by Mark Grimes

Start it up.When that moment happens that the entrepreneur decides yes indeed they want to put their time, effort and creativity behind their idea the startup is then launched. The idea is born. And it can be a lonely place for the entrepreneur. The idea may be so simple (Twitter) or so complex (string theory) that friends, family and coworkers just don’t get it.  The early stage entrepreneur is driven by vision, passion, risk, and desire to create something new.  Build a business. Solve a problem in a new and dynamic way.  Most people don’t get it…fellow entrepreneurs sure do.The economy and times being what they are, the idea must driven to some point of proof of concept before any potential investor would even consider looking at a business plan or executive summary and making a capital investment and bringing in their knowledge and rolodex. So where can an early stage pan-African inventor and entrepreneur find support, critical feedback, valuable introductions and creative ideas and input.

We are all connected.Entrepreneurs enjoy helping other entrepreneurs.  Learning from one another, sharing with one another. Each and every entrepreneur and innovator has something to share, and something to learn from other people. How does it work? How does it make money? Who is the market? What are they overlooking? Who else should they talk to? What are related revenue streams? How will it get marketed? Should the idea be made more simple, or more complex?

When innovators and entrepreneurs connect at Maker Faire Africa they can share what they’ve learned and what they need to learn about with one another. Perhaps they are a truly innovative inventor but not the person to run and grow they company and need a co-founder.  They can find that at Maker Faire Africa. Maybe they are the person that can run the company and grow the idea by need help with sales, marketing and distribution.  They can also look to build those relationships at Maker Faire Africa as well.

What’s your problem?

When innovators and entrepreneurs are connected by some similar challenges, they can share ideas around how to meet those challenges.  If the power goes out in your business every other day, what are the different ways that can be dealt with?  How do you effectively deal with distribution challenges in many African countries (See Riders for Health). The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity.  Sharing your problem with fellow inventors and entrepreneurs offers greater insights and the possibility of a better outcome overall.  Also, unlike most government officials and academics, entrepreneurs will usually share with one another something very important, the stories of failure, what did not work, why it probably didn’t work, and what they could have done differently.

The connected community of pan-African makers is so important because very often people outside of that community don’t quite understand the problems and challenges because they are not from those local communities themselves.  The challenges to a local entrepreneur driven by local government, cultural differences, environment, education and many varied nuanced minutia make it more difficult for a foreigner to offer meaningful ideas and concrete support (see development organizations in emerging markets over the last 50 years).

The Maker Faire Africa event provides local African innovators, makers and entrepreneurs a local platform to meet on another face-to-face, support one another, and help build and define their own culture of success.  See you in Cairo.

Mark is a Co-founder of Maker Faire Africa.  Follow his tweets @neddotcom


Our poster for Maker Faire Africa 2011!  
Designed by our team in Cairo. We love it!  

Yes there are. We’ve had some inquiries as to the two different Maker Faire events within Africa this year, so let us try to clarify the two fairs with this post.

Maker Faire Africa’s yearly fair is taking place in Cairo, Egypt this year, from October 6-8th. Maker Faire Kumasi is a ‘mini maker fair’, organized by our friends at MIT”s D-Lab as part of their International Design & Development Summit (IDDS) being held in Ghana this year.

The advent of Maker Faire Kumasi signifies the deepening of a maker community across the continent. We are delighted with the emergence of events that share the Maker Faire Africa ethos. We wish the Maker Faire Kumasi team the best and encourage our community to stay abreast of developments from Kumasi as they unfold. In the lead up to Maker Faire Africa 2011: Cairo, we will be announcing our full schedule of workshops & events. This year, the fair expands to 3 full days with workshops in Seed Funding, Industrial Design, Synthetic Biology, Arduino Kinetics, and more.

Maker Faire Africa 2011: Cairo presents makers from around Africa with the opportunity to interact with  fellow maker communities across the continent.

Admission + workshops are free to all accepted Makers. Lunches and snacks are also provided, as well as some evening social activities. The top 6-8 applicants from outside Egypt will receive full scholarships which cover all travel to and from the fair, room accommodations, and meals. So we encourage Makers from across the continent to apply to the Egypt event soon.

Hope to see you in Cairo!

