The second edition of East Africa’s regional mobile apps. developer competition and conference will be held on June 5th and 6th in Nairobi. The progression of events dubbed Pivot East will begin in January 2012 with a call for entries to the mobile applications competition. The competition which culminate in 25 of the best mobile mobile applications competing at the June 2012 pitching conference. Eligible contestants for the competition will be individuals and companies domiciled in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi and South Sudan. The pitching conference will have a rich audience of investors, development partners, telecoms operators and other industry players from East Africa and across the globe.
Building mobile innovation powerhouse
East Africa is increasingly being known globally as a breeding ground for mobile innovation. Deliberate efforts are required to sustain the favourable attention and momentum for the region to retain its position as a mobile innovations hub. Pivot East is an incremental effort to consolidate and showcase the region’s progress towards becoming a global powerhouse for mobile innovation. By leading the world with mobile money innovations such as M-pesa, the region is well placed to churn out more mobile innovations. This is more so with the launch of m:lab East Africa, the regions facility for mobile entrepreneurship training, incubation and applications testing in Nairobi. Other tech hubs and incubation centers have also been established recently in East Africa as part of a growing ecosystem to develop and nurture innovation alongside entrepreneurship.
Pivot East also builds on the successes and lessons learned from Pivot 25 – the region’s first mobile apps. developer competition and conference held in 2011. Pivot 25 was organised by m:lab East Africa and its consortium partners led by iHub and eMobilis. The m:lab East Africa consortium which also includes The World Wide Web foundation and the University of Nairobi aims to identify, nurture and help build sustainable enterprises in the region’s knowledge economy. The mobile apps. competition and conference is therefore one of the Lab’s ways of improving chances for the most talented and promising mobile entrepreneurs “bubble up” and are showcased so as to receive support requisite through various access to markets, and access to finance initiatives.
Building on Pivot 25 in 2011
ThePivot 25 competition in 2011 attracted over one hundred (100) entries from across East Africa in five (5) categories. The five categories were “Payments and commerce”, “Entertainment, gaming and utilities”, “Business and the enterprise”, “Government, education and agriculture” and “Health”. Twenty five (25) finalists in total were chosen and five(5) from each category were selected to present their applications at the pitching conference on 14th and 15th June 2011. The finalists were trained and coached to improve their skills to pitch their applications before the conference.
The 2011 conference was attended by over 300 people who included angel investors, venture capitalists, corporate executives, senior government officials, representatives of development organizations and researchers. The panels of judges for the contest were composed of industry experts and global thought leaders. The conference proceedings were live streamed by Capital FM. The competition and conference also received much coverage from local and international media including being featured in the Time Magazine.
In addition to five category winners receiving $5,000 cash prizes, the overall winner, MedAfrica (then MedKenya), won a fully paid trip to pitch their application at DEMO.COM in Silicon Valley and were voted one of the top ten applications at DEMO. Finalists also found exposure to sources of finance, business partnerships and markets for their applications through the conference and the Demo Pit component of the event.
To Taha Jiwaji, PIVOT25 was a “Great experience boiling down a business concept into a crisp sell-able message and concept.” Taha was one of the finalists hailing from Tanzania and fronting his “Bongo Live” application. Asked to comment on his experience being in the competition, Jeremy Gordon, another finalist from Kenya with the “NikoHapa” application said “So far, our experience at Pivot25 has opened doors for us to become the successful company we know we can be, and we’re now doubly motivated to make it happen.” According to Kariuki Gathitu, who contested in the finals with the “M-Payer” application, “Young innovators like the ones who showcased at pivot25 will definitely heal Africa with the power of their minds.”
Many pivot 25 contestants have gone ahead to achieve notable progress with their businesses including attracting venture capital and acquiring new customers. Seven of the finalists competitively secured a space at m:lab East Africa’s business incubation facility.