Rich People, Nerds, and the Kenyan Context: Thoughts from the Nairobi Office Part 1

Editor’s Note: This is the first post in a series from Sean Smith, who recently moved to Nairobi, Kenya to open Invested Development’s East African office. 

Having recently moved to Kenya to establish ID’s first international office, I am often asked by friends, family, and colleagues a simple question, “Why Nairobi?” My answer is often just as simple, “Because Nairobi is positioning itself to become the Silicon Valley of Africa.”  What isn’t so simple is the justification behind such a claim.  So I’d like to take a crack at explaining exactly why and how Nairobi is rapidly forming into a vibrant and compelling startup hub.


In Paul Graham’s essay “How to Be Silicon Valley,” he mentions there are three factors needed to replicate Silicon Valley:  Rich People, Nerds, and the right Environment.  The Rich People have the money and, ideally, the expertise to mentor and seed the Nerds, whose ideas are the foundation upon which companies are built. Graham argues that it is the interplay between these two groups, in a supportive environment, that drives high growth startups.  If a city can duplicate that, he says, then any city can be Silicon Valley.

Check back tomorrow to read about “The Rich People” and why they’re important.

#CleanTechThatMatters is on December 14th. 
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