Toxic culture blamed for Kenyan start-ups failure

[Courtesy: iStockphoto]

Bad investor and founder culture have been singled out as the main factors hampering the Kenyan startup ecosystem from achieving even greater heights.

This emerged during a recent forum convened for East African start-ups held in Nairobi. It was hosted by Norway and Estonia based accelerators Pangea and Garage 48 respectively.

Other hubs behind the initiative include Norway based accelerators Katapult and The Factory. 

Making a case for the sorry state of affairs, the ecosystem players at the two-day hackathon last week said East Africa had a long way to go in terms of building a sound founder and investor culture. 

This, they noted, was the main challenge that worked against the prospects of most stakeholders across the region.

Presenting on the Kenyan startup landscape was a crop of concerned Kenyans drawn from various tech hubs including Lake Hub and Swahilipot a lobby Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI).

KNCCI Nairobi Chief Executive Kenneth Ndung'u set the tone for the discourse by observing that the unhealthy start-up culture in the country was worsened by serious gaps in government policy.

"Most of our members who are made up of SMEs find things like tax regime not accommodating to startups. Even the requirements for funding are way beyond the capacity of most startups in the country," said Ndung'u.

Local ecosystem analyst and mentor Robert Yawe noted that the country's founder culture is heavily crippled by a host of factors, including a donor dependency syndrome.

Yawe also took a swipe at the government for entrenching a defeatist culture through a number of avenues such as through the education system and faulted academics at the expense of practice and application.

"Hubs aside, I believe that university is the best place for anyone to build and launch a startup. Look at where Facebook and Microsoft were founded - at Harvard. But what do most of the students here do other than attending lectures or just idling away time."

The State has also been accused of fueling the "handout" culture among startups when it makes most investments available just in grants and donations. 

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