Frequently Asked Questions
Question: I’ve heard so much about this iHub place. What exactly is it, and what do you do here?
The iHub is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in Nairobi. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers. It is part open community workspace (co-working), part vector for investors and VCs and part incubator. We also have a number of initiatives designed to build an ecosystem around the Kenyan tech entrepreneur: iHub Research, iHub Consulting, iHub Supercomputing Cluster, and the iHub User Experience (UX) Lab, in addition to being part of the consortium that makes up the m:lab East Africa. Our aim is to create the place where seeds are planted and are easily found by the people with money to help them grow.
The iHub offers a 30 mb internet connection, the best coffee in Nairobi, and a fantastic community of like-minded individuals.
Question: Umm...I don’t understand all those words. :(
We started off as a co-working space, in which we found a cool room, kitted it out with seats, a coffee shop, wi-fi and a foosball table, then opened it up to Nairobi’s tech community. We want techies to work here, mostly for free, in the the hope that having all these passionate, committed individuals working in the same place will lead to fruitful conversations and interactions. We hope that if you’re a developer and looking to work on a project you can find a designer within the iHub space to help you do that; or if you’re a social entrepreneur with a good idea you can find someone who can build you an app to help you achieve that idea. Work together, build community, grow together.
In addition to the co-working space (also called the pre-incubator), we have several other initiatives, which were highlighted above. (Hint: m:lab, Research, Consulting, Cluster, UX Lab). You can find out more about them on their respective web pages.
Question: So...what does that mean for me if I want to hang out here?
We have a 3-tier membership system, which determines the level of access you can get to the space:
a. White: This is virtual membership that’s open to everyone, and makes you a part of the iHub community. You will receive a weekly newsletter with a round-up of relevant information from that week, and you’re welcome to attend the events that are held at the iHub. White membership, however, does not grant you daily access to the co-working space (sorry!).
b. Green: Once a year, we put out a call for applications in which we’re looking for 150-200 of the most focused, most promising tech entrepreneurs in the area. Whoever responds to this call and can prove to us that they need the space because:
i. They have a good idea, whether or not that idea is fully formed
ii. They can show that they need the space at least 3 times a week
iii. They’re willing to be a part of the iHub community, which involves participating in community events, as well as giving back time and skills to the larger community outside the iHub.
Selected applicants will go through an interview, which, if they pass, gives them access to the iHub space for free for up to a year. That’s right, for free.
c. Red: Red members are similar to green members, except that they pay a monthly fee in order to have an increased level of access to the space. They are typically running small business with a couple of employees, and need dedicated space to work.
Question: I think I might qualify to be a green member, but I’m not sure. What kind of person are you looking for?
We’re looking for anyone who’s working on tech-related project. You could be a developer who’s doing freelance work, and you need a place with a steady internet connection and power supply for you to get your client work done on time. You might be a web designer seeking the same. Perhaps you’re a blogger, or someone building a social enterprise that uses technology to address a societal problem. You might even be an IT/computer science/engineering student who has a lot of off-campus time. As long as you’re working on something that we find interesting and relevant, we’ll consider your application.
Question: Got it. How long have you guys been around, and how did you get started?
We officially launched in March 2010, and took in our first cohort of green members in November of the same year. Nairobi already had a vibrant tech community pre-2007 via an online community called Skunkworks. From this group (along with diaspora Kenyan bloggers) came Ushahidi, which was created as a response to the 2007/8 post election violence. Ushahidi then managed to get funding to open up a Nairobi office in 2010, which was built as an open space to house this tech community - both those from the original Skunkworks, as well as those who had come after.
Question: Does the iHub have any success stories to note?
In the last 3 years we've seen something like 50+ companies spin out of the iHub community. There are quite a few who have received funding and grown from a 2-3 person startup into growing young companies. There are others that have come in and found their co-founder or next CTO. It's been exciting to see how serendipity plays such a big role, and how the iHub serves as that connector. The iHub's mission is to catalyze and grow the Kenyan tech community. We do this by connecting people, supporting startups and surfacing valuable information to the community, whether they're engineers, web designers, investors, government or academia. At our core, we believe that just by putting smart people in a room, good things happen. This has been proved true over and over again for 3 years now, it is a place where companies spring up, products are funded, people get connected and where innovation thrives. The iHub was born of an idea by the community, and it should be no surprise that it grows due to that same community's drive and ambition.
Question: Important question: how do you pay for everything?
We’re primarily grant-funded, by Hivos and the Omidyar Network, and infoDev in the case of the m:lab, and Google gave us funding to get the UX Lab and Cluster started. We also have corporate partners: Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, Nokia.
It’s important for us to move towards sustainability, so 4 of our 6 initiatives (Research, Consulting, Cluster and UX Lab) are profit-oriented and put 20% of their profits back into the co-working space.
Question: Are there other iHubs in other places in Kenya/Africa?
No, just this one. However, we are a member of a group called AfriLabs, which is an umbrella organization for several innovation spaces across the continent. If you’re looking to find out more about what’s going on in other African hubs, you can check out their website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: Thanks! I still have some questions that haven’t been answered here - where do I go for additional information?
You can email email@example.com for further info.
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