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iHub By Jessica Colaço / May 13, 2011

iHubber: Kopo Kopo, Inc.

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In a quest to tell the stories of the people and the projects that make the iHub community what it is today, we are introducing a series of blog posts that are going to run every week starting today. These are stories about The iHubber - The People and The Projects we see at the iHub on each passing day!

To start us off, we had a chat with three brilliant, and funny individuals from Kopo Kopo, Inc.


Ben Lyon, Kibet Yegon, Dylan Higgins of Kopo Kopo, Inc.

Briefly tell me about yourself and how your day starts at the iHub?
I’m VP of Business Development for Kopo Kopo, Inc (Ben Lyon), Kibet is our web developer, and Dylan is the CEO.   We founded the company in the US in August 2010 and relocated the management team to Nairobi in December 2010.  We started Kopo Kopo, Inc. at the 2010 Unreasonable Institute, a social business incubator in Boulder, Colorado in order to help small and medium businesses better leverage mobile money.

The day always starts with a cup of Pete’s Coffee, maybe two or three cups, actually… The team catches up, and then outlines the work to be accomplished that day.  For lunch, we always ask friends at different tables – usually the FrontlineSMS and Zege Technology teams – to join us.   After lunch, we look for someone to beat in foosball.

How did you get into Mobile Money?
Good fortune, I think.  My background is Economics and International Studies.  Within those fields, I focused on informal economies – like the Jua Kali in Kenya – and microfinance.  Focusing on these fields led me to mobile money, which instantly fascinated me.  I have been working in mobile money ever since – for nearly three years now. Kibet comes to use with several years of experience in Ruby on Rails and a great appreciation for our potential as a business.   Dylan is a former technology consultant and lawyer who is now devoted to using technology to solve social problems.

Briefly tell me about Kopo Kopo, Inc.
Kopo Kopo is building a software-as-a-service mobile payment gateway in order to enable small and medium businesses to easily integrate with Safaricom M-Pesa, Airtel Money, Essar yuCash, and Orange Money.  We are currently raising funds to roll out our service in Kenya and begin expanding throughout the region.

What are your guiding principles?
Externally, our mission is to provide the most flexible, affordable solution on the market in order to bolster the mobile financial revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Internally, we value a team built of friends and peers, and we put tremendous importance in having fun and enjoying what we do.

What’s the one aspect of design/programming you give the highest priority to?
Simply put, we are 100% user-centric.

What do you wish other people would understand about working in this industry?
It takes time to develop a product, but, if properly executed, that product can revolutionize the way a consumer or enterprise does business.

What do you guys love most about being at the iHub?
You can’t beat this community.  We are constantly revitalized by the energy at the iHub.  We honestly believe we couldn’t be in a better place and tell all of our friends – professional and personal – how fun it is to work here.

What led you to start using the iHub space?
We’ve followed iHub since it originally opened and knew right away that it was the right space for us.  Once we moved to Kenya, it was an easy decision to set up shop at the iHub.

What can other programmers/creatives do to take advantage of the iHub space?
Talk to one another.  At any given time, the iHub is full of people that are experts in every link in the value chain (e.g. product development, marketing, fundraising, sales, etc.).  The community is iHub’s strongest asset.

Whats the one piece of advice you would give someone wanting to start a career in design/programming?
Do it.  Be prepared to fail (often, in fact) and be willing to iterate.  If you have a good idea, go for it.

And Finally, What trends do you see being big for 2011?
Agency banking and mobile number portability may change the mobile landscape in Kenya in 2011.  We are especially excited to help bring the software-as-a-service model to Kenya, which is now a plausible option because of the three fibre cables that recently landed in Mombasa.

You can read more about Kopo Kopo on their Website here

Author : Jessica Colaço

Jessica Colaço is currently the Director of Partnerships at iHub. She was the Founding Manager between 2010 and 2011 at iHub and Research Director between 2011 and 2013 at iHub Research. She is passionate about Innovation, Research, Mobile and Robotics Technology, Mentorship and Entrepreneurship in Kenya as she uses her position at iHub to court local, regional and international stakeholders to adopt Kenyan-made solutions. She is also a Mobile and Robotics Tech Evangelist, Co-Founder of WMIAfrica and AkiraChix, ISOC-Kenya Chapter, Treasurer, TED Global Fellow 2009 and upcoming Guitarist. She was named one of the top 40 women under 40 years in Kenya's business scene by Business Daily on 2009, 2011 and 2012. She blogs at: www.jessicacolaco.wordpress.com


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