Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why Kenya, and why now?

Some have asked “Why Kenya?” and “Why now?”

My excitement for Kenya surrounds the opportunities for early stage businesses who have a reasonably stable economic base from which to launch, myriad new tools at their disposal, and a massive, and growing population with increasing purchasing power - not all of these points are true of all developing economies!

So: Why Kenya, and Why Now?

1) Kenya has a robust non-extractive based economy. With Kenyan GDP comprising 40% of the region’s GDP, Nairobi is the economic capital of east Africa, with a stock exchange, and many corporates’ regional (or continental) headquarters. Most importantly, however is the stability - Kenya’s economy is not based on extractive industries such as mining or fossil fuel extraction - it's based on agriculture and services. I believe this makes Nairobi a bit more robust to external inputs as compared with neighbors. (Note the 25% overnight growth of GDP due to rebasing.)

Nairobi skyline (source)
2) New technology adoption has been very rapid in Kenya. This will likely continue to enable quick, massive improvements in lifestyle, healthcare, agriculture output, financial inclusion / services, communication. As landmark examples, please see success of M-Pesa (mobile money), and the numerous, successful on and off-grid solar/distributed power generation products.

M-Pesa and Bitcoin (to a much lesser extent) are in use in Kenya (source)
Off-grid solar is massive business in east Africa, including Kenya;
some key players are M-Kopa, d.light, Greenlight Planet, SunnyMoney, Off-Grid Electric, and Azuri (source)

3) Kenya has (debatably) the fastest, cheapest, and deepest penetration of internet on the continent. Wow, what an advantage in a continent where infrastructure seems to be always lacking. In Nairobi, new business incubators are all around, with the iHub proving an invaluable epicenter of activity for software-based startups, and the upcoming Gearbox promising similar excitement and opportunities for hardware startups. Prevalent and affordable internet is enabling collaboration like never before.

    Internet penetration in Kenya is high relative to continent neighbors (source)
    Multiple undersea cables now connect Kenya to other countries (source)
    Due to the robust economy, the rapid technology adoption of Kenyans, and the prevalent and affordable internet, I’m excited about Kenya!

    Further reading:
    I should note that the above are *my* reasons for being excited about Kenya; plenty of other groups have published their own reasons:

    • CIA World Factbook, Kenya
    Of course there are other reasons to love Kenya; so come visit!

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    A long weekend in Kenya

    Happy Thanksgiving from Kenya!  

    I was able to take a long weekend to visit some beautiful sites to the northwest of Nairobi and want to share some photos - sorry about the poor quality; all are from my phone's camera.  
    Excited to bring a real camera on subsequent trips!

    A little map of the key locations for this post; all highly recommended! Total drive time between Nairobi and the top left, Crescent Island (just outside Naivasha Town) is about 3 hours.

    We first took a self-guided hike around Crescent Island Game Park, a peninsula into Lake Naivasha. Only very dangerous animal here is the hippo, so we stayed away from the water’s edge. All of the other animals kept their distance.

    Adventure buddies, with a giraffe neck between us in the distance.

    I like the silhouette of the impala on the horizon; like so many things, better in real life!

    We might have found our first home; it's a real fixer-upper!

    Some waterbuck with their shaggy manes.

    Sometimes the animals don’t even notice you’re nearby – this was on our way out of Crescent Island from our jeep.

    I love this guy.

    After Crescent Island we did some camping in Hell’s Gate National Park where there are many warthogs, zebra, and some baboons.

    The warthogs are usually found in twos and threes, and usually leaning on their front elbows rooting around for interesting things in the ground.

    We did a short hike into the gorge; there are plenty of seeping rock walls with geothermally heated water coming out. Great formations!

    Grooming time, all the time.

    Beautiful wild animals!

    Easiest, most delicious camping dinner:
    Sachels of diced potato, onion, bell pepper, cheese, butter, and spices, wrapped in foil;
    40 mins over a fire or in the coals.

    Massive cliff wall, allegedly inspired portions of the Lion King movie by Disney. Great climbing available and done here.

