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January 31, 2014

A great idea can be built with almost any technology. They all have their pros/cons. No matter what stack you choose, you’ll pay a certain price for whatever advantages it offers. But really, the success or failure of your project has more to do with vision, leadership,execution, and market than technological choices – Matt Aimonetti.

Johann & Paul from giving a talk to developers

These were the opening words of Paul Schwarz from during a meetup dubbed Tech Trend that was held on 30th Jan at the m:lab. The meetup will be a monthly initiative that will focus on technology trends in the developer world and mentoring sessions for upcoming developers by incubated startups or established tech companies.

In the Tech Trend debut,  Johann & Paul were the guest speakers and they gave a general talk of their start-up from a technology point of view. This included testing tools, development language, framework, analytics tools amongst others. provides a secure accommodation marketplace connecting travellers looking for a cool place to stay, with hosts and their empty beds. It was launched in November 2012 and currently provides over 1,000 accommodation options in Kenya alone. The site has seen traffic grow to 50,000 unique visitors and 130,000 page views per month. They have had numerous successes including winning PIVOT EAST 2013 in the enterprise category. They are currently incubated at the m:lab.

Developers need to know alot of new stuff based on the technologies have incorporated in their development such as test driven development, virtual machines such as Vagrant,  deployment tools such as Capistrano amonst other technical details. Many questions were asked pertaining to Google analytics & Mixpanel analytic tools which are necessary in today’s development due to the need of studying consumer behaviour and measuring out site performance.


Developers at the Tech Trend talk at m:lab’s boardroom

Paul encouraged developers to develop their programming skills so as to be experts in their particular area of specialisation. He personally follows Uncle bob blog and gets involved in open source projects. He is also active in reporting bugs of whichever platforms he uses which have seen him grow immensely and gain other skills in the process.

Feeling a sense of having missed out! look out for February’s Tech Trend Talk.


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Rapid Experimentation, Catalyst for Innovation & Lean UX/UI Session


January 18, 2014

PIVOT East Participants during a previous training.

PIVOT East Participants during a previous training.

On the  27th of August 2014, we will have a training that is one of its kind. The training is aimed at the technical members of the startups teams.  The session will take place at m:lab East Africa from 9:00am to 12:00pm . The sessions will be on Rapid Experimentation, Catalyst for Innovation & Lean UX/UI with Solstice Mobile. Solstice Mobile is one of the leading provider of enterprise innovation and mobility solutions in the US. With the largest dedicated mobile software engineering team in the United States, they have deep expertise across iOS, Android and Windows 8 platforms. Their other specialities include:  Enterprise Mobile Strategy & Innovation, Internet of Things, M2M, Mobile Architecture, Mobile Governance, User Experience Design, Mobile Infrastructure & Security, iOS, Android, and HTML5 Applications, Mobile Testing & Support, Agile Transformation. They have won several awards in the USA . The sessions will be conducted by:  jschwanJ Schwan, the Founder and CEO of Solstice Mobile. He was recently inducted into the Chicago Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, was awarded the University of Illinois College of Engineering Young Alumnus of the Year award, was named one of Chicago’s Tech Week 100 and has had recent work inducted into the Computerworld Hall of Fame.  

Angelique Rickhoff,

Angelique Rickhoff, User Experience Consultant at Solstice Mobile. She received an Associate’s Degree in Digital Design, a Bachelors in Interactive Media, and a Master in Human Computer Interaction. Her studies embodied coursework around visual design, ethnography, designing for accessibility, usability methods, and user research.

  mark-wallaceMark Wallace, a management consultant focused on mobile and contextual technologies. He has deep experience in product management and implementation services in both the healthcare and financial industries. Mark has worked with several consumer-directed healthcare startups to build their products and launch. He also served as a lead on the Knowledge Management Team with Ernst & Young, developing intranet strategies for their domestic and international telecom partners.   “Rapid Experimentation and a Catalyst for Innovation” Disruptive technologies continue to change expectations from already demanding consumers, forcing brands to create more contextually relevant experiences. But how does the enterprise keep up with these emerging technologies and focus in on which ones to harness? To be successful, brands need practices and methodologies that span the gap between short and long innovation horizons. Join Solstice Founder and CEO, J Schwan, as he shares how rapid experimentation and lean prototyping are accelerating enterprise innovation. “Lean UI/UX” Stemming from the Lean Startup Movement, Lean UX advocates for trimming down traditional user experience methods so they can be applied effectively to a fast paced Agile environment. The key principles of Lean UX include early customer validation, collaborative design, solving user problems, measuring key performance indicators, applying appropriate tools, and nimble design. Lean UX provides “just enough” documentation to keep everyone on the same page and allowing the team to iterate as they learn more. Join user experience expert Angelique Rickhoff from Solstice Mobile, as she shares how these approaches can be applied to your work. To attend this event, RSVP HERE. (there are only 25 slots available)

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How to Use Mobile Phones to encourage information sharing within the agricultural value chains

Wireless Wednesday

January 15, 2014

Smallholder farmers form majority of the farming capital in Africa, yet more often than not they are left out of the value chain’s growth. Mobile is a powerful tool in Africa. In fact, according to a report by GSMA, Mobile penetration across the region was 54% in 2012 and contributed over six per cent of the region’s GDP. Most farmers have access to a mobile phone, can they leverage mobile technology in strengthening agricultural value chains and in enabling them to become agriprenuers and more actively engaged in market-led agriculture? Can mobile innovations help in impacting the agricultural value chains?

