Exclusive Interview with Joel Epalanga, CEO of the country’s main technology innovation center for startups

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Image: KiandaHub

Mindful of the potential and the growth of small and medium enterprises in the country, on April 12, 2013, Joel Epalanga along with other friends, founded the Associação Startup Angola. About two years later, on February 7, 2015, they inaugurated KiandaHub – today, one of the leading private technological innovation centres in the country.

KiandaHub was built with the aim of becoming a hub for entrepreneurs, investors and people interested in entrepreneurship, with the following working pillars; consulting, events, and co-working space.

Enjoy the exclusive interview with the CEO of KiandaHub after Startup Dojo. (A free mentoring vent mentoring and networking organized by KiandaHub)

Success Code: Hello Joel Epalanga, could you first tell us when did you have the idea of founding KiandaHub?

Joel Epalanga: Hello! In fact the idea of creating the hub came from a personal need. After having identified the absence of a space that would allow various entrepreneurs to meet, we began to produce some events by the Associação Startup Angola in 2013.

Earlier on we use to gather in restaurants and wherever it was possible. We begin to realize that it was costly, we were not always able to stay a little longer from the restaurant operating time, and we were always obligated to be consuming something. Because of these reasons we began the search for our own space.

Success Code: In the beginning when you mentioned the meetings, were those meetings between Joel, Mauro and Dizando only?

Joel Epalanga: No. There were about 10 people. At the beginning, the main goal was just to create awareness and show people that there was something to be done about the technological entrepreneurship, and that we should try to explore these opportunities further. Since our country has many problems that need solution, it is therefore essential that we have such platforms and ideas which encourage innovation.

Success Code:  KiandaHub rises on a very strategic time, and has been a huge driver of entrepreneurship, especially for the technological entrepreneurship. Taking advantage of this moment, we would like to know then; Why the specific focus on technological entrepreneurship?

Joel Epalanga: One of the main reasons is that about 90% of the community that founded the movement had a technological background. There were telecommunications, computer science and computer engineering students, and the rest still had some knowledge abut technology.

Success Code: Understood. In addition to the various sectors of KiandaHub, we can see that there are already affiliated companies to it, it is the case of LoopLab. Would it be a future perspective? Is it possible that in few years we will have a KiandaHub with shares in companies associated to the community?

Joel Epalanga: I can’t say no. (Laughter) As  KiandaHub we are acting a bit like a startup. We have several pillars; the events, the co-working space, and the consultations. Therefore we are trying to develop an aura of business and pleasure, and also study the market and the opportunities that it has to offer.

As KiandaHub grows, we don’t eliminate the possibility of one day gicing financial support to startups, or create an acceleration program. As a company that believes in innovation, the power of collaboration, and the potential of technological entrepreneurship itself, we thought that this initiative would be great – pick up a young man’s startup to work with us and try to catapult his company, in the search for a success case study.  

Success Code: In addition to the various aspects that you mentioned, like the company’s structure, the role as an accelerator and as a startup, we can see as well that free events like this (Startup Dojo), show a more social side. Does KiandaHub have the goal of always keeping the social side active?

Joel Epalanga: Right! Being social is a mark at KiandaHub. We carry a community and fellowship backgroung, so we never ignore our social responsabilities. For now, until things change, KiandaHub will continue to produce events in support of the community’s development.

Success Code: How can we see KiandaHub by 2020?

Joel Epalanga: Well, you can count on us and be sure that KiandaHub is working hard daily, so that within the next three to four years we have our co-working space 100% functional, the acceleration program in progress, and perhaps already funding startups.

Be sure that you will find a more mature, profitable, and self-sustainable KiandaHub, with a predominance to be a leader and a reference in its field not only locally but internationally.

 

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Image: KiandaHub

Success Code: Several other organizations saw great opportunities in business incubators, accelerators, and even our government has done so much in favour of entrepreneurship. Is the existence of potential competitors a concern for KiandaHub?

Joel Epalanga: As a pioneer in the development of technological entrepreneurship, KiandaHub has always believed in the strength of collaboration. The importance of collaboration is part of our DNA. The team knows and feels a huge pleasure to cooperate with any other company or institution.  

Therefore we see no problem to cooperate, and we think that there is no problem as new players emerge in the game. Also because our ecosystem is still in its infancy state, we need other players to make it more mature. Therefore every other player is welcome.

Success Code: To the young people who have ideas or even well-structured projects already, but still not part of KiandaHub or any other incubator, what’s the message you leave them?

Joel Epalanga: To all the young people who wish to become entrepreneurs, or the ones who are already running a business, the message I leave is that KiandaHub is here for whatever you need. We are opened to new ideas and to provide massive support within what are our possibilities.  

Search for us, contact us, and schedule a visit or an appointment. At the moment we are still not 100% operating, but I believe that within the next months we will have some great news. You can count on a more receptive and functional KiandaHub, with facilities that will certainly add value to those who wish to use KiandaHub for their support.


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