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iHub By Erik Hersman / February 25, 2010

iHub Membership: How it Works


One of the big issues we’ve been trying to work through as the iHub advisory team revolves around access to the space. This involves items such as usage of the space, openness, accessibility, and a focus on community. How do we ensure that everyone has a fair shot at getting in, yet not getting so overcrowded that it’s not useful.

Our answer lies in a membership model. This model will likely adjust over time as we figure out what works, it’s iterative.

Membership Levels

Anyone can become a member of the iHub, provided they work in the tech field (programming, design or research), and they have 2 referrals from current iHub members. Upon acceptance, you’re given a special ID card that permits you entrance to the iHub for free. It will have your picture and a QR code on it to scan when you enter/leave, and it will be tied to your “member profile” on the site.

This first level of membership is for anyone who meets the basic pre-requisites outlined above. It’s a free pass into the iHub, giving you the ability to hang out, have meetings, surf the web and work on projects with others in a great environment. Welcome to the iHub, you’re now part of the community.

The catch on the green card is this, if we get too many people coming in at certain times of the week giving us capacity problems, we’ll likely need to institute a cap on the number of days, or peak-days, per week per person. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

There have been a fair number of people and startup organizations requesting permanent space in the iHub. We’re not convinced that this is our primary role, we see the iHub as more of a pre-incubator space. However, to accommodate this group we’re instituting a second tier of membership, the Red Card.

The Red Card gets you a semi-permanent desk, a locker and first-dibs on the meeting room space. As we figure out the data connectivity, we’re also considering allocating a dedicated amount of it to this select group. Right now we only plan on having 12 cards available at any one time, and these Red Card seats will go for about 10,000Ksh/month.

You’ll notice that these are “semi-permanent” spaces. We want these Red Cards to be open and usable by more than the first dozen who get to them, so our plan is to set a time limit on them of 3-6 month intervals, thereby giving others access to a more permanent space at the iHub. Anyone with a green card can apply for a Red Card, but know that preferential treatment is given to people/teams who can prove concrete progress towards a specific project/product’s goals.

These are all-access, all the time, passes. They are only for the advisors, who then bear full responsibility for anything going on in the building after-hours while they are in it.

Doers & Talkers

We have never promised equality within the iHub, doers will be given preferential treatment to talkers and browsers. It’s a meritocracy, where those who create new and cool things are given more and better access.

Having said all that, we’re trying to make the whole process of getting in to the iHub as fair and transparent as possible. Please keep giving us feedback, let us know what we can change to make it better.

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Author : Erik Hersman

  • Gichingiri at 21:29:00PM Thursday, February 25, 2010

    I guess this means I shouldn’t give up my house and permanently move into the iHub. Anyway, this answers a whole lot of questions. Thanks

  • nicholas rukaria at 22:44:09PM Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Sound plan, What are the working hours i.e is the place open 24hrs a day.

  • jke at 00:53:30AM Friday, February 26, 2010

    Is there anything we can contribute from the diaspora? I.e. tracking special orders for hardware, doing research via broadband, telling ppl about the potential in Nbo, etc.?

  • Wayan at 03:49:34AM Friday, February 26, 2010

    I am surprised your not offering permanant space. You need a constant critical mass to make a community prosper. The best way to achieve that is through having several orgs working there. This doesn’t mean 100% of the space, but at least 25% so no one ever walks into an empty iHub. Or to put it another way, do you like being the only one at a restaurant?

  • Wayan at 03:52:26AM Friday, February 26, 2010

    Oh and you also imply that red cards are time sensitive. That seems odd. How do you reward those that put in time and effort to grow iHub? Kick them down to Green after 3-6 months, just when people start to associate them with being a cool Red Card?

  • Erik Hersman at 07:56:59AM Friday, February 26, 2010

    @JKE there could be, we’ve not thought too much about that diaspora angle. We’re open to suggestions though.

  • Kibe wachira at 08:42:53AM Friday, February 26, 2010

    this is explains alot but i have a question about the green card membership plan- how does one get referrals from the current members of the ihub?

