A few weeks ago I found out an article talking about ten top places to visit while in Kigali and guess what, kLab is on the list. The person who did the ranking was not mistaken at all; kLab is such a unique place in Rwanda where tech innovators gather to develop tech solutions. On June 13, 2013 while wrapping up to head home after a busy day at work, I received a call from someone I really respect, someone behind lots of ICT changes undergoing in Rwanda – Patrick Nyirishema, the Head of RDB-IT. He first asks how are things going at kLab, I give some updates and then comes the big news. “Claude, someone very important will be visiting kLab tomorrow”, he says. With a lot of curiosity I ask, who Sir? “Steve Job’s wife/widow, she in town and would like to visit kLab” he clarifies. By the time the call ended, I was already excited about the news. I personally admire Steve Jobs work – he was a genius! Now Imagine spending some time with the wife – isn’t it amazing? The next day as usual I get at work early in the morning, as usual I first do a to-do list for the day and part of it, I add give a tour to Laurene Powell Jobs. Afterwards the news was disseminated among the wider kLab community.
At around 2:45pm, some bazungu enter kLab, when I go receive them I notice there is no woman among them. We do the introductions and finds out that it’s Steve Jobs brother in law and his son. A few minutes later, Laurene Jobs with the daughters enter kLab, wow amazing! They enter holding bourbon coffee take away cups enjoying the Rwandan coffee while visiting. I give them a detailed kLab tour, as we walk through kLab, Laurene just points at one of the kLab tenants and says; “you made a right choice, you are using a great machine”, we all turn to see what kind of laptop is that. I assume you can all guess – it was a macbook pro. What else should we expect from the brand founder’s wife! The tour goes on, kind of impressed by kLab interior design she asks: “but who designed this place, a local person?” A Rwandan interior designer, I respond. I know some of you are already curious; you are welcome to visit as she did. After the tour, she meets some of the people and goes on asking questions about the project being developed by kLab tenants which she tries to link with her areas of interests. “I develop applications using iOS, a platform invented by Apple (Steve Jobs'), meeting his wife/widow is amazing” , says Peter, a kLab tenant who develops iOS applications.
The tour ends as she heads to Carnegie Mellon University Rwanda located just 2 floors under kLab. It was great meeting the wife of late Steve jobs, one of the greatest innovators of all time.
On Thursday, 16th May 2013, kLab hosted the second edition of Ni-!mpamo, (reality) a monthly event that brings local successful ICT entrepreneurs to speak to ICT youngsters aspiring to become Techpreneurs. The 120 minute event hosted a young inspiring Rwandan Kaneza Innocent. Born in Kigali in 1983, Kaneza carries with him many years of professional experience in software development, web design, web development, Graphic design and mobile application solutions, project management and that in several sectors from government, telecoms, banking, insurance, private, NGOs, etc.
"I made a website with a friend and we approached many big companies but they all refused to buy it. A year later, many websites started coming up and due to our low persistence we didn't make it," he said in regret. Along this path of trials and tribulations, he learnt a lot and made the best of these lessons. After this inspiring speech, the floor was open to the audience who expressed a lot of their concerns and Kaneza as well as the crowd had solutions to air out as well.
Some of the major issues that came up were: market realities and opportunities, how to manage a startup, where to invest/spend, difficulty in managing the coding and business part of a project, and the biggest issue faced by young developers - sleeping projects. Ntwari Shaka, a kLab tenant says having to share failures and success stories makes it easy for future programmers to develop apps with ease. "This discuss was motivating and boosting. It was an eye opener for those of us that are going to face the market soon and I, personally loved how people's talked about the proper marketing strategies to use like first making a free trial project then charging later,"
Over the course of his experience, Kaneza has won local and international awards such as; the award winning project of Electricity payment project (TIGA Award 2007 organized by UNECA …). The DG Immigration and Emigration online visa services which won several local and international awards in service delivery. He is currently the senior consultant at Esicia LTD, a local software development and security firm servicing different institutions in the different sectors of activities stated above with activities in Rwanda and across Africa in general.
Thirty three students from Stanford Business School along with Nobel Prize winning economist Myron Scholes visited kLab. The trip led by four students is part of Stanford Global Study Trip and was focused on understanding the rapid growth rates taking place in Rwanda. The group of thirty three had a lunch session at kLab where after being introduced by Paula Ingabire, External Support Division Manager at RDB-IT they were given a tour by Claude Migisha, kLab General Manager who also answered questions raised about kLab activities and mission.
Among presenters were Carnegie Mellon's Director Dr. Bruce Krogh who introduced Carnegie Mellon University-Rwanda and talked of the university's multidisciplinary curriculum that strikes a fine balance between technology, business, and innovation, preparing the next generation of IT leaders in East Africa as well as its expectations out of the ten year contract it signed with the government of Rwanda. Tony Sebera, ag. CEO of Broadband Systems Corporation also gave a brief highlight of the success of broadband which is one of the key elements the government is investing in a lot as it strives to become the East Africa's ICT hub.
They expressed the team's joy at the opportunity to engage and share perspectives with notable tenants and mentors at kLab. Andrew James a business students from Stanford says his excitement to come to Rwanda and kLab in particular had no limit. "We've only been here for about 30 minutes but this is like exactly the kind of thing everyone is excited about, because you know coming from Silicon Valley and seeing this, it's really exciting. " he said. "From what we've heard it's quite remarkable how much Rwanda has done to get on pace with the first running world, some programs are being made here yet they haven't been made in the USA which is really worthy of attention," he added.
Lindsay Wishart who was also part of the team shares how revealing her first visit to Rwanda is. "It's my first visit to Rwanda and I didn't know how it would be, though it's really been amazing, we visited many places but what's most exciting is the way Rwanda's economy is growing particularly in relation to ICT, we have heard of the incredible projects being accomplished by The Government of Rwanda and young Techpreneurs here at kLab." Lindsay said. She also talked of the impressive appearance that kLab has, "It actually looks like the Google office setup, it's really amazing to find out that the same thing happening in The USA can happen here as well," she concluded.
Among the guests was Myron Scholes, Professor of Finance, Emeritus, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences, and co-originator of the Black-Scholes options pricing model. Scholes was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1997 for his new method of determining the value of derivatives. The great welcome was concluded with a short interaction between Stanford students and kLab tenants, some of the students actually talked of having thoughts of moving to Rwanda in the future.