In 2013, Savio Wambugu started an innovation centre, Mt Kenya Hub in Nyeri seeking to tap technology to help startups find their footing.
The hub is a multipurpose space, Mr Wambugu says, that allows technological innovations to thrive by linking up young entrepreneurs with investors.
Founded on the principles of a beehive, the hub has a physical space, a set of programmes, amenities and services to engage the youth, innovators, researchers and inventors in problem-solving.
The innovation hub seeks to nurture startups and tech-based companies to grow to be successful and sustainable businesses that create jobs and wealth in Africa.
Why did Mr Wambugu get the idea from?
“In 2013, many organisations were automating their daily jobs. Mt. Kenya region then was embracing android technology, and there was a gap; the hands-on skill set was lacking and I sought to bridge the gap and to develop quality products for the ecosystem,” he says.
To start off, Mr Wambugu invested Sh50,000 in organising the first free programming boot camp at the Kenya Methodist University which brought together multiple students from various universities and colleges in the region.
Mr Wambugu’s main goal is to solve challenges that are unique to Africa by utilising emerging technologies and accelerating business growth.
The tech hub has so far enabled thousands of entrepreneurs to realise their goals, through various activities and programmes such as hackathons, boot camps, eLearning and the pitch breakfast that happens every December.
The tech hub is equipped and designed to inspire business ideas and help translate them into big companies.
“The tech hub has helped decentralise the saturated hubs in major towns, by compelling new corporate and investors to seize the growing tech opportunities in rural areas. With the hub, new solutions to social problems in the region have been created,” Mr Wambugu says.
The hub is turning out to be crucial to young people who are looking to boost or obtain their digital literacy. The centre has managed to train over 500 innovators who were initially beginners in various programming languages and have become proficient and tech-savvy in their fields.
The hub has so far helped to raise Sh30 million for some startups and innovators.
For sustainability, the Mt Kenya Hub partners with corporates, tertiary institutions and government to upskill youths and entrepreneurs.
It charges a fee for technical training. It also offers consultancy in fields such as fintech, agritech, Sports and IoT.
“We partner with different organisations to subsidise the cost of training for the youth,” Mr Wambugu says.
In further ensuring sustainability, during incubation and acceleration of startups, the hub takes between 7 percent and 10 percent shareholding of the company and offers their services for free. In addition, the hub provides consultation and organises technical training at a fee throughout the year.
Mr Wanbugu says one of the challenges he faces is that the region has not embraced investing in startups and SME enablers, which creates a big hurdle when it comes to access to funding for the hub, or event credit to scale up.
The hub has 13 employees who work together with 30 mentors to support all their startups and SME’s.
The hub has an app where innovators are matched with investors.
The centre’s main target are innovators and SMEs in the early stages and not limited to technology.
“We also have a special focus on sports innovations, agritech and climate. Technologically we focus on hybrid solutions that can be offered in various open data platforms,” he says.
For anyone to qualify for training, Mr Wambugu says they should have “a strong interest” in technology and a passion to start a software company.
“Those interested can enroll for coaching sessions offered through flexible online programmes,” he explains.
“If you are innovating or building your SMEs depending on the government, stop innovating. The government only offers you fair policies to innovate and do business,” he advises.