Erik Hersman is the well-known co-founder of Ushahidi, a web mashup built in 2008 to map post-election violence. It’s become a platform and organisation. He’s also a co-founder of iHub – Nairobi’s Innovation Hub – and most recently, BRCK – a rugged solution to connecting in places where electricity and internet access are problematic.
Hersman spoke at the first Tech4Africa, back in 2010, mostly, he says, about the bruises the Ushahidi team had gained on the route to getting where it was at the time. “This time.” He says. “I’ll be talking about the things that happened on the way from Ushahidi to iHub and BRCK – lessons learned – the personal journey.
“I’m also going to talk about how hard hardware is,” he grins. “It’s better to go in with eyes wide shut – not knowing what you don’t know. You need to team up with a lot of people and go through a steep learning curve. We’re still going through challenges, and that’s where the personal part of the journey comes in – dealing with adversity, how to overcome it – and what comes if you stick with things long enough and push – fun things happen after you’ve done a lot of really hard stuff to make it there.”
Having been involved since the first, Hersman says he’s seen the conference evolve into an event that straddles multiple Africa countries, and attended two Tech4Africa events in Kenya.
To first time attendees, he says, “Tell your team/company that you’re going to be doing this event and not answering emails. Be plugged into this thing so you’re there – in body and person.
“Spend time talking to a number of people – a mistake people make is to stay in the crowd they go with. It destroys the opportunity for serendipity that you have. If it’s anything like the first tech4Africa,” he says, “there will be great people there and if you do not get outside your own little bubble you’re hurting yourself.”