Jessica and the iHub

By Erik Hersman
iHub
  Published 12 Oct 2015
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I’ve known Jessica Colaço for seven years and worked with her for five. I remember standing in Sarit Centre talking to a young Java coder and being immediately impressed by her (after a tech meetup, that's what we did before the iHub existed). When we started down the road to build the iHub in 2009, she was the first person I went to to talk about this plan and to see if she would join me on the journey. We didn’t quite know what we were building yet, but we knew the experiment we wanted to try, which was creating a nexus point for the Nairobi tech community to help us accelerate everyone.

Luckily she said “yes” and much of the success we’ve had to date has come through her hard work, amazing attitude and passion she brings to everything she engages in. If you’ve ever been around the iHub, you’d know Jessica due to the ball of energy that would bounce into the room and energize everyone in it!

You need a good attitude, a positive outlook on life and willingness to work with other people to make things happen to build almost anything, but especially a community-oriented tech space, and Jessica has that in spades. In the early days of the iHub, back in 2010, I remember the bright eyes and big smile that would greet me each day as we were going through the multitude of small things needed to get done.

Jessica with the initial iHub Research team Jessica with the initial iHub Research team
  • In 2010, Jessica was the iHub Manager, built the iHub and grew the community and partnerships.
  • In 2011 and 2012, Jessica convinced me that we should start iHub Research. She also started the robotics group which would inspire what we have today as Gearbox
  • In 2013, Jessica grew iHub Research into a powerhouse for iHub sustainability and meaningful tech research in the region.
  • In 2014 and 2015, Jessica took on the relationships with our corporate partners.

Jessica's list of accomplishments are extraordinary and deserve the gratitude of the full technology community in Kenya as her work has affected us all. Not only has she built great things, but she has been a well-spoken and passionate advocate for technology and entrepreneurs in Kenya on both the local and the international stage.

Besides these big bucket projects, she spent countless hours mentoring entrepreneurs and young researchers. She has opened doors for people into the business and technology space that weren’t convinced they were the right people for the job, and turned out to be amazing in their own rights. Jessica is one of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and someone who I admire for all of the tenacity, joy and intelligence she brings every day.

Jessica Colao starts iHub Research in 2011 Jessica Colao starts iHub Research in 2011

What’s Next?

After 5 ½ years of working and building the iHub, Jessica is leaving. Over the years we talked about many things, and in this last year we’ve especially been talking about life, work and what drives her. Often we need a bit of change in our lives, some new experiences, just to get to a place where we can figure out what is next. So, while I’m sad that I won’t see her day-to-day in the iHub any longer, I’m excited that she’s going on to something new.

One of the things Jessica is working on is a book about the iHub. There are many great lessons we've learned in building this space, working with Nairobi’s tech community and being in the nerve centre as we watched the greater ecosystem explode. Truthfully, I don’t know if there’s anyone more qualified to write it…! I was joking with her about this just last week, that her only challenge will be to write this for normal people to understand, not just academics. :)

Jessica is also staying involved in the iHub as a member, so you’ll still see her around, just not in her former full-time capacity.

Knowing Jessica as I do, I have no doubt that she’ll get busy building something new. She is a builder at the end of the day, someone who understands the vision and can communicate that to others. She then builds and leads teams to get it there. I, for one, will always bet with Jessica on whatever she’s going to do, I’ve seen her in action and I’ve seen the fruits of her work.

Jessica and myself getting the iHub started in 2010 Jessica and myself getting the iHub started in 2010
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