The woman shaking up start-ups in Kenya

Eunice Nyandat is shaking things up in the Kenyan start-up scene. The former cyber security analyst turned marketing specialist has a passion for developing the ecosystem at a grassroots level, something which caught the eye of StartUp Boost, the global tech start-up pre accelerator programme.

For the first time StartUp Boost is running one of their programmes in Kenya, preparing budding entrepreneurs for everything that lies ahead.

“The reason I think StartUp Boost thought we were primed to work together,” says Nyandat, “is because we’ve done a lot of work with women founders, and we were hoping to do our StartUp Boost For Female Founders.”

“We didn’t totally shut out the guys,” she says “but we noticed that some of our start-ups have co-founders that are women so that got us very tickled, we were very excited about that.”

The lack of women in pre-accelerator programmes was the reason Nyandat got involved with start-ups and developed her own start up weekends for women.

“Every competition I’d go to I wouldn’t find women pitching and I said I have to do something about that and so I got involved and started doing SWWE Kenya to really encourage women,” she says, “it’s still a struggle to find women pitching – we’ve got lots to do there.”

“We’ve got a framework for commercialising ideas, but we have to find ideas that have some legs on them – that can grow,” she continues. “Most of our start-ups are pretty young, they don’t have a background in entrepreneurship. Their parents would have worked for someone, so they have no exposure to entrepreneurship. So, we have to have a very heavy education foundation of entrepreneurship.”

The programmes are exposing them to self-development, product development, idea development and then educating them in the foundations of financial modelling, building a business to become a minimum viable company with a basic team.

What they were finding is that the women were going for safe ideas or were afraid to take their brilliant ideas and make something of it because they felt they were the one’s supporting the family and a big idea might take longer to build.

“A safer existing idea will be easier to build the and sustain a family, so they gravitate to those simple ideas,” says Nyandat. “We try to encourage them to go big, dream bigger and that’s what StartUp Boost can do.”

“Advising them about positioning their services or their products, and what to do about market penetration and how to position themselves,” she says. “And that’s a challenge for African start-ups in that we don’t have much data.”

“As far as the modelling of our ecosystem, we’ve tried to model after the ecosystems out in Silicon Valley,” she explains, “however, realising the limitations of trying to build a system like the American system, because we don’t have everything in play – the network of angel investors locally, we still have to build those. So, we still have to work on creating our own, as we call it, Silicon Savannah.”

“We are still young, we’re learning a lot and I think we’re going to have a few surprises, but we will keep working with Start-Up Boost and with the start-ups that are coming out of Africa, we’re going to see considerable growth out of this region,” she adds.

Fiona Alston is a freelance journalist based in Ireland covering tech, innovation, start-ups and interesting SMEs. Alston is also passionate about athletics, health and horses having competed in triathlons, equestrian events and horse racing, and her lived experience comes through when covering sports personalities or fitness features. Growing up on the family farm in Scotland, Alston graduated from the University of Sunderland with a BA (Hon.) in Broadcast Journalism, and is frequently published in The Irish Times, The Business Post, RTÉ and 4i Mag.