Joining Africa Technology Ventures

One of the gaps in the technology landscape of East Africa and Nigeria is funding for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at seed and early growth stage. As an advisor to startups with a lot of potential and my own angel investing experiences, this gap in financing is one that I would like to tackle and help fill. I met Eline Blaauboer (TBL Mirror Fund; Safaricom Spark Fund; East Africa Venture Capital Association) and Mairead Cahill (Dalberg; M-KOPA; BT) through mutual friends. They are the managing partners of Africa Technology Venture. After several discussions and meetings, we had similar thoughts on what is needed to help propel startups in Africa to the next level and more importantly how I would be able to do my part to fill this gap.

I am delighted to announce that I will be joining Africa Technology Ventures as Venture Partner.

We are raising investment for a $50m venture capital fund (“Africa Technology Ventures” or “ATV”) alongside an enterprise development facility, which will invest in and support the growth of tech enabled start-ups in East Africa and Nigeria; that have the potential to scale and create value in key sectors including Agriculture, Consumer, Education, Energy, Financial Services and Healthcare. The Fund will be based in Nairobi and Lagos and brings together a team of experienced international and local tech entrepreneurs, investors and advisors.

This is an exciting opportunity and one that I am looking forward to learning and growing in. I will be at TED 2016 this week, if you are attending, do ping me via email contact [at] julia [dot] na

One Maker Space Per Village?

I feel very fortunate to have met Dipesh Pabari. Years ago, before Ushahidi, we crossed paths when we were both interested in environmental issues and conservation. When I met him again this year, I found that we are still tree huggers just with more responsibilities, smartphones and more hectic lives.

Dipesh near the gray water treatment area

Dipesh is an inspiring man with a mission to help a village develop. When I visited his family in the South Coast of Kenya, I had no idea just how much he had continued to champion re-use and recycling. In Kenya we used to have a very efficient deposit system for soda, where you had to either have the bottle/case of empty bottles to purchase soda and beer. It worked very well. Current situation? A mess. So many plastic bottles litter the city, and you’d be hard pressed to find recycling bins anywhere. There are bins for trash, but as far as I know there are no formal recycling services. Informal systems of collecting plastics for reuse do exist, but not at a scale that takes care of the current problem. Kenya’s cities have a trash handling problem to say the least.

Seeing these problems in Kenya, Dipesh decided to do something. Through his work with Camps International, he has continued to champion reuse and recycling.
Taking discarded flip flops (what Kenyan’s call Pati Pati in Swahili) and turning them into beautiful, functional pieces like key rings, pencil holders, bangles, desk art and more.
He has found ways to use discarded plastic bottles as building materials for everything from water tanks, sky lights and many more.
What was most inspiring is that he is using plastic bottles to build out a polytechnic in Muhaka, a small village of about 3000 inhabitants. It is quite remote, beautiful but very very poor with few options for creation of wealth.

This is what he has been able to do so far.

Water Tank

Water tank made with plastic bottles, cement and other materials.

Vertical gardening with used tyres

Vertical gardening with used tyres

Muhaka Polytechnic

Plastic bottles as decorative building material at Muhaka Polytechnic


This is a skylight. Made out of what?

Reuse. Reclaiming. Ingenious. Impactful

Find out…

Glass bottle Re-use

Decorative wall that lets in light, made out of glass bottles


Fun items made from recycled flip flops

Muhaka is an outpost of creativity, dare I say innovation and a possible node in the global network of people interested in learning, making and solving problems. Many of you who read this blog likely work in one such place, be it 1871 in Chicago, The Media Lab in Boston or even iHub in Nairobi. I am curious about the idea of making, with highly contextualized problem sets. Like those to be found in this small village, in urban spaces like Detroit, struggling towns in the midwest and Appalachia. I could not help but think, what if we networked these initiatives and learned from each other? perhaps at first virtually, but then mix fun safaris with actual world changing work and learning? Makers meeting makers, sharing, learning, inspiring… Transnationally, is it possible?

Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

Two opportunities I would like to pass along, the first is SEPS (Sustainable Energy Project Support) call for applications.

Now in its fifth year, WISIONS, a Wuppertal Institute initiative that is funded and supported by the Swiss-based foundation ProEvolution, has launched its annual call for applications for Sustainable Energy Project Support (SEPS).

WISIONS invites the submission of proposals from now until 18 August 2008. The total grant fund for financial support of SEPS projects in this, the 5th round (2008), is â?¬500,000 (across all projects). Partial funding of projects is possible.

We are looking for promising concepts and innovative projects with an integrated approach in the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our main goal is to identify environmentally sound projects that use modern existing technologies, demonstrate the advantages of sound energy solutions and integrate local people, enabling acceptance and further replication.

The deadline is August 18th, and you can download an app here.

Via AFriWea

SeedCamp for the entrepreneurs in Europe

From securing funding to developing the right network, young entrepreneurs in Europe face challenges in building globally competitive technology businesses. Through the provision of seed capital and a world class network of mentors, we want to provide a catalyst for Europe’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

The deadline for this is August 11th.

Via Park Paradigm

Simon Mwacharo Renewable Energy Entrepreneur – Video


Simon Mwacharo and William Kamkwamba – Renewable Energy Innovators.

Here is the video i did with Simon Mwacharo, the founder of Craftskills, a wind and solar company based in Kenya. This was recorded after his TED talk which you can find a great summary of at LHKB Ethanâ??s and my post on his talk can be found here.

**I am a total noob on this one, please pardon the frequent uh huhâ??s vigorous head nodding and leading questionsâ?¦I said it was a conversation right? Right. I promise that the next video I make will definitely be better; I am getting started on Pixel Corps to get me on the road to better digital media work.(Thanks Alex Lindsay). Ok, without further adoâ?¦

Please click here to download the video

Update1: Mr. Mwacharo commented on the post

We are situated in Kibera slums Nairobi and are looking for a chance to give Africa her pride. Funds will come in handy to place us on an industrial scenario where we can produce these turbines at a lower cost and benefit wananchi.

Check out his company here.

Meeting these two gentlemen pictured above at TED was indeed an honour. I am not the only one who was impressed…Nii Simmonds has a post on William Kamkwamba, “I see I make”.

Update 2: Via Hash, William Kamkwamba has a blog, do visit him here.