The big question was if Silicon Mountain (SM) can produce multi billion dollar companies. It is a question that will be answered in the subsequent years.
This was one of the topics that was elaborately analyzed at the 2017 Silicon Mountain conference, Chariot Hotel Complex Buea. The aim of the Silicon Mountain is to bring together start ups/Creatives/ Entrepreneurs/business men and women in the Silicon Mountain and potential investors/influencers/stakeholders and other change makers for a day of networking. On that day, there are usually presentations by various speakers, exhibitions by SM companies and panel discussions that focus on the theme of that year. This year’s conference was no exception.
This year’s conference focused on how companies in the Silicon Mountain can build scalable and profitable ventures. The conference which brought together over 1000 participants was able to prove that Fako and its environs is a friendly environment for techpreneurship.
Keynote and guest speakers like Churchill Nanje, Otto Isong Beseka, Otto Paul Akama, Roland Kwemain, Julius Kedia, Tabot Kevin, Fongoh Martin, James Ntui and a host of others came up to pose and answer questions on some of the problems retarding the growth of the Silicon Mountain community.
Out of the anecdotes given by most of the speakers, the most featured phrases were; ‘follow your passion’, ‘A good entrepreneur is a crazy one’, ‘make the world better than you met it’, ‘never give up despite the difficulties’ and ‘consume homemade products’. It could therefore be told that stakeholders in SM already have a way forward to solving the problems at SM.
What Silicon Mountain is all about
Silicon Mountain is the name given to the tech ecosystem around Fako Division, South West Region in the Republic of Cameroon. To Valery Colong, a techpreneur and Hub Manager of ActivSpaces , Silicon Mountain is a collection of tech entrepreneurs in Fako with its headquarters in Buea. However, different pioneer members of the community have different opinions about the community. But one thing is certain; the name signifies the technology entrepreneurs in and around Fako.
The confusing question is if SM is all about technology. According to Otto Akama Paul, one of the pioneer members of SM, founder of Makonjo media, SM is all about technology. This is because what brought/brings the community members together is/was technology. However, the community interacts with other communities/players/Actors/businessmen and women/Academicians/influencers and other change makers.
The SM community looks at ways of producing products that can change the scope of tech/innovation in Cameroon and Africa. There are over 50 start ups in SM who are working on different projects in a bid to make Buea the tech innovator in Cameroon. Most of the tech companies in SM that have stood the test of time include; ActivSpaces-the first and only tech/innovation Hub and Incubator in Cameroon, Zinger Systems, Skylabase, Njorku, Akwajobs, Makonjo Media, Agro-Hub and many others. However, some others were not able to see the light of day due to the too many bottlenecks plaguing the tech ecosystem in Cameroon.
How Silicon Mountain got its name
If one says SM got its name in one seating, then it’s a lie. The name Silicon Mountain was adopted after several deliberations by the then techies in Buea. We are talking of the likes of Valery Colong, Churchill Nanje Mambe, Ayuk Eta, Akama Otto Pual, Otto Isong Beseka, Tse Fua just to mention these few.
According to Otto Paul Akama, SM was first mentioned by Rebecca Enonchong, founder of AppsTech, known for bringing tech to Africa. This was in 2013 during a Barcamp in Buea. Otto says this left them thinking as to whether they will adopt the name or not. But the name SM was already trending since 2011 during the first VC4Africa meet up. All these go a long way to prove that SM has existed for almost a decade. The likes of Churchill and Otto Akama have affirmed that the name Silicon Mountain was a perfect one for the initiative.
“Silicon”, represents the similar initiative of Silicon Valley in the US, while “Mountain” is due to techies’ proximity to the Mt. Fako. Therefore, Silicon Mountain refers to the community around the Fako that is involved in tech innovation and entrepreneurship. The name is still to gain popularity among Cameroonians despite the fact that it is already making Cameroon proud in the Diaspora.
At Last, Silicon Mountain gains Recognition
Even Jesus said it Himself in Matthew 6:6, “…….Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you….” We think that time has come for the SM community to have its reward for its wonderful contribution to the growth of the Cameroonian nation in terms of technology. The truth is, these tech guys were busy doing their work and creating jobs for others without minding if someone is/was looking at them. But as the saying goes, “A city built on a hill cannot be hidden”.
Just some few weeks ago, 10th November 2017, Silicon Mountain received a delegation from the Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation (MINRESI). Their mission was to know more about Silicon Mountain, its activities, difficulties and ways in which the government can contribute to its growth.
The irony here is that the delegation heard about SM from those in the Diaspora. They didn’t know such a community exists in Cameroon. After background research, they located the community and decided to pay a visit. it is just the beginning of more greater things in SM