Maker Faire Africa is pleased to announce our 3rd event, ‘Maker Faire Africa 2011 : Cairo‘ which will take place in Egypt, October 6-8th, 2011.  Join us once again as we continue to cultivate new and existing maker communities across Africa. As was the case in Accra (‘09) and Nairobi (’10), MFA 2011 will present and spotlight the vibrant and endlessly creative individuals that have come to represent the spirit of ‘making’ throughout the continent. These innovators, artists and tinkerers will be exhibiting a fusion of the informal and formal; ideas, inventions, hacks and designs both low-tech & high-tech.  From cuisine to machines, come see their re-imagining of products, exploration of novel materials, and original solutions for some of the continent’s most important challenges and opportunities.  Maker Faire Africa 2011 will be a celebratory showcase of unhindered experimentation and curiosity. We look forward to seeing you this October.

Visit our MFA2011 : Cairo event page for more details on how to participate.

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A sample of many of the ‘makers’ found at Maker Faire Africa 2010, held last year in Nairobi.

Maker Faire Africa 2010 from Taylor Martyn on Vimeo.

Robert Mburu, winner of the Maker Faire Africa GE Mentorship Prize provides us with a day by day account of his visit to the GE Technology Centre in Bangalore, India:

Living the John F Welch Technology Centre Dream

Day 1
16 hours after I had left my home, the giant Boeing powered by a GE engine landed at the Bangalore airport on November 29 at 8am. This was followed by a 2 1/2 hour drive to the hotel, Clarion, a stone’s throw away from the phenomenal GE’s technology Centre in Bangalore.

At the main gate of the center, it was clear that I had arrived at the birthplace of
innovative technology. I was excited to start my journey.

After a brief introduction by Geetha, the administrative assistant at the Research
Center, I met the research guru, T. Asokan, a friendly and humble scientist.
He briefed me on what GE is and does. I learned that GE has research and
development facilities across the globe in Niskayuna, Munich, Shanghai and
Brazil. It also has a host of other manufacturing and assembly engineering
facilities in Memphis, Tenessee and Greenville in the US. Asokan told me that
GE’s technological expertise ranges from water purification, aviation technology,
rail systems to efficient energy technologies. It is also in capital and even owns
one of the leading media service providers.

I was taken around the different science labs by Adnan. He informed me
about the main research activities in the labs and briefed me on some of their
inventions and innovations, both completed and ongoing projects.

The projects were incredible, the scientists young and creative, and the facilities
world class. I started to understand why GE was voted amongst the best
companies in the world for over 7 times in 11 years.

Day 2
Day 2 would be the busiest day at the technology center and I was really excited to finally get to demonstrate my innovation to the brainstorming team.

Asokan picked me up at 8.30 am from the hotel and we kicked off the day with
a session on the process of innovation. Asokan took me through the whole
process: from the conceptualization of an idea, imagination, and actualization to
how to bring various factors into play in realizing an innovation. “When everyone is thinking the same, then no one is thinking”, said Asokan. He taught me how to look at problems as challenges that can be overcome and how to think ‘out of the box’. I got insights on how to identify problems and to imagine possible solutions.  I was inspired!

He had also prepared a presentation in which he showcased his own innovations. I was impressed by the amount of inventions he had developed and had help developing.

Afterwards, I had to chance to meet Ramanan, the Chief Financial Officer
at the technology center. He explained me how I could patent a product and
seek financial support from business partners or solicit for credit from banking
institutions.  I couldn’t wait to sit together with the brainstorming team. I briefed them on my invention, told them about the challenges I faced while making it and we had a creative brainstorming session on how to overcome these.

After lunch, I met a team of young scientists in the presence of Asokan and
told them about my innovation as well. I was also introduced to the Intellectual
Property experts, including Sukla Chandra, who gave me more insight in how to
get the right type of protection for a creation or invention.

In the evening, I was invited to the Chief Scientist’s house, where I got to see all
the 25 awards and trophies he had won over the years for his inventions. Later,
he took me to Bangalore city to have dinner with his lovely family. It was a great
day and I was looking forward to my 3rd day in India.

My Last Day
My day started early again. Asokan picked me up from the hotel at 8.30am and I met with Kavitha, the Comunications Specialist, for an interview. We talked about my background, hobbies, my inspirations and my inventions.

After, I joined a team of young scientists, who offered me guidance on how to
take my passion for technology and innovation to a next level, and gave me tips
on how to approach some international universities for a scholarship and other
online studies.  In the afternoon, I was very lucky to be able sit with some of the leaders at the research center, including Raj, the Human Resources leader. We talked about future action plans and we wrapped up the day.

When it was time for me to say goodbye, Asokan gave me a souvenir that I will treasure forever, a signed photograph of the Global Research Center at Bangalore.  I could only conclude by saying that it was an incredible experience!

Read more about Robert’s Maker Faire Africa display here
Follow his blog here
Learn more about the individual Maker Faire Africa makers here.

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