Why make another meaningless app when you can change the lives of a continent?

October 15, 2014
En route to New York

[Editor’s note: This is the third piece in our series covering exciting startup locations in thriving markets around the world. See also, Medellín, Colombia, and Vilnius, Lithuania.]

A strong community of other entrepreneurs and mentors makes all the difference for a young startup.

Through a community, and through mentors in particular, you can gain access to their networks. This might be just what it takes to turn your fledgling idea into a reality.

For those looking for a place to launch their startup with a solid community for support, Nairobi, Kenya, is nearly unmatched.

Here, the sense of community is simply remarkable. Successful Kenyan entrepreneurs are exceptionally passionate and willing to mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs.

As a result, there is a constant stream of events in Nairobi geared toward entrepreneurs or budding business leaders. Everywhere from students to top-level business leaders, the desire for personal and business development is fierce.

International and domestic capital and mentorship programs abound, as there is great interest in funding businesses that could potentially transform the whole continent. Mobile technology, agriculture, and infrastructure are some of the main focuses.

Seeing the country’s strong growth and potential, many individual Kenyans who have been raised and educated in top universities in the UK and US are now coming home, bringing knowledge, experience, capital, and global networks back with them.

Add to that the fact that Nairobi is one of the headquarters of the UN, and it’s clear why the city is home to such a vibrant international community. One with a lot of money at that.

Co-working spaces and startup incubators like 88MPH, Fablab, and iHub in Nairobi provide great communities for entrepreneurs who come from across the country and the world seeking to break into the massive, fledgling African market. They are working hard to establish Nairobi as the major tech hub of the region.

In 3 years of operation, 88MPH has invested nearly $2 million in startups, with a number of the businesses that have gone through their incubation programs already seeing wide use across the country.

One example being MDUNDO, a sort of Kenyan version of iTunes, which has been adapted to suit the predominance of mobile rather than computer browsing in the country.

As the country’s market is less developed, basic services like this can really take the country by storm.

This is no more apparent than the case of M-PESA, a mobile phone based money transfer and microfinance service. Launched in 2007, the service has already revolutionized business and every day transactions in the country.

Everybody and their grandmother uses it on a daily basis, and you can pay from anything from your groceries to your taxi instantly by mobile.

Though things are modernizing quickly, living in Nairobi can still have its challenges. Done right, however, and you can live particularly well. Very nice accommodation can be easily a quarter of what you can find in New York or California, and with fantastic, temperate weather all year long, you just can’t complain.

For the entrepreneur with a sense of adventure not only in business but in life, the proximity of Nairobi to incredible safaris and beautiful beaches just can’t be beat.

As the country is on a clear upward trajectory, the potential is absolutely huge. We’re not talking a few thousand downloads of your app, but changing the lives of millions across the continent.

In Kenya, you can truly dream big.

About the Author

Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter Notes from the Field is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom, make more money, keep more of it, and protect it all from bankrupt governments.