Should Every Kenyan Tech Blog Be About Start-ups?

This week Sidney Ochieng on his blog took time to analyze the shortcoming of this blog. In many occasions I would read the post pick one or two things which I feel is/are valid and then move on. I wanted to do the same thing this time round but there was something about the post that was more interesting than the other criticisms we have received. And the following is why;

I’ll now get into how I extracted the data, a bit of how the technical analysis was done, explaining some of the techniques behind this. If you’re more interested in what I found skip to the next section.

When some says he/she uses data to carry out technical analysis, that will always get my attention, because personally I love data. The world of technology and internet is run through data. Data is the oil of the internet. Having said that, data can also be used to mislead people and drive personal agenda or vendetta. For that reason I wanted check the accuracy of Sidney’s analysis.

Sidney started his post by saying that Kenyan Tech blogs suck. That is right, all of them. The first part of his post indicates clearly that he is a fan of Kenyan tech blogs who has been let down by the content creators. For that I would sincerely apologize and promise to do more.

Now let us move to the next part.

It’s not surprising that Kenya by far dominates the frequently occurring words, probably something to do with search engine optimisation (SEO), but the next 15 most frequently words do offer more of a story. In there, we have some interesting words: Samsung, Safaricom, Facebook, Nokia, Orange and Airtel. These are the brands or words that aren’t generic that appear in the top 15. Anyone who follows this blog and really most other Kenyan ones would not be shocked at this composition. What did surprise me was the fact Nokia still featured so highly given that there haven’t been many posts about them on Kachwanya of late. It’s probably a combination of lack of interesting news from them and the fact they stopped doing heavy promotion in the country (free review gadgets).

Sidney is building his case which is that and Kenyan tech blogs in general don’t cover enough of the local start-ups. There is subtle criticism there on the top 15 most frequent words on this site. Which according to his system are Samsung, Safaricom, Facebook, Nokia, Orange and Airtel.  Before I went deep to his analysis, I wanted to see some of the topics covered on Sidney blogs. Technically Sidney’s blog is a tech blog, hence “a Kenyan Tech blog”. Below are the titles of the last ten posts in his blog. I have added the words on the bracket, just to emphasize what the post is about or what they would be on the post.

  • Equitel Increases Transfer Fees to M-Pesa by more than 100%!!! (Safaricom and Equity)
  • Could Airtel Kenya be Up for Sale? (Airtel)
  • Is Data Safaricom’s Future? (Safaricom)
  • Zuku vs. theBIGbox (Safaricom)
  • The Box is Coming (Safaricom)
  • Music Policy
  • Mpesa Homecoming- (Safaricom)
  • Universal Service Fund
  • Bob Collymore’s Contract – (Safaricom)
  • Focus on Safaricom (Safaricom)
  • While in Nigeria

So seven out of ten latest posts on Sidney’s blog are about Safaricom . None of the ten latest Posts are about Kenyan start-ups apart from the last post “While in Nigeria” where he mentioned iHub here and there. Also look at the tone on Safaricom vs the single post on Airtel. Mark that because it will come in later on this post.

To the next part

Looking at the network graph for Samsung, it’s all about their phones. They talk about launches, pricing and units sales in millions. Something that I found deeply amusing is that iPhone features (to the left in red). Kachwanya has gotten the reputation of comparing the high end Samsungs to iPhones, sometimes without even testing the latter device or the phone being released.

You might be wondering why Samsung got a whole paragraph and why it is relevant in his story in isolation. Sidney and a bunch of his friends are fans of iPhones and they find it irritating that I don’t worship Apple. I believe Apple has done a lot in the phone industry and still leading by a big margin when it comes to profit making but I think they are no longer innovative. Most of the things they launch these days are years behind other phone makers. On the issue of comparing Apple phones with Samsung high phones even without testing iPhones, I would say this, I am also amused by their reactions. When a phone is launched, the makers release the features. Through those, they try to convince the world that theirs is the best since the beginning of time. From where I sit, I don’t see any problem with comparing physical features of one phone vs the other. The testing part is usually to confirm whether the features released are as the vendors say or not and also to have a personal experience. Since Apple is many years behind, whenever you do such direct comparison, Apple phones come so far behind and that is a problem for iSheep (iPhone fans)

Ok…if we are still together, to the next part

The graph for Airtel is also about their services, what I want to point out is the green cluster which groups together Internet-related terms. Right in the centre, there is the word unliminet. This is a recently launched service, which at the time I scraped this data was barely 5 months old. That it features here gives me more confidence my suspicions there were a number of sponsored posts on the topic. I put the Safaricom graph together for comparison.

Sidney was suspicious that there were a number of sponsored posts on the Airtel Unliminet topic. Hahah….really? We have never done any sponsored post from Airtel. Never. Have we done any sponsored post before, yes, but never from Airtel. Again, Sydney and his Analysis system is wrong. But also I want you to go back to his blog posts…remember seven out of ten latest posts on his blog are about Safaricom. Do I need to say more there?