  • Erik Hersman at 11:12:32AM Friday, February 26, 2010

    Keep in mind, it’s a lot easier for us to start at 3-6 months and move up to 12 than it is to move back from 12. You’re right though, having people “in house” will be a boon.

  • tuomas santakallio at 12:06:01PM Friday, February 26, 2010

    I think that most members will use the space only part-time which means that they aren’t going to use it permanently as their office. Most serious developers, who have a startup around their project, already have an office (such as Mambo Microsystems), and as a developer i’m personally interested in finding other people who might share work with me.

    Why not build a forum, an irc channel and a sourceforge-type community as well? Most people will be joining from their computer, but the iHub will work as a second meeting spot if there’s a need to meet irl for a project.

  • KenyaChristian at 12:48:44PM Friday, February 26, 2010

    Um I wouldn’t want a situation whee corporations are taking over this space, although they have the money they will push out the rawness and creativity of iHub.

    The membership rules seem fine to me.

  • uberVU - social comments at 13:57:23PM Friday, February 26, 2010

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by whiteafrican: “doers will be given preferential treatment to talkers and browsers.” how iHub membership works:

  • Mose at 22:24:01PM Saturday, February 27, 2010

    Av been asking my self the question of membership. But its good that my question have been answered… But one more question… Which group does student who want to learn fall, and who are the current ihub members who can refer us

  • tuomas santakallio at 18:45:59PM Sunday, February 28, 2010

    Sure, doers of projects should indeed be given encouragement over talkers, who might become doers if the majority of users there are indeed doers.

    Supported. I have so many projects ongoing from a ticket sales website to hotel reservations platform to an auction site that i need people who actually do something to help me.

    Meanwhile in the wilderness if Steve doesn’t compile, and James compiles, James gets paid for compiling and Steve doesn’t.

  • David Otieno at 18:02:24PM Monday, March 1, 2010

    Hey Erik, I would like to know more on how I could get the 2 referrals for my green card memebrship

  • Brian Ngure at 11:46:46AM Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    I would also like more information on how to get the membership.

  • Zack at 12:09:36PM Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Need a red Tag, but would want to know who are already members who can be my referrals. What other services will the iHub have? Will there be hosting of applications to there servers – @ a fee?

  • Mbugua Njihia at 16:41:05PM Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Perfect, was thinking of overcrowding :-)
    Mbugua and team enroute for the launch

  • Sitati at 03:56:19AM Thursday, March 4, 2010

    I second Kikuyumoja’s suggestion that you find a way for us abroad to contribute. I hope, for example, the iHub website will be kept updated well with open info about ongoing projects that we can possibly show to potential partners, investors and consumers.

    Also, you can imagine that iHub is another path for the IT guy working abroad to finally come back home, so if there’s a way for us to pitch our ideas through the site, that’d be a big help.

    But most of all: WELL DONE on the launch, you guys are doing something amazing for Kenya.

  • Daniels Ochieng at 13:05:08PM Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Same here, Mbugua I need not a red tag, but a green tag, I am always going and coming…so the card would suit my needs…

  • Yusuf Tajbhai at 12:50:33PM Friday, March 5, 2010

    Great system, i feel green card would do great for me. When do i join in….

  • iHub- A place for Knowledge Ecosystems Launched at 01:28:33AM Monday, March 8, 2010

    [...] Membership Who qualifies to be a member? Anyone can become a member of the iHub, provided they work in the tech field (programming, design or research), and they have 2 referrals from current iHub members. There are three types of membership Green, Red and Black. Green is the membership level which available to anyone which has the basic requirements. It allows one to access the iHub : surf the net, have a meeting, work on projects Red Membership levels is somehow restricted for the small businesses willing to pay 10k per month for a desk while Black Membership is for the officials of the iHub. For more info on Membership go to iHub. [...]

  • Josiah at 22:53:14PM Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    On referrals. The first set of green card holders will be ‘referred’ by the current advisory team. Not sure if that was clear from the onset.

  • TechGirl at 10:48:48AM Thursday, March 25, 2010

    First I have to commend you guys for the awesome work you are doing, putting Kenya on the global map in IT. iHub is an awesome invention (if I can call it that). Well done!
    Wild horses couldn’t keep me away!
    So how do I go about getting the referrals for the Green Card?

