Why Tech Safari moved to Kenya 🇰🇪
And how to build a startup country 🇪🇪
Welcome to Tech Safari!
Your tour guide on African Tech 🧭
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While writing about different trends and companies, we don’t always get the chance to explain why we’re so bullish on tech in Africa.
I feel like this edition captures that.
It also captures our inspiration on how to build up a tech ecosystem: an unlikely tech haven in Northern Europe.
It’s a bit longer than usual, so strap in.
And if you’re in Nairobi in December, read until the end to learn about our next event.
The World is Becoming More Africa.
And last week, the New York Times published an article about it.
Through pictures, quotes, and stats, they captured Africa’s major shake-ups that will influence the world.
It caught the stats you've probably seen on LinkedIn or in an African startup’s pitch deck:
By 2050, one-fourth of the world's population will be in Africa, including one-third of the world’s young population (15-24 years).
Sub-Saharan Africa holds more mobile users than the US and UK combined (670 million).
Africa leads with the world's highest percentages of working-age (and female) entrepreneurs in the world.
Now, you might think we're pulling out a familiar story.
One that sounds like ‘Africa Rising’ - the narrative from 2010 that promised Sub-Saharan Africa’s rapid economic growth and booming middle class.
A decade later, only 5% of Africans live on more than $10 a day.
While an improvement to a decade ago, it’s not the heights we all hoped for.
We can blame it on many things: not-so-great leadership, a neglected manufacturing economy, and global factors out of Africa’s control.
But today, Africa is still the least industrialized, least banked, least connected, and least electrified continent on the block.
Africa can only rise if we tackle these challenges.
And one sector we see on track to making this happen is Tech.
We’re bullish on Africa’s tech economy - and on founders who build solutions to Africa’s hardest problems and scale them through tech.
We’re so bullish that we think African can become the tech frontier of the future.
For a few reasons:
Africa’s booming population will provide bigger consumer markets and more talent.
The increasing number of mobile users will add fuel to Africa’s mobile-first tech economy.
And our entrepreneurial nature will gift us more founders and creators, building and scaling their solutions on tech.
And at the center of this shift are ecosystems: countries where tech economies are nurtured and developed.
These tech ecosystems are starting to bubble up and lead Africa’s tech adoption.
And there’s one that really catches our eye.
Kenya: Africa’s Silicon Savannah.
Kenya is Tech Safari’s bet on the future of Africa’s startup ecosystem (and who knows - maybe the world’s, too).
We set up our HQ here this year and never looked back.
There are a few broad reasons on why Kenya:
🌇 It’s the economic hub of East Africa: And a gateway to Africa’s fastest-growing region of over 500 million people.
🛫 It’s accessible. Nairobi is one of the most liveable and connected cities in the world.
🧲 It’s a magnet for talent. Talent from across the world are moving here to work on interesting problems and build new companies.
✌🏾 The people are incredible. Kenyans are some of the most welcoming and friendly people I’ve met (and now) worked with.
And when we hone in on the country’s startup ecosystem, Kenya has all the ingredients to be at the center of Tech in Africa.
98% of Kenya’s population have a mobile phone (the global average is 67%).
59% of the population has internet access.
Big Tech and finance are doubling down: with Microsoft, Google, Visa, and AWS all setting up or launching new hubs here in the last year.
It’s the home of mobile money (M-Pesa), which was introduced in 2007. Now, it’s used by 96% of Kenyan households.
But we’re still early in Kenya’s tech journey.
We don’t boast any unicorns (yet).
Founders still struggle to raise funds.
Knowledge between founders isn’t shared as well as it could be.
And there are still only a few spaces where the tech community can come together.
So what does the best look like? We’re flying up north - to a country that is tiny in size but massive in tech.
Let’s see what a startup country looks like - and what we can take from their blueprint.
The world’s unlikely Unicorn factory.
Which country holds the most unicorns (billion-dollar tech companies) per capita?
It’s not the US. And it’s not Singapore or Israel.
It’s Estonia 🇪🇪.
Estonia is a unicorn factory. It has a population of 1.3 million people but has 10 unicorns to its name.
From a small population birthing so many large tech companies, a few unique things have played out in Estonia:
1126 startups currently operate in Estonia. That’s about 1 startup for every 1000 people.
