternoon, all eyeballs and heartbeats were focused on discovering the winners of the very first Pivot25 in the history. In a blaze of lights, paper fireworks and more than a couple of blackouts, here’s what the juries decided…
… and the winners are…
Mobile Payments and Commerce: mShop by MTL Systems: a platform allowing consumers to order, pay for, obtain and validate tickets for events, travel, goods & services. The solution provides USSD technology or a mobile application on smart phones.
Mobile Gaming, Entertainment and Utilities: Whive by Space Kenya: a mobile social aggregator integrated with major social media platforms. The application allows Whive Subscribers to communicate with contacts, friends via SMS, messaging and other social media. They have a strong set of numbers (users, sponsoring clients,…) Next challenge for them – in my opinion – is to explore business models that are alternative to advertising at the bottom of the message.
Business and Enterprise: Uhasibu by PlusPeople: a cloud-based accounting system for small & medium companies in East Africa, where petty cash management is much more central than in European and North American economies.
Government, Agriculture and Education: SchoolSMS by Tusqee Systems: an Interactive Mobile Messaging System for schools. It allows parents to get exam results of their kids, enquire about fees balances and get fees statement quotes from the school via use of simple SMS messages. Interesting to see how this will evolve, and what is the business model that would make them sustainable.
Health: (also Overall Winner) MedKenya by Gruppo Potente/Shimba: a mobile service that provides symptom checkers, first-aid information, doctor & hospital directories as well as relevant alert services. Curious to see it evolve and to get a better sense of which one of their 4 revenue strategies (alerts, white-label, sponsored emails and Doctors payment) would work. Some success story will give them even more traction when the will have the opportunity to pitch and present at the famed Demo Conference in Silicon Valley (this is the prize for the overall winner!).
Overall, I was really impressed by the quality of the event: big enough to attract a regional and international audience; nimble enough to be all about content, rather than ceremony; and shaped in a way that makes it a profitable part of the mLab East Africa. Lots still has to be improved, and – as part of the consortium – we’ll make our best to have a Pivot25 2012 that will be re-tweeted by all the cool kids in South Africa, West Africa, Europe and USA.