Kenyan innovation space iHub is to launch a fund to invest in startups from across Africa as its restructuring continues.
The iHub, launched in 2010, provides a home for Kenya’s tech community and allows developers and entrepreneurs to connect and work on ideas.
The hub is in the process of relocating having raised funding in March in order to help it scale operations, tighten up its service offerings and reach sustainability The launch of its Africa Innovation Fund (AIF) is part of this.
The AIF will be an exclusive investment partner of iHub, and will engage, support and promote the entrepreneurs across Africa. It is initially seeking US$10 million for a Nairobi pilot, but plans to US$40 million over time and target other countries.
“The fund will be managed outside of the iHub, but key iHub personnel will be engaged to manage the investment pipeline. We believe that the stature and potential of the iHub is a terrific opportunity for investors to work with us and make leapfrogging real,” said iHub interim chief executive officer (CEO) Kamal Bhattacharya.
“The role of the iHub going forward is to become the best African support system for ICT focused tech entrepreneurs and individuals who aspire to create great companies that tackle some of our biggest challenges.”
Bhattacharya also announced a number of other new initiatives. The iHub, which will relaunch in Hurlingham on its seventh anniversary on March 7 next year, will introduce several membership tiers, including floating work desks, dedicated desks, offices, and corporate sponsorships. Unlike the old iHub, this will come at a price.
Bhattacharya said he believed the cost would be competitive help the iHub to offer the kind of services it feels are relevant for the community.
“I understand that this is a significant change to our current, free for all model. I also understand that we have always been a squatting place for new arrivals in Kenya. And we will make amends to new arrivals in Kenya, who need a place to get started by offering a squatting program. We will also provide sponsorship opportunities for corporate members,” he said.
A fellowship programme will also be launched for startups that cannot afford to pay. In the first year this will support 20 entrepreneurs.
“We will introduce a sourcing mechanism in partnerships with other organisations. The programme will be managed by the iHub and will have only one requirement for the fellows: give back for one day a week to the community,” Bhattacharya said.