However, within 2 years there was demand, and it’s because of the initial believers of the coworking concept that Nairobi Garage has grown to be what it is today.
Our recent feature in the 21 Places of the Future gave us a chance to pause & reflect on the last few years since we launched coworking in Kenya. We’re looking back at the companies & individuals that have graced our spaces, and how we’ve grown to be a part of the growing fabric that is Africa’s innovative ecosystem.
Uber launched their service in Kenya out of Nairobi Garage, and we’re so proud to see them grow! They were one of the very first companies working out of the original 88mph space. In its first 15 months, Uber had clocked over a million rides in Kenya while operating from two cities.
At the time, Uber proved that Kenyans were fast adapters, responding well to disruptive innovations that improve the quality of their lives. They launched innovative products such as UberBODA, #UberPITCH, and forged partnerships such as the Branch < > Uber.
“Much of the start-up & tech industry has passed through our doors at one stage or another. So we have some huge companies that have been birthed out of the Garage.” Hannah Clifford, Director Nairobi Garage in an interview with Desmond Dickerson, Senior Manager – Center for the Future of Work.
Speaking of Branch, the company launched in March 2015 and joined Nairobi Garage in June of the same year. We’ve watched them grow from issuing 4,500 loans & having 2000 customers to issuing over 21 million loans worth over USD$ 600 million to over four million customers!
Branch continues to be a company on a mission to deliver world-class financial services to the mobile generation. It applies machine learning, creating an algorithmic approach to determine credit worthiness via customers’ smartphones.
Twiga launched in 2014 to address inefficiencies in Africa’s large, but highly fragmented informal fruit and vegetable markets. It is a mobile-based, cashless, business-to-business (B2B) supply platform that links farmers with food vendors.
It has grown to an online Kenyan marketplace, which helps urban shopkeepers source produce from small-scale Kenyan farmers. Twiga has created employment for over 400 people and has grown to over 4,000 suppliers.
In 2020, Twiga was ranked the 35th most innovative company globally by Fast Company alongside another 50 Global Companies. At the onset of COVID-19, Twiga also partnered with Jumia to enable shoppers on the platform to buy fresh produce as well as processed foods distributed by the farm produce aggregator.
In October 2020, Twiga Foods secured Sh3.2 billion ($30 million) from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to cover financial gaps faced by small and medium enterprises. We ranked Twiga as one of the 12 Companies that Prospered in 2020 despite all odds.
Launched in 2013, BitPesa, is a digital payment and foreign exchange platform that uses the Bitcoin blockchain to boost the speed of business payments, while at the same time lowering the costs of transfers.
As of 2019, BitPesa users could send money to and from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, and Senegal, while teaming up with over 60 banks around the African continent.
In early 2019, SWVL joined us at our Kilimani location. The innovative Egypt-based tech startup enables riders heading in the same direction to share fixed-route bus trips for a flat fare with no surge pricing.
In 2018 alone, it was estimated that Swvl had raised over $38 million through two different funding rounds. Towards the end of 2018, SWVL announced that they had plans to expand across 10 cities in 2019 including the Philippine capital of Manila, Nairobi, Dakar, and Jakarta.
However, during the pandemic the Dip Patel, General Manager SWVL Kenya faced the tough decision of scaling down operations to only run what was essential. He shared that and other challenges such as working from home in a #ZoomIn interview last year.
Another innovative company set to grow across Africa is Glovo. They recently launched operations in its 4th African City – Kampala, Uganda. It is a multi-category on-demand platform that allows users to order anything with a simple tap on their smartphone. Customers use the platform to request a rider to send or collect packages, and they can track their rider at all times.
In late 2019, Glovo announced €150million ($167 million) in Series E funding. Following the close of the investment round the company secured its status as a unicorn, making it the second privately held business in Spain to surpass a $1billion valuation.
One of the things that became crucial to us during the pandemic was how to keep ourselves & our loved ones entertained without leaving the house. Enter Akili Network, innovators of Akili Kids! who launched & provided edutainment to Kenya’s families – in the middle of a pandemic.
With the widespread school closures and stay-at-home and social distancing emphasis from the Government and other health entities, there has never been a greater need for quality children’s programming. That is exactly what Akili Kids provides, as the 24/7 kids learning channel that has since moved to be loved by many including parents and caregivers as the content is designed for enjoyable co-viewing for the entire family.
By the end of 2020, they had 5.4 million children and 4.3 million adults watching every week (Geopoll) and they continue to grow. They were our first members at Spring Valley and continue to be a cornerstone of the space.
Another provider of entertainment is Mdundo, a platform providing Africa with easy and affordable access to music with a mission to be the primary pan-African music platform. They were offered a ‘perfect storm’ by the pandemic and by September 2020 they had recorded a 27% growth in monthly active users to reach 6.4m users.
The company listed its shares on the Nasdaq First North Growth Market Denmark following an oversubscribed pre-sale period that raised DKK40 million (US$6.4 million), in a bid to solidify its leading position in the pan-African music market.
Mr Green Africa, an alumnus of Nairobi Garage, is a recycler and recycled plastics supplier. It incentivizes marginalized waste pickers and the base of the pyramid stakeholders by offering premium prices and added benefits.
The company’s mission is to create a blueprint for emerging markets to provide a circular solution to the plastic challenge by providing a continuous supply of valuable recyclables which in turn create pathways out of poverty for them, while simultaneously creating a positive environmental impact.
In 2018, in a partnership with Consumer goods manufacturer Unilever East Africa, KSh30 million was injected into the company, in a pact that will see the plant’s collection centers rise from the current 25 to 100 across the country in two years.
Last but not least, the Moringa School initiative was started in April 2014 by co-founders Audrey Cheng and Frank Tamre. They realized they could lower the current unemployment rate of college graduates by teaching skills in high demand. The school equips students with coding skills to enable them to be innovators and change agents in society.
The innovative company has grown in leaps and bounds since joining the Nairobi Garage in January 2016. It started with 5 students in its 1st cohort selected from just over 100 hundred applicants to over 3,000 enrolled students with an 85%+ employment rate into leading companies throughout Africa, and the world.
In summary, with African tech startups securing record-breaking funding worth US$701.5 million in 2020 the potential for companies & individuals on the continent is sky-high. Nothing makes us prouder than when the innovative companies in our spaces start, grow and conquer.
We’re now watching companies like Nobilis Limited who joined us just this year and are looking to use technology to thrive in the digital age. We’re celebrating with Kidato who joined Silicon-based Y Combinator earlier this month.
Finplus Group gave us reason to smile when they surpassed the USD$500m in Combined Transaction Value earlier this year. Also, we couldn’t be prouder of our in-house media agency Addlestone PR, which launched Ogora.news – a virtual agency that will operate across African countries.
We’re glad to still be able to have so many great people and companies call us home. We believe that a key factor is the company you keep – which is why if you’re looking for growth, join a space that puts networking and business connections at the heart of it all.
Get in touch if you’re keen to hear the various ways you can connect to our community and help you grow.