At the other end of the floor in the same building as the iHub sits the nascent naiLab (nee iLab.) What appears to be an exact mirror in terms of size from the iHub is a rather different entity. At first, this may not seem obvious and truth be told, I thought that iLab was simply a secondary project of the iHub that was still in development. Turns out I was wrong, but the confusion was warranted as I wasn’t the only one and this has let to them changing from their original name of iLab to naiLab (for Nairobi naturally.)
On the surface, these two spaces seem to be doing nearly the same thing in that they’re working to be centers for technology innovation and incubation in Nairobi. The big difference from what I understand is that iHub is working more towards being a place to hatch ideas with a space for coworking. naiLab on the other hand is working to be much more of an incubation space where those building projects can work on a longer term basis. I have to admit that to me, even with this clarification, I feel that there is still a lot of overlap, but it’s probably the kind of overlap that will see a lot of folks moving from one space to the other for a hopeful cross-pollination of ideas. I would nearly pity the offices between these two spaces if I didn’t think that these two bookend spaces were so needed.
If you look at the picture above, compared to the iHub, naiLab is pretty barren with just an internet connection and a couple of desks. To me, this is all you pretty much need, but I cut my teeth on web development working in converted warehouse spaces in San Francisco. Their reason for this is that they’re planning to launch much more formally in 2011 with a complete build out of the space. The opportunity arose to grab this space and they took it with Outbox Ltd. sponsoring it for the rest of 2010. Next year, a number different entities will sponsor it including the Dutch government (who seem to sponsor half the Africa projects in existence) as well as Oxfam (who seem to sponsor the other half.)
Once open, Tonee Ndugu let me know that the 250 square meters that they appear to have will house 30 people on a constant basis with a second floor in the center for servers and the permanent admin staff. This center portion will actually be able to be removed when they hold events, which seems a bit zany to me, but at the same time, if they can pull it off, it will allow for a very welcoming, large space that a projector can work in well.
Naturally, I’ll have to pay another visit to Nairobi in the future to check out what they’ve done and how many practical jokes iHub has play on naiLab and vice versa, such as a friendly game of Capture-the-Wifi-Router.