GIST Journey US – What a Blessing!!

I remember when I got the email confirming i had been shortlisted for the Journey. The joy was immeasurable and I had nothing but great expectations for the Journey and how it would benefit Farmspace Africa. We had been keen on accessing the US Diaspora market for a while but did not know how best to go about it, until GIST happened!

The connections made, the amazing moments with fellow entrepreneurs, and the inspiring moments with successful mentors and speakers was simply out of this world. Would I do it again? Yes, yes and yes!!

I can only hope to make the GIST and CRDF Global team proud by spreading this entrepreneurship spirit to my community back home and seeing my business grow to greater heights! I will surely miss this amazing family!

Yours Truly,

Alex Muriu from Kenya

Fantastic trip with wonderful GIST team !

I have participated with many programs and trips around the world but this trip was totally diffrent , 14 days of intensive work , mentoring ship , meetings with the most wonderful GIST team ever , I will not forget this great experience , my company will move forward defiantly after this trip , We become a family with GIST team and participants , Thank you very much Yuri , Ovidiu  , Natalia , Amanda and Fidan for your effort you were Amazing guys !

Developing Arabic digital content Mawdoo3 style

The Arabic language is considered weak relative to the number of Arab Internet users. A recent study shows that the most visited websites in the Arabic countries are non-Arabic and mostly consisting of entertainment content only. It is also worth noting that the proportion of the Arabic content does not exceed 3%, while the proportion of Arab internet users is 14.2%, equivalent to 41 million people out of 300 million Arabic speakers, which is a small percentage when compared to the rate of digital content of other languages​​.

After Mohammad Jaber realized this critical issue that the Arabic nation faces, he dedicated himself to enrich the Arabic content the right way. He saw the need of having a credible creative online platform that enhances the quality and quantity of Arabic content, so after finishing his fifth year of medicine in the Hashemite university of Jordan, he started Mawdoo3

In early 2011 Mawdoo3 won first place in the Queen Rania National Entrepreneurship contest for developing a Web site based on the innovative algorithm that studies Arabic content on the search engines. Mohammad spotted a need in the industry of an Arabic content project and simply “filled the need”. 

Mawdoo3a went from a “simple little idea” into what is now one of the early Arabic successful online encyclopedias in the world. The team worked on resolving issues related to the management of online Arabic content, based on the most recent SEO trends and content management also exploring innovative mechanisms. In a short period the team succeeded in attracting more than 1.2 million unique visitors a month through a strategy designed to direct Arab Internet users to write threads that hold the most looked up titles in global search engines, hoping to enrich digital Arabic content on the Internet by bridging the gap between the number of Arabic speakers and the provided content online.

Mawdoo3 was built based on innovative practices and branding theories in order to sustain a user-friendly nature that provides users with more efficient access to the site and its sections. This is a big step towards promoting Arabic content and educational productive websites owned and developed by “Arabs” hoping to encourage others to create alternative Arabic platforms as strong as the western websites in development, ease of access, value, and credibility of the content.

Visualizing Sound

Anwar pitching at the GIST Tech-I 2011 competition in Istanbul, Turkey.

As an entrepreneur, 27-year-old Anwar Almojarkesh has jumped many hurdles and learned lessons along the way. While developing Braci, a sound recognition and visualization app, he found that focusing too much on the technology and less on the business was a mistake. He discovered that his product needed costumers before new technologies could be developed.

Braci was developed for people who suffer from deafness and hearing impairments. It is a unique smartphone application that can recognize a variety of sounds experienced in daily live. The smart ear recognizes these sounds and renders pictures to represent what it detects. His device can also detect most fire and theft alarms along with offering the ability to record personalized sounds such as a doorbell or crying baby.

In 2011, after receiving a diploma in Electrical Engineering from Cambridge University, Anwar made his first appearance with CRDF Global at the GIST Tech-I Finals that took place during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Istanbul, Turkey. Since then, he has participated in over 27 startup competitions winning 90% of them. He most recently qualified for the 2013 GIST Tech-I Finals at GES in Malaysia.  He has also been a speaker for TEDx Amman and TEDx Kings Academy in Jordan. In his spare time, Anwar enjoys body building and swimming.

