Reflecting on the Success of the ISO BOOTCAMP - Kenya Edition!

In November 2023, Machakos County became the epicenter of innovation and collaboration as the ISO BOOTCAMP - Kenya Edition unfolded over four dynamic days. This groundbreaking event, held from the 16th to the 19th of November, brought together the brightest minds, visionaries, and problem solvers across Kenya to drive innovation and growth within the startup ecosystem. The project was supported by ESTDEV. 

Building on the much-loved Empowering Startup Community Series, previously held in Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Namibia, this edition took a bold step beyond ideation. Participants rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty, creating real solutions that Innovation Support Organizations (ISOs) can utilize. The other big difference was that we firmly focused on the ISOs that are a bit smaller and, therefore, more agile and motivated to continue working with the prototypes beyond the hackathon as well. Altogether the event brought together participants from 16 different ISOs- Nakuru Box (Nakuru), MAMA Social Ventures (Nairobi), Startinev(Nairobi), AK Advisory (Nairobi), HiiL Innovation Hub East Africa (Nairobi), Fie Labs Innovation Hub (Kisii), AfriFORTIFIED (Kisumu), Anza Village (Nairobi), FABLAB WINAM (Kisumu), WISE (Kisumu), Eldohub (Eldoret), Somo Africa, Swahilipot hub (Mombasa), House of Genius Kenya(Nairobi) and Circular Innovation Hub (Nairobi).

The Journey of Participation

Applications poured in from passionate innovators eager to secure their spot at the boot camp. Participants chose the ideas they wanted to work on or even submitted their own. The collaborative spirit was palpable as teams formed, comprising individuals from diverse backgrounds united by a common goal. The thematic focus areas were pre-selected by Garage48, and they were based on the outcomes of the previous Empowering Startup Community workshop, where we dug deeper into the problems and worked on initial solutions in an ideation format. 

The four key challenges that participants started tackling were the following: 

1. Financial model or additional revenue source for the ISOs.  How can we make the hubs financially more resilient?

2. Lack of collaboration. Co-designing a new format or program to enhance collaboration between the ISOs.

3. Shared mentorship platform among ISOs to tap into the brainpower of all the experts who work with different hubs.

4. Services/skills development for the ISOs

Participants were allowed to submit their challenges as well, but most of the solutions that the teams presented fell into all of the challenges mentioned above. The most burning challenge was the Financial Sustainability of the ISOs-  5 total teams tackled this problem from various angles. 

The Bootcamp Experience
The event took place in a beautiful lush-green Starling Bird Resort in Machakos County. We have always preferred to organize these longer working sessions and bootcamps in quiet and peaceful environments, away from the bustling city.  It allows participants to be present, connect more deeply with others, and form new friendships that last a lifetime. 

Participants getting to know each other during the first day of the bootcamp

The ten teams that finally formed and continued to develop their ideas into a working prototype were the following:  

Eco Digi Map -  by Swahilipot Hub.
The idea was to enhance collaboration between the hubs through the creation of an application that allows the hubs to borrow the skills they don't have from the other hubs. 
For instance, if a hub needs a digital content creator, they can go on a map that lists all the hubs that have the expertise required. They can trade the expert for other services or pay a nominal fee to outsource the expert.  The application helps to save time and money in finding the experts needed and creates an incentive for meaningful collaboration between hubs. 

Eco Digi Map  from Mombasa building a solution all the ISOs would reallly benefit from

The Shared mentorship platform was directly solving the problem of high-quality mentorship access for the startup teams across all the ISO's in Kenya. The platform was also trying to connect suitable mentors with the mentees. 
Team Shared Mentorship answering questions during the checkpoints

Anza Village - the idea was to build a one-stop platform that provides tools, resources, and professional services on seriously discounted cost or for free to host players within the ecosystem. Anza Village built the platform on the existing CRM software and looked ready towards the end of the four days.

Team Anza Village demonstrating the platform built during the bootcamp

Skill Tribe - a platform complete of courses that would help entrepreneurs and other key players in the startup ecosystem to take their skills to the next level. 

