GrowthHub Nairobi: “Jobs have to be created, and not only in the ICT-sector”

Another hub for starting entrepreneurs was opened in Nairobi last Thursday. The GrowthHub, situated close to Yaya Centre, aims to support start-ups and early stage enterprises in all sectors of the economy. Patricia Jumi, managing director of the GrowthHub: “Jobs have to be created, and not only in the ICT-sector. Kenya needs more people who start their own companies.”

The GrowtHub is an initiative of the Danish organization GrowthAfrica. Founder Johnni Kjelsgaard has a long history with Kenya as he came to Kenya for the first time in 1998. He co-founded Metrocomia, one of the first internet companies in East Africa. In 2002 GrowthAfrica Consulting was formed and have since worked with almost 100 businesses – with direct involvement in twenty of them.

“We want to take the momentum from the IT and mobile boom to other industries such as renewable energy, water and agriculture,” Johnni said during the opening presentation. He showed the audience of about 40 people what stages he has been through in his almost 15 years of being in Kenya; from being an entrepreneur himself, to forming a VC fund that went bust, to micro finance and consulting. All the experience (“we have been falling flat on our faces many times”) combined, resulted in opening the GrowthHub.

Like-minded individuals

The GrowthHub wants to create a ‘fellowship of like-minded individuals – an exclusive club of ambitious and committed entrepreneurs, facilitators, coaches and mentors.’ To do so they are offering office solutions, access to meeting rooms and conferencing facilities, a learning lounge with access to online library of 10,000+ e-books, physical books and magazines, workshops, BPO services, demo days, a café and facilitated peer learning groups. 

“The GrowthHub is here to help early stage entrepreneurs to get ground under their feet,” says Patricia Jumi. “The startup scene is growing very fast. Kenya is now on the world map. M-Pesa comes from Kenya. More entrepreneurs are coming out with solutions that are changing Africa and the world.”

Six hubs in Nairobi

The GrowthHub is the sixth startup-hub after iHub, Nailab, Startup Garage, M:lab and iLab Africa opened their doors in Nairobi. “I think there’s space for many hubs in Nairobi. Kenya needs a lot of entrepreneurship, a lot of startups. There’s unemployment of more than 40% and especially youngsters are looking for jobs. Maybe most hubs are focused on one sector, but we are sector-agnostic.”

The GrowthHub team is aiming at opening 20 hubs in East Africa by the year 2020. “The untapped potential in secondary cities across the region is immense,” says Johnni. “Each hub will have a theme – be a centre of excellence for all the other hubs. Local and sector experts will be a resource for other hubs independent of location and the network of hubs will allow members to expand and work seamlessly across the region.”

Village Capital

The first big event that is going to take place in the GrowthHub is ‘Village Capital,’ a 20-week programme from August to November 2012 for Kenya’s most promising and innovative entrepreneurs in the fields of mobile & web, green tech and essential services: education, health, water and sanitation. Participants will join a group of like-minded peers, receive expert coaching on how to accelerate the growth of the company and networking with strategic partners and investors who can scale the venture. At the end of the programme, two start-ups will receive US $50,000 investment each. But the final selection is determined with a twist: the entrepreneurs will decide who among the participating start-ups will get the pre-committed capital.

More info about Village Capital: