Onesmus Emeka, 28, is on course to landing in the US innovation hub of Silicon Valley in June where he will pitch to investors his idea of online interior designs for real estate.
He is among five Kenyans who are on the shortlist of the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative, which is sponsored by the US government to support entrepreneurs in science and technology.
Mr Emeka, a computer science graduate of Moi University, has developed an online portal with interior design products, enabling prospective property buyers or those leasing commercial space to select designs that suit their taste at the touch of a button.
This choice is then shared with property developers for incorporation into the building design.
The portal, which serves as an interface between real estate developers, buyers and material suppliers like hardware shops, features price tags, making it easy to budget.
“We want to create an ecosystem involving all players in the building value chain,” said Mr Emeka who has always been fascinated by technology.
He said he has approached Cytonn, an investment and real estate company, with the idea. The online interior design tool will earn him a commission from users.
The innovator, with training in software engineering, plans to launch the tool in July after the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley in June.
“I want people to have fun when they are building their dream homes and other property.”
The product enables customers to select a mix of materials ranging from kitchen cabinets to wall and floor finishing through dragging a cursor and dropping it on the selected product.
He expects to be among the 30 global finalists to participate in the summit from a list of 102 semi-finalists.
The budding entrepreneur is now at position 20, with a week to go before the finalists are determined, according to the votes he has received on the GIST website.
Mr Emeka plans to make the interior design product a flagship of his start-up, EgalaxyKenya, which is involved in website designs, bulk messaging solutions, software development and providing e-learning services.
He registered the firm in 2014, following the collapse of his first business that he launched immediately he completed campus in 2012.
Located in Nairobi’s central business district, the company has handled lucrative deals with the United States Agency for International Development in developing e-content to serve as reference notes for doctors deployed in remote areas like Turkana County.
It is also the developer of the Ministry of Education’s website.
Mr Emeka said patenting the interior design tool proved difficult, despite engaging four lawyers who seemed at a loss on copyright laws for ICT products.
He added that he was in talks with the Kenya Industrial Property Institute to legally protect his brainchild from potential copycats.
His start-up has a turnover of over Sh1.2 million currently and targets to more than quadruple with the launch of the interior design product.
Mr Emeka said the average age of his friends is 60 years, including business moguls, lecturers and professionals.
“I gain a lot from the advice of these people, more than I do from my peers.” He derives his mental resilience from bike racing, which is evident in his athletic frame.
Having started out with Sh100,000 from savings, the entrepreneur let out his first office in a residential address in Nairobi’s Kilimani estate.
He would soon experience cash flow challenges that prompted him to partner with a colleague for cost sharing.
This also proved futile and he was forced to move his operations to his apartment.
He later applied and got accepted in the Tony Elumelu Foundation which funded his idea to the tune of Sh500,000.
The Foundation supports startups across all fields. Mr Emeka is the President of Kenya’s chapter of the foundation.
The GIST competition received 1,075 applications from 104 countries with the 30 finalists set to meet investors in California’s tech hub Silicon Valley on June 23.
The GIST initiative was founded in 2011 and aims to support young innovators through networking, skills building, mentoring, and access to financing.
Nairobi has been attracting investors setting up incubation hubs like ihub to nurture innovative ideas in exchange for equity stake in the companies.
The capital city has recently been named the most intelligent city in Africa by the Intelligent Community Forum.
“I used to tell my friends that my dream is to earn a living in pajamas,” said Mr Emeka, who holds that he will never be employed and that entrepreneurship is his pathway to achieving the dream.
SOURCE>>> BUSINESS DAILY