In 2022, startups generated 2.1B EUR in turnover in Estonia. This revenue contributed around 2-3% of Estonia’s GDP.
Estonian startups employed 9954 people locally at the end of 2022. This is almost two percent of Estonia's working population.
And Estonia plans to scale this even further. By 2030, they are expecting:
This will transform the country’s main exports into knowledge, technology, and science.
Estonia is a true tech powerhouse, and its tech economy is fueling the country.
But how did they do it?
Let’s look at Estonia’s Startup Country Playbook.
How to build a startup country
🌐 Flywheels, Flywheels.
Skype’s success spawned founders like Taavet Hinrikus (Skype’s first employee), who went on to build Transferwise. This domino effect inspired the government to kickstart a digital society.
🇪🇪 Moving Digital.
Estonia’s government is all about removing friction by taking their services online. And now, you can e-do almost everything in Estonia:
Dive into e-health for electronic health records and consultations
Dodge voting queues with i-voting - they've been at it since 2005, the first country to put voting online
And if you're thinking about e-tying the knot, e-marriage is in. And in case you make the wrong decision, they're launching e-divorce soon…
🌍 Looking Outwards.
Estonia’s digital hustle is their way of inviting worldwide talent and companies to the country:
You can be an Estonian e-resident, and access Estonia’s digital services, like banking, payments, and their (very competitive) tax system.
Setting up a company from outside of Estonia takes a matter of days.
And that strategy is clearly working. Today, thirty-two percent of Estonian startup founders hail from other countries.
⚡ Ecosystem Players.
Estonia’s ecosystem got a boost from funding, accelerators, and conferences.
One community right in the middle of Estonia’s startup growth is Latitude59.
Every ecosystem needs a space to connect, share ideas, and celebrate.
That's where Latitude59 came in for Estonia.
Since 2012, they've brought global audiences to check out and cheer on Estonia’s startup scene.
And now, they've grown that to a community of 3,000+ global founders, investors, techies, and ecosystem players.
Back in 2015, you could catch a company like Taxify pitching to a room of angel investors (a unicorn today known as Bolt).
You could also catch the President of Estonia on the same stage as Mr Eazi, Nigerian Afrobeat legend and investor too.
Latitude59 helped Estonia thrive by building global bridges between startup communities.
And next month they’re bringing the ecosystem together in Nairobi, Kenya: Africa’s Silicon Savannah - and a country with many parallels to Estonia.
Estonia x Kenya?
If we’re comparing weather, these countries are nothing alike.
But if we look at startup ecosystems, we start to see a lot of similarities.
🎡 Flywheels, Flywheels: Kenya’s growth stage companies are starting to spawn hundreds of future founders and operators. The Skype Mafia is cool - but have you heard of the Cellulant Mafia?
🌍 Looking Outwards: Kenya is opening doors for global talent and tech companies, as diaspora move to Kenya and expats are charmed by the country. Kenya’s upcoming Startup Act will put this into practice.
At Tech Safari, we've got our money on Kenya.
And we're taking a leaf out of Estonia's startup playbook.
Which is why on December 6th, Latitude59 is coming to Kenya - hosted by Tech Safari.
We're thrilled to bring Kenya's startup scene under one roof, where we can mingle and brainstorm ideas on how to make our ecosystem even stronger.
With a baller lineup of speakers like..
And many more to be announced.
The best part is that the Estonia-Kenya bridge goes two ways.
Next year, Tech Safari will be at the 2024 Estonia Edition - talking about Africa’s Tech Ecosystem.
And we’re also bringing the winner of Latitude59’s Kenyan pitch competition with us to pitch in front of 3000 global founders, investors, and ecosystem players.
If you’re an early-stage startup apply for the pitch competition (and you might end up in Estonia with me next year 🙌🏾 🇪🇪)
Kenya is Latitude59 and Tech Safari’s bet on the world’s next startup powerhouse in the most exciting continent in the world.
And we want to see our community turn up.
Grab a ticket here, and get 40% off this week as a Tech Safari community member with the code: L59xTECHSAFARI40
Join us in Nairobi on December 6th and celebrate our ecosystem with us.
And what do you think of Kenya and Estonia’s tech ecosystem parallels? Let me know here.
And that's a wrap for this week!
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