Team Skill Tribe - A super solid team.  Carol from Made by People and Brian from Mama Ventures

Data Spring- a database (platform) offering the investors and other interested ecosystem key players updated ecosystem data about the startups. Often, startups move from one acceleration program to another, and there needs to be more information or feedback on what happened with the startups during these programs. Data Spring would gather information about the startup's major milestones- about the programs they attended, the investment involved, and input and support received from the ISOs.

Team Data Spring presenting the hard work done during the course of four days

Wakili - A QuickOne. An inspiring team of young legal experts whose goal is to provide professional legal advice and help to the startups in the region.  The professional legal help in Kenya at the moment is beyond reach for many startups. By creating a platform where lots of the legal document templates are available for free and to get custom help, you can always reach out with your requests on the platform or upgrade your subscription. 

Wakili- A Quickone. Young legal experts trying to make legal help more accessible and affordable  for all startups
House of Genius was a team of dynamic women aiming to infuse more excitement, sharing, and collaboration into regular ISO events by introducing a roundtable format. Remarkably, they successfully organized a similar event during the Latitude59 Kenya Edition. This is a perfect example of persistence and bringing a bootcamp or hackathon prototype to life beyond the initial event.

Team House of Genius-  creating events where people connect and share ( Muriel Akiko,  Gloria Tepkeny, Yvette Mwendwa)

Profita-  platform to build ventures and have a revenue share model to make the ISOs financially more independent and sustainable. Proper diagnosis- plug in to experts help, get diagnosed and pay

Pro-Skills Team – a cutting-edge initiative delivering targeted training programs to equip youth with essential skills demanded by today’s job market. They bridge the gap between academic learning and real-world workplace needs, ensuring young professionals are job-ready and highly competitive.

Pro-skills team at the final pitching

Team still finishing up their prototoype as the night falls

The event concluded with teams pitching their projects to a panel of judges and an enthusiastic audience. The pitches showcased innovative ideas and the hard work and dedication to bringing these ideas to life. The fundamental difference between a simple ideation and boot camp like this was that the teams showed real prototoypes.

The winning team was Anza Village- the jury reached a unanimous decision there. When we asked the winning team about the first emotions and thoughts, Shirly Kandabu from Anza Village said:

"We just won €5,000 at the ISO bootcamp Kenya. Our idea was to build a one-stop platform that provides tools, resources and professional services to host players within the ecosystem. I believe we won because our product covered the entire ecosystem. It was really about a collaborative effort to support the whole ecosystem in Kenya, and our platform goes beyond just Kenya; it also moves across sub-Saharan Africa. It all obviously validates our efforts, it validates all the long hours that we’ve put in, and it also shows us that we would be able to grow continuously, that there’s support for young innovators who continuously build.”

Anza Village sincerely surprised and happy because their long hours and determination brought them the first place

Shaping the Future of Kenya's Startup Ecosystem

The ISO Bootcamp - Kenya Edition was a resounding success, fostering innovation and collaboration among participants. Over the intensive weekend, teams developed impactful solutions and forged meaningful connections, demonstrating the immense potential within Kenya's startup ecosystem. The event's success highlights the importance of continued support for entrepreneurial growth and the value of such collaborative efforts. Moving forward, the insights and momentum gained from this boot camp will play a crucial role in shaping the future of Kenya's vibrant startup community, ensuring sustainable growth and innovation. Thank you to everyone who participated, supported, and made this event possible. Together, we are shaping the future of Kenya's startup ecosystem. Stay tuned for more updates and future events that foster innovation and collaboration within the startup community.

Empowering Startup Community Bootcamp was brough to you by ESTDEV

About the author

mari hanikat

Mari is the CEO at Garage48. She is a very strong and mission-driven leader not afraid to go places no one has been before and help people. 🚀

You may also like

Riding the Wave of Innovation: Highlights from the #OceanHack4EU Hackathon
From June 3-7, 2024, the #OceanHack4EU hackathon made a splash in the tech and marine communi...
Read more →
Exploring the Estonian Startup Ecosystem and Sharing Experiences With Innovation Enablers From Africa
In partnership with GIZ Make-IT in Africa, Garage48 hosted 14 delegates from various African ...
Read more →
EU: Africa The Journey brought together 2000 participants from 110 countries to hack the biggest socio-economic issues
Last weekend, on the 9-12 December the second edition of the EU: Africa The Journey conferenc...
Read more →