    Next day excursion to Brown’s Cheese farm – make reservations in advance. Browns makes 17 kinds of cheese, and will start exporting to the USA soon!

    Taking a tour of the factory; the fresh cheeses go from cow to store shelf in 2-3 days, aged cheeses obviously take longer.

    Final stop on the trip was a day hike at Mt Longonot, a volcano that was last active about 150 years ago, and steam vents dot the perimeter. The hike up, around the rim, and back down is about 13 km; about 5 hours.

    The view inside the crater, about 2 km across. Allegedly some animals live in the crater, though we could see none, only evidence (droppings) on the rim and trails outward facing.

    Much of the rim is hiked within a deep channel, usually just about a foot deep for your feet to walk in, but sometimes eroded so far that the walls are over your head! Generally very well protected/not exposed to wind, etc.

    It ended up turning stormy at the end of our hike, most of the way around the crater rim, but we still had a blast! 
    (Sorry for the vertical video!)

    Monday, April 14, 2014

    quick Mallorca trip

    Although I've omitted a few trips lately, I thought I'd share some pics from my recent trip to Mallorca (Majorca), Spain. Beautifully warm, calm, and delicious.  Unfortunately, I went for kiteboarding, but there was almost no wind!

    Cool goat hopping around on the rocks on my trip out to Cap de Formentor.

    A panorama and a quick video of a great place not to fall down:

    (Click image for full size)

    Looking back at Port de Pollenca (Pollensa, or Pollentia (Roman town)).

    I love markets, and this one reminded me of the markets in Murcia, Spain - check out all the olives!

    This island is INNUNDATED with German Ironman triathletes.  This picture captures it all - old but well preserved ruins, Sunday markets, and spandex.  Serious spandex and carbon fiber bikes. Check out this guy chomping down some calories!

     Incredible church from the 13th Century (allegedly by Knights Templar); this was one of more than a dozen side altars:

    Incredible ceiling and rear of the church:

    Lovely quiet side streets in the old town of Alcudia:

    There's a bit of a sepratist movement going on - but they had better figure out a better way to leave graffiti that isn't so easily 'reversed.'

    They take their cured ham seriously here; this photo was taken in a typical bar in Port de Alcudia.

    Hasta la próxima vez!

    Saturday, April 5, 2014

    Experiment writeup: BottleBuddy

    Here's a quick writeup of a little side project which I've spent a small amount of time on over the past year.  It's an excellent case study in exploring something new and fun - and letting an idea go when the numbers don't add up: BottleBuddy!


     At a birthday party, I was telling a story and had to set my drink down to excitedly tell a story.  After the (no doubt uproarious) punchline, I looked back, dismayed to see that I'd set my beer down among others of identical brand, and similar level-of-consumption. Impossible to know which beer was mine, I realized there might be a market for a tool to identify different people's beers, similar to wine glass charms/tags for dinner parties.
    Wine charms, from HowAboutOrange
    I started out by designing a prototype, doing a bit of market research, and protecting the idea.  Here's the path I took, graphically, and then the steps I took, below.

    The general path I was on during development.


    I drew up some early designs incorporating a feature that would both identify the beer, and provide a bottle opener function:

    BottleBuddy, revision1
    This was obviously too clunky, didn't offer much useful advertising space, and most importantly, would be very expensive to manufacture, due to mold sliders.  So on to revision 2:
    BottleBuddy, revision 2 (adds a bit of branding space, injection moldable)
    (I realized that I'd need a metal insert to provide strength for opening cans, as below.)

    On to revision 3 to start to maximize the advertising space, and add a few features at minimal/no cost.  Extra advertising space, to lay against the vertical wall of the beer bottle, and act as a dust cover on top of the beer:
    BottleBuddy, revision 3 adds a living hinge, and a dust-cap lid.

    I made some prototypes along the way, first with a Dimension SST printer, and second with RedEye's awesome 2-material co-printing abilities (VeroWhite plus with a 40 Shore A Black soft overmold).

    BottleBuddy, revision 3, prototype.


