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Siliconai Valley is a portmanteau of the words "Nairobi" and "Silicon Valley", the technology hub on the west coast of the United States Of America. Siliconai Valley is Africa's Silicon Valley that is located in Nairobi, Kenya. With Nairobi as the leading city in technology in Africa, Siliconai Valley serves as the hub or centre for technological and scientific innovations on the continent.
Nairobi is a vibrant city that is located to the eastern side of Africa, which is the east coast bordering the Indian Ocean. This is a mirroring of Silicon Valley in California that is located on the west coast bordering the Pacific Ocean.
Some of the biggest international technology companies with offices in Siliconai Valley are Google, Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Samsung, Sony, Cisco Systems, Huawei, Intel Corporation, Kaspersky Lab, LG, Qualcomm, Nokia and Oracle.
Other international technology companies in Siliconai Valley are Andela, Jumia, Airtel amongst many more. The biggest local tech companies include the likes of Safaricom and Telkom Kenya. Other local technology companies in the valley are Craft Silicon, Symphony Technologies Limited, Mine Softwares and Interactive Technology Limited.
Software development has been picking up pace in Siliconai Valley, with the likes of Craft Silicon, Andela, Symphony Technologies Limited, Mine Softwares and Interactive Technology Limited leading the way.
The internet connection in Siliconai Valley has grown in leaps and bound from the early days of Wananchi Online with Ayisi Makatiani and friends to the current fibre optics services offered by Safaricom, Zuku and others. Wireless data transfer is also huge with telecommunication giants Safaricom and Airtel taking the lions share.
Social networking is open to everyone in Siliconai Valley and not restricted or totally banned as with some countries. We have the presence of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Graduates.com, MySpace and others. The last two social networks mentioned here need a makeover or they are done and dusted!
Some of the local institutions in Silicanai Valley have been highly engaged in information and communication technology. At the university and collegiate levels we have the likes of University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Strathmore University.
At high school levels, we have the top schools like the Alliance High Schools (Boys and girls), Starehe Schools (Boys and girls), Maseno School, Mangu High School, Kenya High School, Strathmore School, Nairobi School, Precious Blood, Friends School Kamusinga producing some of the best talents in technology. Notice the omission of the word "High" for some of these schools, like Maseno School, Nairobi School. Must be a fancy, trendy thing, go figure!
These students move on to work for the aforementioned companies in Siliconai Valley after taking courses in the colleges mentioned. Some of the brightest students from these institutions even go for technology courses abroad, to colleges like Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkely and the Ivy League colleges of the United States of America. A good example of brilliant students from Siliconai Valley who have excelled in technology include Ayisi Makatiani, Timothy Thairu and Samuel Mberere.
All these three students studied at Alliance High School at different times. Samuel Mberere proceeded to Harvard University after completing his studies at Alliance. Timothy Thairu was a deputy school captain at Alliance High School before proceeding to Harvard University for further studies. Ayisi Makatiani was a school captain while a student at Alliance High School before proceeding to Harvard University. Timothy and Samuel proceeded to work for Microsoft Corporation after graduating from Harvard with honors and are currently still there.
Ayisi set a record for the 400m track competitions while a student at Harvard and graduated with honors. After he graduated from Harvard he came back to Siliconai Valley and started the company Wananchi Online together with a group of friends. Notice the resemblance in nomenclature between Wananchi Online and America Online. Ayisi and friends started this company, which is an internet service provider back in the nineties when America Online was at its peak. We believe they were influenced by America Online to some extent.
They later on sold the company and he is currently a venture capitalist with Fanisi Capital. I know what you are thinking, "Why would he go through all the ups and downs of starting a company, sell it, only to become employed again?"
Yes that would not be smart, except for the fact that he is not an employee of Fanisi Capital in the conventional sense but he owns Fanisi Capital! So technology can pay off and it boils down to timing and execution.
If you are a technology student in the Siliconai Valley area, at the high school level or university, this is an encouraging story of the availability of opportunities in the Valley. The valley also has success stories of people who did not necessarily follow the stellar path but ended up at the top in the technology space. Everyday is a new opportunity for everyone to do things differently and to make their dreams come true!
Back to our story, Ayisi could have remained abroad and gotten employed by the many companies in Silicon Valley but he came back to Siliconai Valley and started something big. So now he is a Siliconai Valley hero with a successful technology company startup that he sold and currently he is also a venture capitalist with the potential of investing in other viable Siliconai Valley Startups! He has proven that if it can be done in Silicon Valley then it can also be done in Siliconai Valley!
Then there is the mobile money transfer myth that goes on in the valley. That it was some individuals idea and that he was not smart enough to patent the thing or start his own firm and partner with one of the telecommunication companies when they were nonetheless wiser. Just imagine what a boatload of money this guy would be having right about now!
But here is the good news and the lesson to learn from this experience, that there is a novel technology based idea out there right now that the big guys know nothing about and that is about to make some Siliconai geek a boatload of money! Just don't do what the mobile money transfer dude did. That idea was a major disruption with effects felt in the valley and all over the world with the diaspora remittances. The effects are still being felt years later today with companies recording abnormal profits year in year out.
The valley also has incubation centres for technology start-ups with the likes of ihub and Andela leading the way and hopefully guys here will come up with technology solutons that will create jobs like the mobile money transfer idea. It's out there guys, lets get to thinking just a little harder.
Well, Nairobi in as of itself is not in a valley, as some of you may be screaming about already, but it does sit on the flanks of one of the biggest valleys in the world, the Rift Valley! So, rightfully so, we are on top of the valley! Welcome to Siliconai Valley and if you want to see the valley itself, take a tour car from Nairobi and slowly descend into the Rift valley. It's lovely there and many international tourists have been to the valley and they can confirm this.
This part of the Bikesh website will be updated regularly with articles about technology in Africa from the centre of it all, the Valley, Siliconai Valley in Nairobi and how this relates to the rest of the world. Stay tuned!