The Entrepreneur and the Enterprise

By Jimmy Gitonga
  Published 04 Oct 2013
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The Entrepreneur and the Enterprise

“Hello Jimmy,

Trust you're doing well.

I'm looking for 3 Web developers good in PHP, Database, HTML5, JavaScript and Cron Jobs to work with me on a project.

I have so many things I'm currently doing  finishing up on a few projects, I'm kinda overwhelmed and I need a team for this web project.”

Its the end of 2012. Fred Karisa had just finished his stint as a Green Member at the iHub. Yet another job from a corporate client had landed on his in-tray. Fred is one of the iHub members who are seldomly seen. He is an entrepreneur, looking to engage medium and large enterprises offering them mobile solutions. Like any good developer, he had an “itch”.

Earlier, Fred was to travel to Germany for an ICT meeting. However there was a new policy where one needed insurance cover to get a Visa. So Fred surfed the Net and found that the only insurance companies that had their policies online were UAP and Jubilee. But only on the UAP website could one calculate pricing. Fred filled in the online form with his details, and the next morning, he got a call, was asked to send a scan of his passport and pay through Mpesa. He collected his policy in the afternoon and off he went.

On his return, Fred went to the Kenyan insurance regulatory authority and the Association of Kenya Insurers. At AKI, he was told, “If there is a [mad enough] person that you can work with on this idea you have proposed, it is James Wambugu of UAP Insurance.” Fred was given the contacts, and sent Wambugu an email. An hour later Wambugu called Fred, arranged a meeting as the two were excited by what was on the table.

UAP had already pioneered insurance on the mobile through Salamasure. But what Fred had in mind was a mobile application where all the steps and processing were in one place. That is how AfyaImara Android app was born.

The Entrepreneurs

There is an interesting trend I have noticed in the iHub community. There are a number of members who have come in with a good dose of the attitude, ”kwani (And why not)?” A number are graduates who actually want to go further in education. But what Masters degree program should one do, to move into tech from a non-ICT undergraduate degree?

I will highlight 2 guys who were part of “Wave 4” of the mLab Entrepreneurship Training graduated and joined the iHub as Green Members. They are part of a team of four who make up MobiDev.


Leonard Korir and Joseph Murgor are alumni of the Maseno university. Leonard has a degree in actuarial science and is interested in building Kenyan “Life Table”, kwani? This is the basis that insurance policies are built on. Kenya uses Life Tables from the UK, with the 1960s data. The question is, how do you collect data that will supply the Life Table? Leonard joined the mLab training for his “Masters”.

Joseph was an ICT graduate who wanted to become a “mobile” entrepreneur. Since there is no course out there on mobile development as a post grad program, Joseph joined the mLab.

After Fred’s email, I introduced him to Leonard and Joseph. They worked on the AfyaImara project. The project had 3 components, backend server systems, mobile/web interface and an Android app as a mobile interface.

This got me thinking and asking. What direction will large enterprises, such as UAP, move in to facilitate enterprise mobility and later the mobile enterprise for their staff and agents? How and with what will the customer engage the enterprise? Are large “industrial age” companies and governments involved in this conversation?

The Enterprise

There are two concepts that are being used a lot, Enterprise Mobility and the Mobile Enterprise.

The first was what large enterprises had to deal with as their staff increasingly came to work with laptops, tablets and mobile phones. These devices were used in the course of work and the IT department had to figure out how they would allow access to the network while keeping the enterprise secure. There are 2 main strategies being implemented. On mobile phone and tablets, Android and iOS are considered “consumer” operating systems. For IT managers, both have provided mobile device management (MDM).

On Android, it the likes of Samsung KNOX, that is on a Samsung S4, creates 2 devices in 1, a “Work” device that is accessed through the KNOX application. KNOX, according to Samsung, sorts out the “Open Source” perception of Android as unsafe. The “Play” device is the regular Android experience on the device.

Intel has taken a slightly different approach by integrating, like they can, security into the hardware. Beyond the OS level anti-malware strategy, Intel and McAfee have developed DeepSAFE, which is hardware assisted security. Intel runs Android on their “reference” mobile devices and allows ODMs such as Motorola to create devices that are enterprise ready. Motorola is Google’s hardware key into the enterprise as Nexus is their tool into the consumer space.

iOS 7 is Apple’s serious reply to IT manager demands. Considering iOS devices have forced their way into the enterprise. The Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) trend, where the employees use their personal device at and for work, has made Apple provide MDM tools in the latest iOS.

This creates an opportunity for desktop software developers to port their applications to Android and iOS. What has happened is that this has placed larger demands on mobile developers, and that is not a bad thing.

The Mobile Enterprise is the future of large companies especially those that have global reach. This is when the enterprise moves all its operations onto the Cloud (private in most cases) and has all its employees work at all levels, anywhere on planet, online. But the holy grail that the CTO in charge of the enterprise and the developer making the software are looking for, is one Operating System. For the CTO, he has, on his network and on the devices, one Operating System. For the developer, from one source code, the application can run on any device, with the same features.

Right now, we have a number of candidates seeking this Holy Grail. Google, Microsoft and Ubuntu. Google and Microsoft, however own their entire stack: Device, Applications and the Cloud. But only Microsoft and Ubuntu are going to provide one Operating System paradigm.

Microsoft needs to align Visual Studio, their programming environment, to create one code base for Windows Server, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. With the Surface Pro and the Lumia, MIcrosoft is ready.

Ubuntu is currently the best known, mostly widely used Linux OS. Once Ubuntu Touch, the OS for mobile devices, is released, any application built for desktop, will work on the mobile with slight UI and UX changes.

As for tools that address this, there is Embarcadero, promising “vertical and horizontal” development tools.

For ICT entrepreneurs, the future is packed with “Vertical Environments Application Development” (VEAD - you heard it here first!). But questions do remain.

Will Microsoft be ready in April 2014, to provide one OS and tools for VEAD?

Ubuntu Touch works currently on Google Nexus phones. How will Ubuntu use the one OS to enter further into the enterprise market and convince device manufacturers to use Ubuntu Touch for mobile devices?

Will Apple finally combine Mac OS X and iOS to create one OS and do to enterprise what they have done to consumer in developed markets especially in emerging markets?

The Enterprising Entrepreneur

There are a number of guys from my past, who are of an older demographic than the usual at the iHub.

Kuria Ndungu, quit Unilever after running their systems for several years. He has now come up with an “app”, m-Ledger, that has been amazingly helpful in tracking my Mpesa accounts. Most Mpesa add-on solutions are SME/corporate type. What excites me is that this is a full-blooded enterprise guy coming into mobile apps. What will he come up with considering his background?

Richard Ojany, is not a coder. He is an accountant. He came by the iHub looking to interest us in using his new company Website Recruitment to power the iHub website’s jobs page. As a entrepreneur who has successfully exited a one company and sold his interest in others, in Kenya and the UK, he will bring interesting insight into what we as a community of entrepreneurs need to do to be successful.

Eric Kotonya, is a veteran coder can tell you about the “hustle”. He has been working out of Nairobi and now is back and has a startup with Martin Kasomo, of the Lipisha service. Being a Delphi coder, the new tools will really help in extending his reach into new markets.

For developers, the focus now should no longer be about the “app” but on the “solution”. And solutions will come as developers, project managers and sector veterans team up, become solution providers and engagement  large enterprise and government.

Oh dear, the future's so bright, I have to get some shades.

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