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Pivot 25: Incubation labs, innovative mobile apps

Pivot 25, a first of the kind initiative focusing on mobile application and developers in the East African region kicked off yesterday at the Ole Sereni Hotel in Nairobi. The two day event has attracted hundreds of developers, the corporate sector, venture capitalists and mobile enthusiasts from the region and beyond. The event sponsored by Samsung and Nokia amongst other firms has seen 24 mobile application developers pitch their applications to an industry panel. The top idea gets a chance to pitch at Silicon Valley's DEMO. All proceeds from the event will go to the establishment of East Africa's first mobile incubation lab - m:lab - which launches on Thursday this weekAmong the categories showcased include applications in mobile payments/commerce, applications in mobile gaming, entertainment and utilities and applications in business and enterprise. Judges in each of the categories were drawn from industry executives in top ICT firms in the region with the "business and enterprise" category featuring the strictest set of judges. A full list of developer and applications pitching on each category is available at the Pivot 25 website (http://pivot25.com/agenda/).Most of the application developers pitching were seeking funds to add new functionality to their applications and to expand the market reach of their applications.

Mike Pedersen, one of the developers show casing his application, stunned the attendants when he said that he was not looking for funding for his application named Uhasibu. Speaking later to CIO East Africa, Pedersen said that "there is no such thing as free money. You have to pay a price, have to a part of company, part of control and part of profit in exchange for investor equity." Unlike other developers, Peterson runs a one man outfit which is his strategy to minimise his operating expenses.

Mike Macharia, CEO Seven Seas Technologies and a judge in the "applications in business and enterprise" panel comments that most of the developers were asking for money too early, and they need to put in more of their 'sweat capital'. "Every business person thinks that they need money that they do not really need. Investors need to understand how use of funds will be applied in the firm before they ask for it," he says. Macharia says that some of the ideas pitched at Pivot 25 were great ideas. Challenges facing the developers include business execution and poor presentation. "Developers need a marketing structure that a layman can understand in five minutes," he says.

John Waibochi, CEO Virtual City and a judge in the "applications in business and enterprise" panel termed the ideas presented as "fresh", saying that he was pleasantly surprised by the market concepts. He however says that the developers need a bit more on how the real world works. "The ideas are there, developers need to be nurtured. I believe these are good teams with the potential to exceed Virtual City," says Waibochi.

Kenneth Oyolla, Nokia general manager for East and Southern Africa announced that Nokia is now offering support for developers. In addition to free development tools, support includes loaner handsets and advertising - including billboards - to popularize their applications. Oyolla says that Nokia Ovi store reached 1 billion application downloads by 1st March and was now receiving 500,000 daily application downloads and 250,000 new users per day.

Nokia alongside the Wolrd Bank and other investors are also putting up part of the $400,000 that will be allocated to each m-lab been set up.

James Mwangi, Equity Bank CEO also announced several initiatives that Kenya's largest bank by customer base would be taking to target developers. September this year will see Equity Bank open a branch in Hurlingham Nairobi which would specifically tailored to cater for developers. The CEO also announced that the next three months would see the bank rolling out presence on social media including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Njeri Rionge, CEO of Ignite Consulting and co-founder of Wananchi Group also announced plans to open up an incubation lab at Nairobi's Junction Mall in the next few months. This was at a session that focused on the role of women in ICT.

Seven Seas Technologies also plans to open an incubation lab soon.

Follow CIO East Africa on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CIOEastAfrica for the latest on Pivot 25 and mobile innovation and incubation as it unfolds.


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