Rich People, Nerds, and the Kenyan Context: Thoughts from the Nairobi Office Part 4

Editor’s Note: This is the last post in Sean Smith’s series from the Nairobi office. Catch up on anything you missed by clicking the links below. 

The Kenyan Context 

These groups of Rich People and Nerds are slowly beginning to identify each other.  They are slowly feeling each other out and gaining a better understanding of early stage investment and how to use it.  Yet, the fact that these groups exist and are starting to build off each other is not what is most exciting about Kenya.  What is most interesting is that this activity is unfolding in a country of technology adopters. 

James Surowiecki of the New Yorker wrote an article titled “Innovative Consumption” in which he outlines why the United States has consistently been able to produce innovative companies like Dropbox.  In essence, he points to the willingness of Americans to embrace new technologies as an oft-overlooked factor in America’s history of cranking out innovative technologies.  I would argue that the same mentality of technology adoption exists today in Kenya.

The most obvious example of a technology adopting culture lies with M-PESA.  In just four short years M-PESA has gone from pilot to almost complete penetration of working age adults.  The service has already facilitated more transactions within Kenya than Western Union has throughout the entire world.  To be honest there are probably many factors that led to this success (the regulatory environment, Safaricom’s dominant market share, etc.), but one would be remiss to ignore the fact that overwhelmingly Kenyans put their trust, and their hard earned cash, into an untested technology.  For a more scientific piece of evidence I’d like to point to Intel’s “Technology Metabolism Index,” which maps how technology diffuses through the total population of a given country once introduced.  Kenya received a +5, the highest possible rating for diffusion of new technologies.

While it may seem a bit ridiculous to many Americans that anything like Silicon Valley could spring up in East Africa, our team at Invested Development is confident that these three forces are going to lead to many more success stories coming out of Kenya. We’re just excited to be a part of it.

#CleanTechThatMatters is on December 14th. 
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