My stay in Nairobi was pretty brief overall. I mainly got a taste of the tech scene, rain, traffic, and of course, the iHub. Going in, I knew it was under construction, but upon showing up, I didn’t realize how much work was going on, although it makes a good deal of sense given their grand plans for the space.
The cool thing is that despite the fact that the few people there have to work in one of the reclining floor chairs or at the central table, a solid group of followers has already started growing around the hub, which naturally was the point in creating it. Having a central space for the internet innovators in a city is quite crucial and while it digs in to the local internet café market, it gives back a great deal more to the community.
Let me emphasize that the iHub is still most definitely closed during the construction. I was just able to get a peek at it due to my short visit in town and also wanting to meet the couple of folks who are dancing around construction while working on iHub-related projects there. To be honest, I liked the rough and tumble aspect to it, but that’s just the startup nerd in me. I thought it would stay like this for a very, very long time, but in the short views of the space that I saw, things went from scattered pieces of construction material to quickly taking shape. Naturally, they’ve also posted an update as well given that you can see tangible progress in the space.
I’m sure it’s going to be quite huge when it’s done, but at 250 square meters in the interior, space will definitely be limited given how vibrant the tech crowd is in Nairobi. Obviously it would be a real “shame” if someday they would have the need to expand…
On a tech note, I found out something interest though with the internet connection. I was having a Skype chat with Jeremy Brown at Limbe Labs over yonder in Cameroon and we were curious to see how the latency of the connection stacked up. The iHub happens to have one of the fastest connections currently available in Kenya and indeed, it works quite well. Unfortunately, there appeared to be a good deal more latency pinging Google than with Jeremy’s connection for Limbe from Cameroon on the SAT-3. This was weird given the overall speed of the new fiber that I was using. Doing a traceroute, I found that while Jeremy’s pings were indeed going down the fastest possible route, mine were being routed back to Mountain View in California! My guess on this is one of two things. First, I was doing something wrong or it was just a temporary glitch. Second is that the IP address I was on was so newly in use that Google hadn’t yet indexed which is not allowing it to bounce off a server closer to Kenya and thus incurring an added layer of latency. However it shakes down, hopefully it will get sorted out soon so that they can make use of all that bandwidth that they have.