Interview with Ryan Delk of Nairobi’s Pivot25

Today VC4Africa speaks with Ryan Delk to find out more about the upcoming Pivot25, an mlab initiative to bring focus on the Mobile developer and entrepreneur community in East Africa. m:lab East Africa is a consortium of four organizations aiming to be a leader in identifying, nurturing and helping to build sustainable enterprises in the knowledge economy.

– eMobilis, Education, training, accredition and certification.
– World Wide Web Foundation – curriculum and content, training and Education
– The University of Nairobi School of Computing and Informatics for rigorous academic research
– iHub for community interaction, development space, events and access to capital and markets

On to the questions!

Why Kenya, why Mobile, why now?
East African tech is a very hot item right now, as more and more sources are identifying it as a hot-bed of tech innovation world-wide. The majority of all internet use in East Africa, specifically in Kenya, is done via mobile phones. Standard web innovation is great, but if you really want to reach the majority of East Africa in a viable, marketable, and scalable way, you have to give them something they can work with from their phones.

Where does the Pivot25 idea come from & why is there a need for an event like this?
Pivot25 was created to give East African mobile startups a platform to share their innovations with the world, while also giving them access to markets, investors, and media exposure on a level that would be impossible otherwise. Some of the finalists are looking for a significant financial investment to take their venture to the next level, and Pivot25 is a great platform to make that happen. However, we have other finalists who are fully-funded and are simply looking to get their app out to the world, and Pivot25 is also a phenomenal opportunity for media and market exposure. Our goal is to do whatever it takes to give these 25 finalists every viable means to take their project to the next level, whatever that may be. In doing this, we believe that Pivot25 has become the premier mobile tech event in East Africa. I’m incredibly impressed with this year’s finalists, and many of these startups will be hugely successful in the future. We have seen fantastic mobile innovation coming from all over East Africa, and we are proud to say that there are Pivot25 finalists from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda pitching at the competition.

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

How is this event different from others?
There’s nothing quite like Pivot25 happening right now in East Africa. It’s very similar to other tech startup events in the US and in Europe, such as DEMO and TechCrunch, but it’s unique largely in part because it’s being held in the heart of East Africa, and is only open to East African developers. We believe that the calibre of development happening in East Africa is on par with or exceeds that which is happening anywhere else in the world, so it makes sense that an event like Pivot25 takes place. These developers need a platform to launch off of, just like startups anywhere else in the world, and we want to give them that.

What are some of the promising applications?
I mentioned Kopo Kopo Inc., Eat Out Mobile, M-Farm, and M-Payer, and I think these really are quite strong applications. We had over 100 mobile startups apply to pitch at Pivot25, so these 25 finalists really do represent some of the strongest players in the emerging East African mobile space. Kopo Kopo is a software as a service platform that aims to revolutionize the way mobile money is processed. M-Farm is an SMS-based service that gives farmers accurate prices for their crops daily, along with allowing them to “group buy” farm inputs such as fertilizer with other local farmers at a significan discount. Eat Out Mobile is the mobile side of the popular website – as I said earlier, getting services like Eat Out onto the mobile device is huge – you suddenly make yourself accessible to a whole new sector of the market.

What do you hope to achieve for these applicants post event?
As I mentioned earlier, each finalists has a unique set of goals for themselves at Pivot25. We’ve worked with each of them individually to hone in on what exactly those goals should be and what it will take for them to reach the next level. Some are seeking funding, some are seeking exposure, and some are seeking partnerships. Personally, I want to make sure that each finalists has every possible opportunity to succeed in achieving their goals. Ultimately, it will be up to them to pitch well, market themselves well at the event, and to convince us that their application or innovation has the potential to create value in some significant way. Our goal is to give them the tallest, broadest, and most dynamic platform to stand on while trying making that happen.

Thanks Ryan. We look forward to following the event and our community and network look forward to supporting these entrepreneurs.