"The momentum of Nairobi’s startup ecosystem is growing, with an increasing number of hubs and talented entrepreneurs."
One of Africa’s most mature startup ecosystems, Nairobi is home to more than 200 startups, as well as the regional offices of tech giants Google, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft. In 2020, a StartUp Bill was introduced with the goal of encouraging entrepreneurial growth and to create a more favorable environment for innovation.
In 2021, Silicon Valley-based VC firm Flourish Ventures opened a new office in Nairobi to invest in Fintech startups across Africa. In March 2022, Antler East Africa, the Nairobi office of VC firm Antler, closed a $13.5 million fund to invest in early-stage startups in the region. Adanian Labs’ 2022 Cohort Venture Building Program will select five innovative startups in sub-sectors including Blockchain and AI and offer them support, mentorship, access to partnerships, and funding. Future of Work 2022 is an accelerator program for young African entrepreneurs featuring self-guided training, extensive virtual support, and mentorship. In April 2022, Google announced Nairobi would be the site of its first African product development center, to serve the 800 million Africans who are projected to be connected to the internet by the end of the decade.
iHub was founded in 2010 to accelerate the region’s tech industry and remains a central node in the Nairobi ecosystem. Kijiji is a coworking space that supports socially minded businesses. Kayana supports female entrepreneurs, and UTU House / Nairobi Game Development Centre supports the Gaming sub-sector. Wasoko, which connects small shops to the digital economy, has raised $143.6 million in funding over 10 rounds, including a March 2022 $125 million Series B round.
Ecosystem by the Numbers
In June 2021, Ada Labs Africa and AI Center of Excellence (AICE) announced an initiative with NVIDIA to contribute to the digitization of the African continent through various AI projects. AICE has started training the first cohort of 40 AI engineers as part of the initiative and has launched a CEO roundtable series to demystify AI for African executives. The companies are aiming to train over 4,000 AI engineers in five cities across Africa over the next three years. Nairobi-based commodity data and analysis service Gro Intelligence has raised $85 million in venture funding to support its global expansion.
Reasons to Move Your Startup to Nairobi
Nairobi ranked #1 in Africa and #12 globally in the InterNation’s Expat City Ranking 2021. Social life and ease of finding affordable housing are among the factors considered, with Nairobi ranking fourth in Getting Settled and sixth in Finance and Housing. More than 80% of expats surveyed said they have no trouble finding housing, and there is overall satisfaction in regards to their financial situation, disposable income, and Nairobi’s affordability.
In 2021, the Federal Development Ministry (BMZ) launched the DeveloPPP Ventures to empower Kenyan startups by providing grants of up to €100,000 ($106,000). With the support of impact investment specialist Seedstars and business incubator NaiLab, the program is aimed at young entrepreneurs contributing to sustainable development and improving living conditions for locals. In addition, startups receive tailored support from experts.
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