The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Klab Urged to Learn From Silicon Valley

Rwandan ICT start-ups based at kLab innovation centre in Kigali have been urged by venture capitalists from the United States to learn from successes and challenges at the Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is home of the world's largest technology corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook and HP as well as hundreds of small innovative start-ups.

A venture capital is financial capital provided to early-stage, high potential and high-risk startup companies in return for equity ownership in the company.

Mark Straub, a venture assistant at Khosla Impact, a venture capital fund based in Menlo Park, California, US, recently met and held an interactive discussion with ICT entrepreneurs at kLab.

"The Rwandan ICT entrepreneurs are definitely focused on solving real problems and they face many of the challenges as young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, such as finding co-founders, identifying customers, and financing their early stage ideas," Straub said. "But there are some things these start-ups can learn from those in the Silicon Valley."

Learn from past

Straub urged Rwandan young ICT entrepreneurs to avoid repeating the mistakes of the previous generations of US entrepreneurs.

"Since we know that 90 per cent of start-ups fail to succeed globally, this percentage shouldn't be higher in Rwanda. There are lots of books describing the common mistakes to avoid when starting up a business," he explained.

According to Straub, venture capitalists plan to invest in Rwanda, especially in a highly profitable technology-based business.

At the meeting at kLab, some entrepreneurs had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas.

Khosla Impact has invested in Kopo Kopo, a Kenyan-based company that enables small and medium businesses to accept mobile payments.

The venture capitalists were in Kigali on the invitation of the Private Sector Federation, ICT Chamber, to explore opportunities for Rwanda's young ICT innovators especially at kLab.

"Many times young entrepreneurs decry lack of access to capital as the biggest challenge to their growth. But it's evident from these meetings that it's not necessarily finance, but rather understanding the market dynamics one is playing in," said Alex Ntale, the director of ICT chamber at PSF.

kLab, an open technology hub for IT entrepreneurs located at Telecom House in Kacyiru, provides a platform for developers, IT enthusiasts and interested parties of a growing ICT community to collaborate and innovate.

The innovation centre recently unveiled its flagship pioneering ICT projects such as crowd funding (eNkunga), Kigalicc app, 'sarura', and unified school system.

"The more we raise exposure of kLab tenants, the more they learn and become knowledgeable to position themselves and compete globally," said Claude Migisha, the general manager of kLab.

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