A farmers speaking during the event

A farmers speaking during the event

On the 30th of July 2014, mobile application developers, farmers, government representatives, NGOs, exporters, Investors, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector met at m:lab east Africa to discuss this during Wireless Wednesday event sponsored by USAID. The meetup was meant to help the attendees have an understanding of what factors are necessary for value chains to thrive, development of the value chain and how mobile technology can encourage information sharing within the value chain to the benefit of the smallholder farmer. Some of the Highlights from the event: Extension Officer’s Ratio: According to an extension officer from Kakuzi, Mr Mwaniki,their ratio is 1 officer for 15,000 farmers. He reckons that mobile tech can help them in information sharing more efficiently, fast and to masses. Farmers suffer because of information lag and lack of proper advice from extension workers on disease outbreak, weather updates, good practises, just to mention a few. Mobile technology can bridge this gap. Government Involvement: According to Grace Agili, government would like to support mobile innovations in agriculture but they have inadequate resources. In fact they have so much information in the govt websites that are available for all stakeholders for free, but very few know this. She encouraged developers to leverage on that, to share useful information to farmers
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A farmers speaking during the event

Attendees the event

Engagement: Farmers were urged to share information and adopt the family approach to integrate youths in agriculture. And in order to grow the value chain they were encouraged to take the wheel and team up with developers, give them guidance and together build solutions that not only connect with farmers but solve pain points in the agricultural value chains. Awareness: Farmers need to give or receive some information to / from other farmers, buyers, government, extension workers, agro-vet etc from time to time.But they normally experience hardship accessing or sharing information required during farming activities or at post-harvest level because they don’t know available technology solutions to help them. Farmer present at the meetup agreed that mobile phone could help speed up, and open up flow of information within agricultural value chains. Actors in the agricultural value chains – (including farmers, agro-vets, buyers, extension workers, government, financiers etc) stand a realistic chance to benefit from improved information flow if there can be mobile phone solutions working a large scale (the scale at which M-PESA operates or even on a global scale). Public Awareness is missing. Farmers need to be sensitized and informed especially on these factors:
  • Market and pricing information
  • Type of Crop to plant
  • Crop Management and Ecology .
  • Potential Buyers
  • Profitability of the crop

These information can help a farmer make sound decision even before he/she starts planting the said crop. Improved information sharing within the agricultural value chains will benefit all the stakeholders in the chain.

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MPrep Rebrands to Eneza Education


January 31, 2013

Formed with an ultimate aim of solving problems that lead to students failing, Eneza connects students to study tools, teachers and parents to data to help their children improve, and educational leaders to resources. Most importantly, they are creating a network in which the dialogue around student learning grows, enticing schools to collaborate and compete.


Two years down the line, the company is moving to a another level. MPrep will be rebranding to Eneza Education Ltd in a few days. They will be announcing it on their new site, but they have already begun making moves via social media.

In a few weeks, Eneza will also launch a co-branded product with Safaricom, Kenya’s Telecom Company known worldwide for its mobile money transfer service, M-Pesa. This event will take place at M.M Chandaria Primary School in Baba Dogo, Nairobi and will highlight the successes of students that have been using the system since its founding.

Eneza is a platform that unites students, parents and teachers via mobile technology. Students can access quizzes, mini-lessons and tips and tricks on local content via the web, mobile web, and a USSD/SMS-based system. Eneza has also started an initiative to get students reading. It’s called “Spreading Stories,” and it includes paper booklets of stories that students can take comprehension quizzes on via the mobile phone. Parents and teachers interact with Eneza by viewing reports on their students and getting tips and tricks aligned to topics and subjects.

The organization participated in Pivot East 2012 and won in the mobile society category. Currently they are incubated at m:lab East Africa. Apart from the physical space for working, they have access to internet and other business facilities at a subsidized rates. They also benefit from intense and customized entrepreneurship training, hours of coaching and business advisory and also receive support, advice and linkage to early stage funding at m:lab East Africa.


Jacky and Chris Asego From Eneza Education on their normal day-to-day activities in the Office

In January 2013, Eneza secured a seed round of investment of $200,000 USD. Led by Eleos Foundation with an investment from the local fund, Savannah Fund, Eneza will be further proving out their business model, building their network, and providing additional content to students, teachers and parents. They aim to become the go-to distribution channel for other content providers and a data source for educational stakeholders.

With the aim of assessing the impact of Eneza as a tool for revision, they conducted an impact study during the course of last year at M.M Chandaria Primary School. The impact study that took a period of nine months involved 30 students who were picked randomly. From the impact study, it was noted that there was an improvement in academics from the students who participated in the impact study by 9%.

All startups face challenges during the initial stages, this is the same case with Eneza. Language is one of the barrier especially dealing with students in the remote areas who have a limited understanding in English and even Kiswahili. Another challenge is the fact that they are using simple technology that does not wow many people. Most of the time, the media and general public are interested in high tech innovations.

So far, Eneza has around 12,000 students at over 400 schools across Kenya using the student tool, and around 20 schools subscribing to their data. Their aim is to reach 100,000 students, 5,000 teachers, and 2,000 parents by the end of the year.


Eneza Education Team

Check out the their demo video here.

For more information on Eneza Education Ltd, watch out for their new website You can also view their facebook page: or follow them on twitter:

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