Innovative SMS based education for children in Kenya

Chris pitching his startup at the GIST Tech-I 2013 finals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chris pitching his startup at the GIST Tech-I 2013 finals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Christopher Asego, a 28-year-old entrepreneur from Kenya, said he was inspired by his underprivileged classmates from primary school as he founded Eneza Education. His product, Shupavu, utilizes technology that allows children to access parent supported education tools and resources through low-cost technology, via pay-as-you-go hosting.

From humble beginnings, Christopher started an impact group of 30 students in an underprivileged community. With his and his teammates’ mentoring, their impact group has grown to over 180,000 students, with a goal of eventually reaching 50 million students across the African continent, most of whom lack access to high quality educational content. Christopher’s ultimate vision is to break the cycle of poverty in communities like these.

In 2013, Christopher participated in the 2013 GIST Tech-I final at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Malaysia. While there, his venture with Eneza Education earned second place in the Startup Stage category. In his spare time, Christopher enjoys playing rugby. After 10 years of tryouts, he became a member of the Kenya Sevens National Team and played with them up until last year when he decided to focus all of his efforts on Eneza Education.


Matching Odd Jobbers with Real Work


Adnan listening intently to a discussion at the GIST Tech-I 2013 finals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Adnan Zafar is deeply passionate about creating significant social change. He created IdeaCentricity after being inspired by conversations with a variety of low skilled workers expressing the difficulties of finding enough work to make ends meet. An electrician whose daughter topped matriculation couldn’t support her studies; a maid working multiple shifts to release her husband from the clutches of a kiln owner to repay loan used to buy a rickshaw.

With more than 11 years of experience in various large telecommunications, information technology, engineering, and energy sector companies, he developed IdeaCentricity Odd Jobber as a convenient low-skilled labor marketplace. Workers are alerted about opportunities over their mobile devices based on proximity to the service request point, individual skill set, and prior service ratings. Workers respond with bids and are informed once users accept their service offers. Laborers are routinely screened against certain performance benchmarks and provided trainings and tips to improve their service ratings.

Adnan is an Acumen Fellow who holds a Bachelors of Science Honors from Lahore University of Management Sciences. In 2013, Adnan was a finalist in the GIST Tech-I Competition at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Malaysia.

Championing Women in a Male Dominated ICT Sector

Catherine pitching at the GIST East Africa Startup Boot Camp in Tanzania.

Catherine pitching at the GIST East Africa Startup Boot Camp in Tanzania.

Catherine Kiguru, 28, is a skilled software engineer from Kenya who has expertise in building mobile and back end solutions. Though she was one of four sisters orphaned at the age of 14, her parents’ foresight enabled Catherine to complete her secondary education and gain entry into Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology, where she obtained a diploma in Computer Studies.

She currently serves as the Chief Innovator at Ukall, which runs Akida Limited. Ukall Limited is a boutique Information Communications Technology (ICT) Company with a focus on business process automation. They develop and deliver specialized products and services tailored to clients’ individual requirements. Akida is mobile to web platform that addresses the challenges of staff attendance verification and communication in small to large organizations that employ mobile workforces or deploy staff in various locations such as Security Companies, Marketing Firms and Facilities Management.  Akida incorporates staff attendance through facial verification, GPS and time logging. It allows reporting and an effective and affordable way of communicating through its reporting and alerts feature.

In addition to her work with Akida, Catherine is also a founding member of Akirachix, an organization that encourages female participation in the male dominated ICT arena.

Catherine participated in the GIST East Africa Startup Boot Camp in Tanzania, receiving the Best Female Entrepreneur award in 2013. Later that year, she was invited as a guest speaker and panelist at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In her spare time, Catherine enjoys cycling, hiking and rock climbing.

Crowd Sourced Website Testing


Alvin Chai receiving his Honorable Mention award from Jeff Hoffman, Co-Founder of and Co-Founder of ColorJar.

After working as a barrister and then at a website optimization startup, Alvin Chai, 29, encouraged his high school friend to co-found Netizen Testing Limited. Inspired by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, Alvin believes in the importance of team culture. He assembled a group of young and energetic people with whom he loves to work to bring the Netizen concept to life.

Netizen Testing Limited strives to reduce the amount of time and investment required to test website usability and eliminate the need for consultant-run focus groups. By crowd sourcing their testers, Netizen Testing Limited provides quick and affordable on-demand testing solutions to their clients.

They offer to website owners a series of videos depicting ordinary users sharing their thoughts aloud while using the website. As clients watch and listen to user response and behaviors they can identifying exactly when and why visitors leave the website. Clients also receive written summaries of the testers’ critiques.

