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Strathmore FIT students win Aspiring Innovators Intervarsity competition

Six Strathmore students from the Faculty of Information Technology (FIT) won the Aspiring Innovators InterVarsity Competition – School of Business 2019 Award held at Riara University in February 2019. The six founders of Game Devs, Absalom Alila, Ashraf Mohamed, Antony Nderitu, Betty Mwangi, David Mwambali and Francis Mairura, are passionate about how children spend their holiday time. Absalom, a fourth-year student in the Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications course, points out a problem that parents, teachers and psychologist are highly aware of; children who are glued to phones and video game screens.  They have a solution to this problem. Through their start-up, Game Devs Kenya, they plan to make children not only consumers of games but creators.

Absalom highlights their journey towards developing this start-up.

What is the start-up about?

Game development is the process of programming, testing and designing so as to create games that will be sold in the global market. The name of our start-up can be misleading as most people think it’s related to the playing of video games or is a betting start-up. 

We show our students how games are made from start to finish. Game Devs Kenya takes the students through our boot camp that includes the introduction of game programming, the creation of game levels, the introduction to game engines used to produce video games and the process of game development.

What does the start-up aim to do?

Our project aims to teach high-school students the fundamentals of programming. Our objective is to create an interest in IT for students who have a prejudice about the field and to bolster the interest for those who already have it. We do this by showing them that what seems to be hard and boring programming can be used to make interactive software like games. Through this, the students enjoy computer studies taught in high school more, increase their grades and whet their appetite for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Where did the idea to start Game Dev Kenya come from?

First and foremost, Strathmore held the Hult Prize competition in late 2018 where students were invited to present their business ideas before a panel of judges for the chance to win seed funding and incubation. Our idea was forced to take form when we took part in the competition. We participated in the 2018 Kenya rounds but we were eliminated just before the Africa rounds.

Secondly, in mid-2013, when I was a high school student, I started making games. I was intrigued and curious to find out how the video games I loved to play were made. Thirdly, I noticed that there isn’t a wide array of affordable entertainment activities for a teenager in Nairobi when one is on a long holiday. I wanted to create an alternative and constructive way for teens to spend their holidays.

Finally, I have a bubbly group of friends who are exceptionally talented and I decided to bring us together to use our vast knowledge to solve a societal problem. 

Has it been a challenge growing the start-up?

It has been a great but worthwhile challenge working on the Game Devs Kenya project in that it has forced us to apply the knowledge that we got from high school and while at Strathmore University. Working on it has been a breath of fresh air as we are able to put our theoretical knowledge to the test by trying to solve a real life problem.

How did you secure funding?

As part of the bid to secure a venue to teach the programming, Game Devs Kenya carried out a fundraiser for 30 days. We were able to raise money from friends, family and acquaintances. We were successful in our fundraiser, achieving 84% of our fundraiser goal. The money from the fundraiser has helped in most of our project operations.

What does running the start-up entail?

In a nutshell, the Game Devs Kenya normal week of operation involves fundraising, keeping accounts, and looking into the legal aspect of the start-up. We have to constantly learn more programming languages, connect with other local and foreign developers, create awareness of our start-up in schools, and maintain social media channels.

A thing I have learnt is that when running a start-up; one always has to look presentable as we are always meeting people, and negotiating deals. So as an ambassador of the start-up, I’ve been visiting the barber shop more frequently.

How many other start-ups participated in the Aspire Innovator Inter Varsity Competition?

Various Kenyan Universities came with their best students to compete. There were a total of 3 start-ups who made it to the final with our team being one of them. This year’s theme was “Leveraging Path Finding Solutions”. The competition is an avenue to teach a culture of innovation and problem-solving among students, to develop their analytical skills and to empower them in the different areas of learning.

Game Devs Kenya won the first prize in the business pitching competition and took home seed funding to help start the business.

How will the start-up create change in society?

The Game Devs Kenya boot camps will help give parents another option regarding places and activities where their children can spend their weekends. Game Devs Kenya reduces the need of parents having to take their children to boot camps outside the country by providing high quality boot camps within the country.

This article was written by Absalom Alila.

If you have a story, kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu