Fresh startup entrepreneurs James Opot and Mugo Aram are looking forward to the following two weeks. Already tomorrow they are on a plane on their way to Finland, first time ever outside the African continent. They are going to represent their small businesses in the huge startup event Slush, which is nowadays one of the most important startup gatherings in Europe.
"In Kenya, when you are on the grade 8 and 14 years old, you are obligated to take the national KCPE exam that measures the knowledge you have gained throughout the primary school. You may take the exam only once. If you succeed and get good grades, you can apply to high schools of high level. If your grades are worse, you have possibilities to enter high schools of lower level. If you don't pass the exam, you are most likely to end up working in low-income jobs in the future. Fourty percent of Kenya's youngsters don't pass this exam."
"Seventy percent of Kenya's youth are unemployed. In almost every job interview you are asked to list your volunteer history."
This is how James Opot from eSoma and Mugo Aram from SifaSafi explain why they decided to establish their startups. They want to improve the possibilities of Kenya's youngsters to find opportunities in their country.
eSoma is a web portal that aims at making learning fun. It's meant especially to upper primary pupils to facilitate them to prepare for the KCPE exam in an engaging manner. "I got the idea when my two youngest brothers were in their final classes in primary school. I would coach them regularly and help them with their assignments from school. I found that they grasped concepts better and enjoyed their studies when it was interactive and animated. And thus eSoma was born." For now eSoma is used only in private schools, since their clients can normally afford computers, smartphones and ipads, which one needs to have access to the portal. In the future Opot hopes to take the concept also to public schools: "Every child has the right to learn".
SifaSafi is a web portal specialized in voluntary work. It enables especially startups to find volunteers for their events. It was started by students of the University of Nairobi in 2014: "A group of students gathered to clean voluntarily in different events. We noticed we could get more volunteers if these events would be announced online." SifaSafi offers young students the option of showing prospective employers their volunteer history and enables event organizers to find volunteers easily.
The startups were chosen to the event thanks to the cooperation between Slush and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. They were selected because of an attractive and new business idea, which has also positive influence on people and the society. Neither business idea has geographical limits which makes it possible to export them to other countries as well.
James and Mugo expect Slush to be a great platform for networking and exchanging ideas with important contacts. Finding investors and new partnerships is important for these young entrepreneurs. James adds that since Finland is a leading country in technology and education, one can easily find new ideas from the host country itself.
They will also participate in the Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit-event, hosted by Unicef. The aim of the event is to develop solutions benefiting the world’s most disadvantaged children. The innovation event is organized by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and UNICEF in cooperation with Slush.
MFA press release on the Slush Global Impact Accelerator -programme
Unicef Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit - website