A Homecoming and That Hip & Happening iHub

Erik 'White African" Hersman

Ever since I met Erik Hersman, I have dreamed of traveling to Nairobi to work with him. So now, my dream has come true.

Last week, I traveled with my daughter and mother back to the country where I was born, Kenya.


For my mother, it was the first return trip since 1969 since she boarded a departing flight to London with a new baby boy (me). I grew up in Tennessee, but my passport has had Nairobi listed as place of birth my whole life, burning Africa into my imagination. 

It wasn't until 2005, that I started running into young savvy African entrepreneurs at the annual PopTech Conference, that the possibility of returning to Kenya became thinkable.

In 2008, when Erik and I met over clam chowder in blustery Southeast Maine, he had just co-founded what is now the world-class case study in crowdsourcing and crisis mapping, Ushahidi.

Each and every year at PopTech, I grilled him about what his life is like and what had changed in the preceding 12 months.

2009: Erik was packing up a shipping container with his family's worldly possessions to move from Orlando to Nairobi.


2010: He was mustering the energy and building the relationships to build out a free and open co-working space for the East African tech community, called the iHub.

2011: The two organizations (Ushahidi and iHub) were busy expanding and spinning off other projects: the m:lab incubator for start-ups, an iHub research arm, plus other software platforms and products (SwiftRiver, Crowdmap).

Now it is February 2012, and I am here thanks to both PopTech, Erik and the generosity of his family, who is hosting our little multi-generational posse.

iHub Panorama

On Friday, we saw the bustling iHub in 3D. Mostly techies working heads down on software and business models. Meetings happening in corners, at the coffee bar, on the balcony.


Visitors from Google and Nokia and regional media and IT firms are shuffled together with students, freelancers, start-ups and the next generation of African mobile app moguls.


On Saturday, Erik drove our posse up to Lake Naivasha in the Highlands.

Rift Valley, red Fence, Blue Toilets

This is the beautiful country celebrated in Out of Africa and the agricultural belt around Nairobi. Great vistas of the Rift Valley and dormant volcanoes. 

iHub Advisory Board Retreat

The leadership of the iHub had graciously invited me to help facilitate their workshop on the next phase of growth.

Tosh & Erik Talk

Erik and iHub Manager, Tosh, discuss the future over Lake Navaisha.

View of Lake Naivasha

See? My dream came true!

Working in Kenya with people who are making stuff happen, and all with my daughter and mother a stone's throw away. But next time, we bring the entire posse!

So, now time for the next dream: The Alphachimp Nairobi Studio! 

Lillian and Meredith