  • Cesar Harada at 02:59:40AM Monday, March 29, 2010

    My name’s Cesar Harada, I am a friend of Erik, Juliana Rotish and Jon Gosier since I am a TED Fellow 2010. I think the IHub is supremely exciting.
    I want to start the “World Environment Organization” at the IHub.
    I am writing next week the business plan and would like to finalize it at the IHub, but the idea is to “put every local environmental Initiative and global impact on one same map”. Lots of great partners already on board.

    I m now in Paris, but I want to come work at the Ihub in about 2 weeks (that’s about 15th of April) until the 6th of May. I will buy my plane ticket as soon as you confirm I can come work at the Ihub. Please contact me for more infos . Green tag sounds good, please refer me. Great thanks.

  • Toofan at 18:38:00PM Thursday, April 1, 2010

    It is useful to try everything in practice anyway and I like that here it’s always possible to find something new. :)

  • iHub – A place for teamwork! - iHub at 12:55:40PM Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    [...] duo will be hacking the card maker and reader (sitting in the box) for the iHub membership cards. We will keep you posted on how to apply for membership towards the end of the [...]

  • Mkenya at 08:00:50AM Monday, April 12, 2010

    So what means is that the first members would be people who are friends to the so called advisors? I find this funny because we are young and should be different. Its cronism. We have students from Egerton, UoN, Kenyatta and other campuses who doesnt know anyone but you want them to have kissed some ass to get space there.

    Do you know that now Ihub is going to be full of people who dont even deserve that space. Do you really know a needy but good developer or designer? You are not going to get them this way and they have not even heard of skunkworks or such kind of idle bodies. They are so busy making cheap applications and selling in campuses and small towns like Eldoret, Kisumu, Nakuru and Mombasa.

    AGain, why hide some members. Why is it that iHub you will have people like Tuomas who are not even Kenyan? Why should Colaco be the iHub manager? We dont have qualified Kenyans to manage it?

    Erik Hershman, please stop introducing colonialism. iHub was to thank Kenyans and not foreigners. So they must be given first priority

  • Mumble at 03:47:40AM Saturday, April 17, 2010

    I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

  • Erik Hersman at 21:45:26PM Saturday, April 17, 2010

    @MKenya – you’re jumping to a couple of assumptions. I sincerely hope that the students (and others) who are actually building market-worthy apps do become a part of the iHub. It’s made for people just like them to help take the next step and get connected to people that can take them further. It’s not anything more than what the community, of which they are a part, make of it.

    FYI, Jessica Colaco is a Kenyan. She’s got more than enough cred and experience to run the iHub. Everyone will benefit from her leadership.

    As for myself, and foreigners, remember that there are no borders in the internet and mobile space. We’re all connected and it takes a global view of what we do in Kenya to take us to the next level. Though the iHub is specifically about the Nairobi and Kenyan tech community, it will be interacting with the broader world – at least we hope so, or we’re living in our own myopic cocoon.

    Claiming cronyism before it’s even started is overstated. In fact, get involved and help create the space, or at least consider waiting until you see what happens before you start making wild accusations.

  • Zinahe at 19:34:55PM Sunday, April 18, 2010

    I do understand the need for the need for the 2 referrals (in the case of the Green membership) however, I’m afraid sometimes it can work against those brilliant young men and women who don’t happen to know any existing iHub members.

    I suggest, there should be another option for such people to submit project proposals as a way to earn membership.


    Zinahe A.

  • Ngugi Gikonyo at 15:13:47PM Saturday, May 8, 2010

    First of all, I have an issue with Ihub not responding to the email enquiries sent to them. Really people, even if it’s just a one-line feedback mail, it will be appreciated.

    Secondly: students! students! students! Ask Google,they’ll tell you. You need a way of bringing in students, even if not physically to the Ihub. Let them attend some meetings, conferences etc or create a volunteer program for leg-work. Leaving them out causes fragmentation of the same IT knowledge that needs to be consolidated.

  • Kalekachali at 04:19:00AM Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    @Mkenya please see the bigger picture instead of jumping to conclusions.


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