Kenyan Startup Backup the Internet with a BRCK
New Zealander Reg Orton, one of Nairobi-based BRCK Inc.’s co-founders, is helping to come up with new commercial products specifically designed to address African problems, namely a “backup generator for the Internet.”
About a year ago, a nationwide blackout and accompanying power surge sent a jolt of electricity through this city’s grid that fried computers and other electronic devices. What was a catastrophe for many companies here presented an opportunity for another.
“We said, ‘What if we had a device that when the power went out, it kicked in?’” said Philip Walton, BRCK’s 40-year old American co-founder, when describing the brick-sized router. BRCK will ship its first 700 units next week.
Like other startups in Nairobi, BRCK is betting the future of technology innovation is on the African continent – and that there is money to be made addressing the technological needs of the so-called “bottom billion.”
Kenya’s difficult conditions actually helped shape BRCK’s final product: Engineers had to cope with last year’s power surge, and came to realise that the country’s cell towers sometimes gave off a signal without having a real data connection. They made sure the BRCK would be able to make that distinction.
“We wanted our engineers to feel the pain,” Orton said.
The trio wanted a product that would allow people to get online – and stay online – anywhere they could get a mobile data connection.
Original article by Heidi Vogt, The Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2014.