In the recent years, Kenya has seen an increase in innovative and scalable ideas which offer a much-needed solution to the challenges we face today. Much of these innovations stemming up from the innovative hubs located in the various parts of the country. These hubs have in return formed an ecosystem better known as the silicon savannah. One hub in Kisumu has grown to work with Siemens Stiftung, Pluralsight, Hivos, and Segal Family Foundation.
LakeHub (www.lakehub.co.ke) is a growing and enthusiastic community of techies, and entrepreneurs based in and around Kisumu, Kenya. Established in May, 2013 LakeHub was started by students and young professionals living in and around Kisumu that want to empower technologists in the region to take advantage of the limitless opportunities to improve business with technology.
As LakeHub continues to grow it continues to create co-working spaces, nurture tech-based businesses, build personal and professional networks, and support teams with creative solutions in locally relevant industries such as fishing, dairy, and tea Farming.
Meet The Co-Founders Dorcas and James
Named Forbes 30 under 30, Dorcas Owinoh is a Co-Founder of Lakehub and has worked as a full-time community manager. Dorcas who was born in Kibera, has a passion to improve technology access to girls from similar backgrounds. Co-founded with her team at university, LakeHub is a technology and social innovation hub in Kisumu that supports a community of creatives, programmers, hackers, designers, and entrepreneurs; a majority of whom are girls aged between 13 and 19 years old.
Today, Dorcas is the face of both online and offline events at Lakehub. She has collaborated with a distributed team on a self-directed work schedule. This in return has built and strengthened a technology ecosystem in Kisumu County. She is currently the director of programs and ensures the goals align with the hub’s objectives of decentralizing access to technology, growing entrepreneurship, and social innovation.
The major work Dorcas has had been doing behind the curtains is to develop new initiatives, oversee the collection and maintenance of records, assist with the development of Lakehub’s policies and programs to attract, retain and promote a diverse workforce for the organization.
James Odede– Co-Founder of Lakehub recounts joining a group of fellow students from school of computing and informatics at the school of mathematics and applied sciences, in Maseno University. It is from this that they formed an ICT Guild which brought together students interested in tech and entrepreneurship. They would meet every Sunday, share and learn together. They also hosted events like TEDx Maseno.
“My love for working with communities grew, I realized the more I taught others what I had learnt the better I got at it. I would get deeper into this when I hosted Akirachix at Maseno University for a three-day bootcamp on Android app dev, USSD and mobile web. Before I knew there was a growing number of student developers at the University.”
James went on and help organize the mLab mobile bootcamps at the University and later on iHub and Intel EA campus outreach events. This made life in campus more fun, the fellow students that they did it together with had fun too. He was later selected the Google Student Ambassador for the class of 2013/2014. This opened more opportunities to be part of a bigger tech community.
Incubating and Nurturing the Big Idea
A graduate of Maseno University with a Bsc. in computer science and technology, James is passionate about technology, education, and grassroots social entrepreneurship in Africa. He remembers how the thought of taking this boot camp experience beyond Maseno crossed his mind many times. However, he didn’t know how to get started away from campus.
Having heard the work he and his colleagues were doing at Maseno, a group of young professionals in Kisumu reached out to and asked if he was willing to be part of the team to help start western Kenya’s tech community.
“This is how the Lakehub was born. I had just completed my third year and was out on long holiday break, this was a chance to be part of something bigger than myself, I was already in love with the working with tech communities.”
I joined efforts with them (Evan Green-Lowe, Chandi Tome, Dorcas Owino, Deryl Aduda and Loreta) and started by creating a list serve where we could share about trends and general info about technology, we then started holding Saturday meetups at a coffee shop in Kisumu. For a long time, I would facilitate most of the meetups. The community grew each day.
How LakeHub Has Harnessed Faster Success
First, consistency in programs. Over the years, Lake Hub has been able to run various programs, bootcamps and hackathons with an intention of building a community of young social innovators, technologist, and entrepreneurs such as:
Technovation challenge a program that offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to become tech entrepreneurs and leaders. Nearly 250 girls have gone through the program in the last three years in western Kenya.
Secondly, engaging with young techies. Through the Next Economy program over 200 youths have been reached and the goal is to facilitate 300 youths launch a successful business or better still secure employment and hence assist them in creating sustainable income generating activities.
DaLABs program is a one-stop open space for creatives to share ideas, experience, stories and exhibit creative works. The project has received immense support from Hivo International East Africa. As an initiative of lake hub, the program was successfully implemented targeting creative community in western Kenya between July and December 2016.
Thirdly, ability to diversify and support new innovation. In 2014, Dorcas was at the forefront of SokoNect: a startup that links farmers and buyers. It’s a multi-platform tool that allows farmers to sell their products or services. As the product manager of SokoNect she recalls living at the intersection of business, technology, and user experience. “I am passionate about all three of them, and constantly engaging with key stakeholders in each domain. My role underscores the dynamic and varied nature of the position, spanning user experience, financial analysis, and cross-functional team management.”
Fourth, a fearless pursuit of passion. In 2020 they launched a new program; Fashion Makers, its overall vision is to combine technology and fashion. It is aided by the resource of open mind initiative. Fashion Makers is a cultural training workshop that cumulates the beneficiaries to design their own clothes/accessories as a way of promoting local textile and Fashion Industry.
The workshop would target 30 trainees, ages 20-30, fifteen men and women with previous experience in tailoring or selling of mitumba. This group of girls from LakeHub were the only team picked to represent Africa at the 2017 Technovation Challenge, sponsored by Google, Verizon and the United Nations in Silicon Valley, US. As of recent, LakeHub Academy has a very high rate of intake. This sense of passion is crucial.
Fifth, investing more to one core theme in business. Through its years of existence, LakeHub has done a lot around technology. In 2018, Dorcas Owinoh was among those that received the African of the Year Award at Abuja. The award reaffirmed her belief that the African girls are also key global players in the fourth industrial revolution, that is the digital revolution.
Lakehub is really given to support design hackathons, to empower the local talents in digital design and prototyping skills. LakeHub Academy has been making open calls for example in the Loop 8.0 to teach full stack web development, in just a few months – five to be precise. The course delivery is a blend of both Online and In-person Learning.
Sixth is the ability to mobilize money. No business grows without frequent, greater inflows of capital. In 2020 from October to November, LakeHub virtually trained 5 SMEs in Agribusiness virtually for one week, the SMEs were then given 5 months to run an online crowdfunding campaign. A total of 2,756,391 was raised in a period of 1 month.
Seventh is providing innovative, hands-on-the job leadership. James was honored by Facebook in 2019 and named among the 40 young Icons of Change in Africa for his contributions in accelerating growth and building an incredible future for the continent. James also serves as a council member in the Kisumu Economic and Social Council, a body constituted by the Governor of Kisumu County to support the economic and social development of the county.
Eighth, partnerships, partnerships and more partnerships. You may not have the capacity, but other people do. For example, Lakehub in partnership with Siemens Stiftung is piloting an incubation program structured to support entrepreneurs to develop scalable business models that address the needs of the communities in western Kenya. The businesses will adopt the circular and shared economy models to build solutions. This 6-month program is designed to support business startups to develop scalable business models.
The program aims to strengthen the capacity of business ventures in Western Kenya to learn the innovation process in social entrepreneurship. The program will work with business startups that are keen on working in either the circular or shared economies in the region. 15 entrepreneurs will be taken in the first cohort.
Dorcas believes in becoming an active participant in community interests. She is the brand evangelist, always out there to push the name for LakeHub. They are now even engaging with high schools and universities around the region. That sense of passion in business continues to spur the exponential growth of LakeHub.