Time to look at the conclusions of Sidney’s analysis

“This is what the data revealed:

  • Most of the posts were about some competition or other
  • M-Lab is frequently mentioned..
  • There is only one mention of a Kenyan startup exiting, Weza Tele
  • One mention of a startup raising money, Brck.
  • There’s mention of some incubators such as 88mph, but little follow up
  • There’s mention of just more than 5 individual startups other than the two I’ve already pointed out. “

Yes, Kenyan tech scene has been mostly about competition and if you read some of the posts, you would realize that I have some misgiving about them. At the same time there are many positives about the competitions. About 90 percent of Kenyan start-ups are created just before a competition or during the competition and hackathons. The first conclusion is spot on.

  • “M-Lab is frequently mentioned.”

Again, correct.  M-Lab runs the mother of all Kenyan start-up competitions, Pivot East. M-Lab also hosts or once hosted a number well known start-ups. So it is natural that it will be frequently mentioned.

There is only one mention of a Kenyan startup exiting, Weza Tele.

Now this is right but the way is framed is wrong. When you move on to final part of Sidney’s post you will realize that he thinks there are many start-ups which have exited in Kenya but Kenyan tech blogs did not cover them. To the best of my knowledge I know very few. Weza Tele, Brighter Monday , Pigia Me and Rupu. Remember Sidney’s data analysis covers the last two years. Brighter Monday happened before that, Pigia Me was actually bought by Rupu around 2011-2012 and Rupu exit also happened more than two years ago. Within the period covered, only Weza Tele exited and it was covered extensively here. If anybody knows about any other exit within the last two years please tell me, otherwise we are looking at a wrong conclusion here

  • “One mention of a startup raising money, Brck.”

This is technically true but the context behind it matters. Kenyan start-ups’ funding comes in two categories, raising funds and winning a competition. Winning Competitions is an easy one to deal with because the information is readily available. But the problem comes with raising funds and whether start-ups are ready to make information public. BRCK for example, raised the money and put out a post about it on their blog. It was easy to get the information about the funds raised as well as the other information. Now compare that to the other start-ups which have received funding around here. Most of them don’t want to talk about how much they have raised. To write about such, it would mean doing guess work. To say the truth, I am not ready to do that. You might also look at that and say that tech bloggers are lazy and not ready to look for information, well, it is your right.

There’s mention of some incubators such as 88mph, but little follow up.

I am not sure I do understand this. First what type of follow up was Sidney looking for? I have no idea. Talking about 88mph, they came here and failed and then branded the Kenyan tech space ‘fluffy’. The same word is used on the last parts of Sidney’s post, meaning people like Sidney did not see how that word was being used to cover up glaring failures. As for the incubators, you can’t say in one line that M-lab is covered extensively and claim on the next line that there is no follow up on the incubators.

There’s mention of just more than 5 individual startups other than the two I’ve already pointed out.

This is ridiculous and off completely. We have many shortcomings but we have covered many Kenyan start-ups , in the form of writing and video interviews. If the point is about mentioning start-ups then look at it this way, in the last two years we have covered both DEMO Africa and PiVot East. That alone will mean we have mentioned more than 130 start-ups in the last two years. If you add the Nailab incubation start-ups  being admitted after every six months, then the number of start-ups mentioned on would come to more than 200 start-ups. So for one to say that you can only find 7 mentions on start-ups  is completely wrong. At the same time,I feel we should do more, especially if our readers feel so.

Moving on

If you were to use Kachwanya as a source of information for the Kenyan tech scene, you would likely come to the conclusion that a lot of people have about the ecosystem: there’s a lot of fluff. You would come out wondering if there’s any money being made/raised in our ecosystem and that we’re totally supported by various competitions and hackathons.

First for the fluff word…let just say it is not many people as indicated but specifically 88mph. Second, the bigger part of the money supporting start-ups in Kenya is through the competition and hackathons. If you want to deny that then go ahead. Still that does not mean the space is fluffy. One thing people don’t realize or don’t talk about is the fact that Kenya still does not have enough angel investors. In their place, competitions and hackathons came in to help start-ups get early stage seed money.

Final Words

I will always invite people to analyze what we do here and point out our shortcomings but I feel it is unfair to say my short coming is the same as other tech blogs in Kenya. Each tech blog has something that they are passionate about and you could consider it their specialty. For example, Techmoran does a lot of writing on start-ups more than we do here. Techweez is more on consumer gadgets. It is unfair and somehow illogical to tell Techweez to stop writing about consumer gadgets and start writing more about start-ups like Techmoran.

As for, our aim from the beginning is/was to explain technology to ordinary Kenyans. In other words we write about technology Kenyans use. At this point what type of technology do Kenyans use? As much as we might not admit it, we are more consumers of technology than producers. The laptop Sidney used to type his post was made somewhere else. The Phone Sidney is using was made somewhere else, the network Sidney used to connect online with was made somewhere else. The blogging platform used for his blog was made somewhere else. In other words 99% of technology used by Kenyans is imported, and as a Kenyan tech news writer, you might find yourself doing 99% of writing about the foreign technology.



Kennedy Kachwanya1080 Posts

--- Kennedy Kachwanya is a technology blogger interested in mobile phones both smart and dumb, mobile apps, mobile money, social media, startups ecosystem and digital Savannah. New media must not forget the strength of old tech.


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