I have just finished the sad story of Spotify and it nearly made me spitify on my keyboard.
In the US, a lazy bum can just register a patent and sit there for years waiting for someone to ACTUALLY invent something related to the patent and the SUE them and live happily and rich ever-after.
Just a few weeks after Spotify entered the US Market, it hit 700, 000 users in the US and KUJA HAPA, they got sued for Copyright Infringement.
Pathetic. Sad. Really.
And so, you want to know, “What is this brain drain that you speak of, Salim?”. Well, read on. I will not leave you hanging.
Absence of Patent/Copyright
To my own knowledge (and I will graciously accept correction) IP law in Kenya is as nonfunctional as VB code on a Mac. Wine or no wine. Let us say I invent a way to make coders understand what all the fuss is about Justin Bieberre (See, I can’t even spell it.), It will take me 100 times longer, 100 times more hustle to get a patent for that in Kenya than in the US.
The bonus is that if I were (God forbid) a US Citizen, then it would be smooth sailing. I can come to Africa, Listen to an Idea and go patent it in the US. Then wait for these bloody Africans to go big and enter the US market with ‘My product’… and… Kaching!!
We all know African Tech Solutions. Ushahidi, Mpesa come to mind. Apps made by Africans for Africa. Because African solutions are made on an empty stomach, they address a REAL need. A real problem. Not AngryBirds. HungryCoders. No one will give you USD 1M to start an experiment and ‘see how the market responds’ in Africa. So, Tech-challenges leave a lot of coders flat-nosed.
Tech-Challenges present another problem. We see them every now and then and I am big Fan of them, because of the investment opportunity they give local developers. But what about Idea Protection. Are we in a position to protect out ideas.
I am not going to be all nasty and disrespect IPO48, Pivo25, AppCircus or any of the local developer challenge initiatives. These challenges offer a NOBLE and REAL opportunity for Devs to get their app to the next level. But what happens after the events? What happens to the 17 who miss out after the top 3 slots have been taken.
What stops vultures from taking their ideas, shipping them to China or India and using the resources the developers don’t have (time and money) and killing another Kenyan Dream?
So, what now?
Are we fucked? It all depends. You need to decide what you want as a developer. Obviously, there is NEVER room for HelloWorld Apps in developer contests. But what about the Mutindas, the Wesongas, the HildaSams and the Mwais of the local space. How do we protect these people. How do we make sure that not winning in App contests does not spell the end?
What models can we adopt to make sure the Investor’s money is just a by-the-way. The only person I know who believes and invests actively in Local Techies financially is JM. The rest are just happy to invest old-money on old-models. 100 bob making 120 bob, instead of 100 bob making 600 bob.
I don’t yet think Mbetsa is a Millionaire as he should be. He invented a Kenya’s-First and possibly Africa’s-First. But what next after the invention?
Someone once suggested that we start a Kenyan SharkTank. But who will be the hosts?
What do you think can be done to salvage the sitiuation? Tell me. Discuss [20 Mks]
Back to code…