Netizen Testing Limited’s customers are primarily enterprises that rely on websites and mobile applications to generate sales, sales leads, or some form of online conversion relevant to their businesses. Alvin says he regularly attends digital marketing exhibitions to connect with potential new clients.

Netizen Testing Limited was a participant of the GIST Boot Camp in Malaysia and a recipient of the People’s Choice Award at the GIST Tech-I 2013 finals, held at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES).

“I found that our clients do not only want testing results but also value added service such as analysis on the results,” Alvin said. “We have seen a positive outcome and revenue has increased tenfold in 2013. Personally, I am thankful for the help and friendship I have received from GIST.”

Delivering Larger Data Storage Capacity


Nizar Ben Neji in a deep discussion at the GIST Tech-I 2013 competition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Nizar Ben Neji, 33, has more than eight years of experience in the information technology industry as a computer engineer. A year ago, he started Smarter++ from the concept that smarter consumers need smarter ways of communicating. Smarter++ offers two business to consumer (B2C) products: QR++ codes and a SmartCatalog.

QR++ offers larger data storage capacity for audio, video, images, and text without internet access. This product is ideal for storing readable data and multimedia items used for marketing and B2C relationships.

SmartCatalog is an interactive PDF catalogue that allows customers to build their own catalogs without a designer and with only a basic set of computer skills. Ultimately, he hopes the services will allow businesses take on more customers and drive more sales while Smarter++ stays ahead of its competition by consistently providing new and unique technological concepts.

Nizar said that many successes and failures, no matter how insignificant, contributed to his overall success. Smarter++ was a participant at the GIST Tech-I 2013 competition finals at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Malaysia. “The GIST mentorship was very rewarding and valuable,” he said. “The CRDF Global team showed a lot of competency and professionalism.” His other hobbies and interests include woodworking, origami, and miniature car collecting.

The of Indonesia


Natali Ardianto pitching for the win at the GIST Tech-I competition in Dubai.

Natali Ardianto, 34, has been interested in technology since he was in fourth grade and learning code programs since middle school. As chairman of the computer club at his highschool, he also joined the Indonesia Computer Olympic Team.

Natali now supports his full-time career as an entrepreneur with 20 years of programming experience and three successful internet startups. His most recent project,, is a website that allows users to book flights, trains, and hotels, as well as order concert and movie tickets, all in one integrated portal; a web service common in many countries, but almost unheard of in Indonesia., has become a worldwide success. Along with winning the 2012 GIST Tech-I Competition, also won first place at the BUBU Awards in 2013, Teklom Indigo Fellowship Award in 2012, and the ASEAN ICT Awards that same year. Natali’s site has been featured by Marketing Magazine, Bloomberg, and Businessweek among others.

Natali says he believes in the wisdom of the crowd and that while he doesn’t have a specific role model, he gives thanks to all the investors and mentors that have helped him along the way. Natali is also the co-initiator of the biggest startup community in Indonesia, #StartupLokal, which has helped nurture Indonesia’s startup ecosystem over the past four years.

Empowering Female Arab Engineers

Nermin speaking in a panel at the GIST Startup Boot Camp in Jordan.

Nermin Fawzi Sa’d, a 38-year-old Jordanian entrepreneur, says her inspiration and character come from her mother, an Arab woman with five children and a university degree at a time where a woman’s role in the region was restricted to house-work and raising children. Her mother taught her that she should always set big goals and create a plan of action to achieve them.

Nermin was ranked 47th in the 2014 “100 Most Powerful Arab Women” for her achievements and impact on the region and understands the needs and struggles of the modern Arab woman. Her startup, Handasiyat, aims to bypass social rules and solve the deficit of local engineers through a customized online platform. This platform supports Arab female engineers and encourages them to use their qualifications in the market and allows them to work on their own terms. It also aims to solve employment complexity in crisis areas such as Libya and Syria.

Nerman’s goal is to master the different elements associated with her belief that too much dependence upon others is can be risky because “even your shadow leaves you in the darkness,” as she eloquently stated. Handasiyat is now comprised of three full-time employees on the management team.

Handasiyat won the Best Female Competitor Award at the 2013 GIST-Tech I Competition in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, where she also got a chance to meet Secretary of State John Kerry, who mentioned her during his address at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. When asked about her experience at this event, Nermin saw herself as the luckiest participant because of the mentorship she received from Mr. Gibs Song. “He is a genius,” she said. “He taught me a lot with few words. He encouraged and supported me since we met and we still keep in touch. He is always there, ready to help.”