    I didn't see many competitors in the marketplace - this was a double-edged sword: either I was saving an industry in need of a solution, or there simply was no need for the tool in general.
    The closest thing to a competitor.
    They decided to charge a premium, rather than to give advertising space.

    I conducted some internet research about how free promotional items / giveaways are brought to market, sold in batches and then distributed to users, called up a few people in this space and got their feedback.  While none had seen anything similar, they all questioned whether I could make it for a low enough cost - between 20 and 40 US cents a piece in large quantity.  

    I drew up a few images with actual branding to act as a testbed - this product is not affiliated with Leinenkugel brewing in any way. I wanted to test a very long, wide beer name, but one with a round logo (figuring I could put "Bud" in the same space fairly easily).

    I solicited quotes from tooling manufacturers as well as final part manufacturers, and it looked like the cost of each part would only drop to about 50 cents each, before any silkscreening or shipping.  Yikes.

    I wasn't worried about the mold cost; I would amortize it myself (rather than having the molder put it into the per-piece cost.  Depending on the quality of mold, the grade of material, number of cavities, I found quotes between $2k and $10k.  I knew that I needed to be selling 10's of thousands of Bottle Buddies, and so I figured with any real margin, this tooling cost would be paid back.

    Finally, I put up a small, simple website, just to see if people would come based off of google adwords, etc.  (Short answer, a few did.)  You can find the website here.
    The small, simple website for tracking visitors / web interest.  BottleBuddy.me!


    I thought up a few different usage cases, penned them down, and combined with some detailed drawings.  You can access my provisional patent filing here.

    A few images from it appear below, along with what is claimed. There are more images, as well as the use cases, etc., in the text of the application (above).

    What is claimed is:

    1. A multi-function bottle identifier tag for use with bottled beverages comprising a bottle opening device with a means of identifying the beverage from other beverages without the tag, via identifying marks on the device.
    2. The identifier tag of claim 1, wherein the device has personal user identification marks, temporary, or permanent.
    3. The identifier tag of claim 1, wherein the device has promotional or other commercial branding indications including trademark or copyrighted color, text, logo, tactile shape, or other unique marks.
    4. The identifier tags of claim 2 or 3, wherein the device has an (or multiple) additional flexible protrusion(s) with the dual purpose of temporarily securing liquid from exiting the bottle, and more commonly, providing additional identifying features as mentioned.

    Addendum: some tidbits from my notes

    Why not add something else to object:
    key ring
    double use as pony tail holder?

    Add a magnet under the lip to catch the beer bottle caps!

    1. Offer personalized engraving as an extra cost
    2. Include stickers with letters in the pack (a block of 26 letter stickers), so you can label it yourself
    3. His & Hers Bottle Buddy pack (World's Best Dad, etc.)
    4. Add a simple metal loop for a keychain attachment, so you always carry it on your keychain until you're at a party, then you remove it & put it on the bottle
    5. Deluxe versions: a larger one that has brass knuckle loops, so it gives your beer bottle brass knuckles - call it the Chuck Norris Bottle Buddy - also the hand grenade Bottle Buddy with removable pin

    Brainstorm #2
    What else goes with drinking?
    Smoking: Create a deluxe version that has a lighter on it.  Now you have your bottle opener and a fancy lighter to show off.
    How about a rubber extension cap that you can wrap over the top of the beer that covers the top so if you leave your beer for a bit, it is fully covered & can't spill. (optional add on)

    "If you like it, put a ring on it" --Beyonce

    General diameter of bottle holder:
     Lip width: 1.06 - 1.12
     Min stretch: 1.1
     Max stretch: 1.4
     Bottom of neck: 1.48

    Existing bottle openers:
     Magenta: Width: 0.480
     Shotgun: Width: 0.622
       (Shotgun tab: Width: 0.630, Thickness: 0.023")

      The Bottle Buddy
      Drink ID (DID)


    In the end, I decided not to take the project forward, as it was simply not worth the time and effort for an industry-outsider.  Drop me a line, if you're interested to take BottleBuddy forward, I'm happy to let you!