The Entrepreneurs I Met in Uganda and Kenya
December 30, 2010 · Print This Article
(If you haven’t yet read my last post on investing in Africa you can read it here)
The Journey to East Africa
I left my parents’ home in Bradenton, Florida on Sunday afternoon and after a 30 hour journey through Tampa, snowy-D.C. and Istanbul, Turkey I arrived at 2:15am Tuesday at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. I was so happy to be back in Africa for the third time.
I got through immigration and customs and by 3am came out of the arrivals area at Entebbe to meet Roey Rosenblith and Abu Musuzza, two solar lighting entrepreneurs in Uganda who run VillageEnergy. They very graciously picked me up at such an early hour in the morning.
Roey and Abu have been working for a year and a half now on bringing affordable solar lighting to the 80% of homes without electricity in Uganda. They began their sales back in September 2010 after a year of R&D and production and are now rapidly building out their distribution model for their $60 home solar lighting systems.
I had invested in VillageEnergy back in January 2010 through a personal investment fund the Humanity Fund. There was much to discuss!
We jumped in Abu’s Corolla at the airport carpark and began the hour drive back to their apartment in Kampala. On the way I got an update on Village Energy’s operations. We arrived a little after four back at their place. After a quick demonstration of the VillageEnergy solar lighting system and a heated cinnamon bun (definitely not the first thing I expected to eat in Uganda), I crawled under the malaria net and fell asleep by 5am. We had a busy day ahead!
Tuesday – Kampala, Uganda
I rose at 9am and after a shower and some fresh chapatti and Kenyan tea the three of us went to the Kabira Club for a buffet breakfast.
There at the Kabira Club I met with tech entrepreneurs in a series of meetings Roey had set up.
Here’s are the entrepreneurs I met with in Uganda.
- Roey Rosenblith and Abu Musuza from VillageEnergy
- Charles from Wifi Cloud who is starting a wimax phone routers business in Kampala
- Saidi Bakenya from One2Net is setting up a digital internet connection service over the TV spectrum
- Peter Kimuli from Carnelian who is building a micro hydro power plan in west Uganda
- Peter Benhur Nyeko from Benconolly Pess Ltd, who is in the bus and generator business
- Charles Kalema, who run a garbage and disposal business with 24 employees
- Dennis from Dmark Mobile, a mobile apps company with 23 employees
- Revence Kalibwani, a mobile app developer
Around 4:30pm we went to the Village Energy sales center to meet with their employees Aggie, Alex, Alex, and Charles. We then went to dinner at a local hotel to get feedback from the team on how to improve Village Energy.
At eight we visited Olga, a VillageEnergy customer who lives in area without electricity and has 3 VE units installed.
We capped off the night with drinks at 9:30pm at Cayenne in Kampala with Roey and Abu and their friends Simon, Jennifer, and Dennis. Dennis runs Dmark Mobile, a mobile apps company with 23 employees.
Wedneday & Thursday – Nairobi, Kenya
On Wednesday I woke up at 8am. Roey, Abu, and I drove to Entebbe to have breakfast with Revence Kalibwani, a mobile app developer. Then we went to the airport and I was off to Nairobi on Air Uganda.
Yesterday and today In Nairobi I met with:
- David Kuria from Iko Toilet, has 50 environmentally friendly pay toilets throughout Kenya. Has raised funds from the Acumen Fund and works with my friend Amon Anderson at Acumen.
- Elizabeth Myyuiyi from EcoBank Kenya to discuss SME loans and credit. Secured loans are going here for 14% per year and group guaranteed microfinance loans are at 25-30%. (Though the annual inflation here is about 9% so the real interest rates on these loans are lower).
- Gaita Waimuchii of NetBlue Africa, a web marketing agency, and AfricaPoint.com a 21 employee travel booking company in Nairobi
- Ben Lyon and Dylan Higgins of KopoKopo, mobile money backend integrator, API connector between MFIs and multiple platform mobile money solutions. Ben is from FrontlineSMS and Dylan is from Savetogether.org. They’re received investment from FirstLight Ventures and Presumed Abundance to date.
- Jessica Colaco from iHub Nairobi, tech incubator
- Wiclif Otieno from Kito International, non-profit that employs street-youth in Kenya
- Morgan Simon, founder of Toniic Impact Investors Network
During these discussions a number of other Kenyan and East African tech firms were mentioned that I’ll have to check out.
- Renewable Energy Ventures, providers of the Solatern and run by Joseph Nganga who is on the advisory board of Carolina for Kibera
- PesaPal.com – mobile money provider, run by Agosto Liko
- Squad Digital, Kenyan ad agency
- Craft Silicon, Kenyan financial software firm with 150 employees
- Kalahari.co.ke, the Kenyan Amazon
- Cellulant Kenya, mobile commerce company
- Virtual City – mobile applications provider
- E-Fulusi, mobile money integrator
I’ll be posting next a report and video from my time this afternoon at the iHub, the tech incubator and innovation hub here in Nairobi.