Karatina University held its 2nd KarU Start-Up Expo from 26th and 27th November, 2022 under the Theme “Sustainable Technopreneurship -From Hub to User. The University partnered with Mt. Kenya Hub, who brought innovators from different Central region institutions. The Start-Up Expo attracted twenty six (26) teams that pitched for two days.

The event was officially opened by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mucai Muchiri. The Vice Chancellor highlighted the importance of positioning the University as Green Entrepreneurial University and the efforts it is making to achieve this concept. He encouraged the innovators to go beyond software applications (APPs) and explore tangible disruptive innovations in agriculture, environmental science and climate change. The VC further emphasized the need to have original ideas by avoiding plagiarism.

Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mucai Muchiri, addressing the participants

The Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic, Research and Students Affairs), Prof. Peninah Aloo-Obudho, represented by Prof. Mugo Mware, Director, Quality Assurance and ISO encouraged the innovators to come up with innovations that will help them to become employers as well as solve problems in the society. She encouraged them to aspire to be great not only regionally but also globally. This, she said, can be achieved if the students develop their communication skills so as to enable them fluently express their ideas and innovations.

Prof. Mugo Mware representing the DVC (ARSA)

The innovators were also motivated by Dr. Paul Tanui, the Chairperson of the Department of Chemistry from Dedan Kimathi University of Technology on the topic “From Bush to Shelf”. Dr. Tanui articulated how substances from the bush such as from trees and shrubs can be formulated into a product that can be introduced into the market and make money out of it.  In DeKUT, he explained, they have developed a research ecosystem through financially independent centres formed by each department. He established a Natural Products Centre where undergraduate and postgraduate students can conduct research on natural plant extracts and formulate products such as food and cosmetics among other products.

‘I encourage you to continue working on your innovations since universities offer the best opportunities to make mistakes over and over again and rectify them gradually’, he stated.

He also advised the innovators to protect their ideas by patenting them. In sourcing for financiers for innovations, he advised the students to share their ideas with their universities, for example, through the Research and Innovation directorates or centres for any kind of support.  Dr. Tanui encouraged them to identify a real research gap and provide a real solution. He further stated that innovators need to invest in research and be open to exchange of ideas so as to produce an excellent product.

Student innovators presentation

The Start-Up Expo was a chance for students to come together, pitch their business ideas and, with the help of business coaches and mentors, develop prototypes of their products or services from ideation stage through to product/service delivery in the market. Business coaches were drawn from the University’s entrepreneurship champions who have undergone trainings and also coaches from the industry. During this Expo, participants were able to form multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional teams. Teams worked on their business ideas through to 27th November, 2022 when a team of judges comprising of a practicing entrepreneur, an investment banker and a business simulation expert evaluated the performance of the teams and gave them insights on what to improve upon in order to actualize their start-up companies.


A bastion of ideas during the Expo

Mr. Daniel Mathenge, the Senior Commercial Infrastructure Officer at Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF), representing his Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Benson Muthendi, informed the innovators that YEDF was in a position to train them so that they can actualize their business ideas. He applauded the University for being keen in promoting the entrepreneurial culture in the country and emphasized on the Fund’s commitment to the youth of this country. Mr. Mathenge identified two innovations and committed that, through the Vice Chancellor, the Fund would engage the innovators effective immediately because the two innovations touched on marketing and linkages which are key to the Fund. He advised other innovators to group themselves and approach the Fund through their institutions. He committed that for any innovation that will appeal to the Fund, they would finance with Ksh 100,000/-.

Mr. Daniel Mathenge presenting goodies to the winning team

The purpose of the 2nd KarU Start-up Expo was achieved as the participants were able to:

  1. Learn about being a start-up founder;
  2. Learn how to make a business pitch in front of potential partners;
  • Develop both business and social networks;
  1. Learn about a business model e.g., lean model canvas and Start-Up business model.

The CBC PRO Resource team were declared winners out of the thirteen (13) Start –up teams who pitched from Karatina University. The top three winning groups received a cheque worth Kshs 100,000/- each and other goodies. 

A cheque worth Kshs 300,000/- was also issued

The event was coordinated by Prof. Kenneth Wanjau, Director, Career Services & University-Industry Linkages and Mr. Savio Wambugu, CEO Mt. Kenya Hub. The other partners were Impax Business Solutions, Segal, Toto-Sci, Konza Technopolis, Bimas and Green Pencils Limited. The CEO of Bismart Insurance, Mrs Eunice Mburu, will train all the participants on how to do a sales pitch. This was their sponsorship as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Dr. Pauline Thuku, Dr. Denis Maina, Dr. Michael Gachahi, Dr. Rebecca Karaya and Dr. Charles Wahogo were the entrepreneurship champions from Karatina University who coached the innovators assisted by Mr. Kenneth Njahia from Sote Hub in Mombasa. Other members of staff were Prof. Michael Lokuruka, Director (Research, Innovation and Extension) and Dr. David Gichuhi- Dean School of Business.

There were approximately one hundred (100) students drawn from five institutions; the hosts Karatina University were thirty eight, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Kirinyaga University, Murang’a University and Nyeri Technical Institute.