Funding Agriculture: Unearthing Africa’s Potential

Alex Muriu in a superhero stance after the conclusion of GIST Tech-I 2013 competition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Alex Muriu in a superhero stance after the conclusion of GIST Tech-I 2013 competition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Alex Mwaura Muriu’s newest venture, Farm Space Africa, strives to address the issue of food shortages in Africa, despite the fact that 70% of the continent’s employment comes from agriculture. Farmers across the region currently struggle to expand their businesses due to a lack of funding. Farmspace Africa aims to fill this funding void and help boost the agricultural industry in Africa.

Farmspace Africa is a mobile application where urban middle to upper class individuals, investment groups, and other investors can provide crowd source loans and investments to small agricultural businesses and farmers. The mobile platform allows the service to be widely accessible by farmers and investors alike, while its crowd funding nature is also intended to dilute risk. Alex, 27, hopes this brand of micro-finance will propel Africa’s economies into a future of prosperity.

Growing up in Kenya, Alex draws inspiration from his mother, a small business owner who has been working and raising her children for 30 years. He says her perseverance and courage to venture into unknown territories motivates him. He has founded, and is currently running, two other tech startups.

Farm Space Africa received an Honorable Mention Award at GIST Tech-I 2013, during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Malaysia. When asked to describe his experience with GIST, Alex said: “One word: ‘Amazing.’ [Our mentor] Kia Davis is widely read and has greatly helped us refocus our efforts on the right things. The GIST Tech Connects have also been quite useful in helping us maneuver these murky startup waters.”

Mobile Games People Love

Daniel Okalany

Daniel Okalany

Daniel Okalany is a 24-year-old Ugandan technophile who loves creating and fixing. While between jobs, he began designing mobile games, a passion that eventually became Kola Studios, a mobile game development firm currently offering four apps in the Google Play Store.

Daniel’s expertise includes programming, network management, application development, server deployment, and maintenance. Prior to Kola Studios, he worked as a systems engineer, software engineer, and a web designer for a number of Ugandan tech companies and says he wasn’t serious about game development until he became a finalist in a competition held by Google.

Africa has a rich tradition of games that have been played for generations in various societies across the continent, however few of these games exist on the mobile platform. Kola Studios creates and promotes mobile games based on physical games that come from the African tradition such as Matatu, originating in Uganda, and Karata, originating from Kenya. Matatu is its most popular game, a two player card game that has logged nearly 10,000 downloads and counting. Revenue is generated through integrated ads. As the Lead Programmer for Kola Studios, Daniel says his priority is creating a product that people want.

Kola Studios participated at the 2013 GIST Startup Boot Camp in Dar Salaam in Tanzania where they earned fourth place. Daniel says he looks forward to meeting other global entrepreneurs so he can learn from them and their experiences and gain exposure in the fast moving tech industry.

Event Planning for Community Building

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Frans Yuwono pitching at the GIST Startup Boot Camp Indonesia 2014

Frans Setio Yuwono, 33, would describe himself as a community minded individual. He speaks four languages fluently and has been immersed in both eastern and western cultures. He has a degree in computer science and has recently started his first tech startup, Wakuwakuw.

The idea came during his tenure as President of the Surabaya Rotary club where he attempted to improve community public relations, fundraising, and collaboration. Wakuwakuw is a platform he developed to empower communities with promotion and management tools such as personalized webpages, community sharing, collaboration channel, event planning, regular meetups, newsletter and fundraising. Ultimately, he hopes it will become a one-stop-shop solution for all community  organizers.

Under his management, the club was elected as the best Rotary Club in the World by Rotary International in 2012 (in the 10-25 members category), competing against 12,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide. It was awarded a prestigious President Citation by Rotary International. Although he no longer acts as the club’s President, the Surabaya Rotary chapter continues to utilize Wakuwakuw’s services regularly.

Frans aims to take 10% of the $120 million per year in market potential to Indonesia within the next five years. He said that at first, Wakuwakuw’s biggest challenge was product differentiation with existing Facebook groups and large community management services like Meetup.com.

Frans and his startup received an honorable mention at the 2014 GIST Startup Boot Camp in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Before he attended GIST, he was only thinking about expanding into the Indonesian market, but the competition changed his outlook. “GIST has taught me to think more about global customers,” he said, “and how to reanalyze our product and what is important when building a startup”.