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Edited Volume

Digital Kenya:
An Entrepreneurial Revolution in the Making

with Bitange Ndemo (2016). Palgrave MacMillan Open Access Publication

Presenting rigorous and original research, this volume offers key insights into the historical, cultural, social, economic and political forces at play in the creation of world-class ICT innovations in Kenya. Following the arrival of fiber-optic cables in 2009, Digital Kenya examines why the initial entrepreneurial spirit and digital revolution has begun to falter despite support from motivated entrepreneurs, international investors, policy experts and others. Written by engaged scholars and professionals in the field, the book offers 15 eye-opening chapters and 14 one-on-one “conversations” with entrepreneurs and investors to ask why establishing ICT start-ups on a continental and global scale remains a challenge on the “Silicon Savannah”. The authors present evidence-based recommendations to help Kenya to continue producing globally impactful ICT innovations that improve the lives of those still waiting on the side-lines, and to inspire other nations to do the same.


Digital Kenya is a candid look at the backstory of Kenya’s celebrated entrepreneurial revolution. It combines insightful analysis with honest conversations in the unique voices of the nation’s tech leaders. A sober look at Kenya’s dream of becoming the ‘Silicon Savannah’ — and an essential guide to the new African narrative.
— Bob Collymore, CEO, Safaricom
This book is a pioneering guidebook on digital entrepreneurship in Kenya. It is a rich source of lessons for other African countries and beyond. Digital Kenya is as relevant to policy makers as it is to practitioners and students.
— Calestous Juma, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, USA
Digital Kenya is an exceptional book highlighting the digital progress to date, and future of, digital business in Kenya. The changes and experiences in Kenya are laying the groundwork for the spread of the revolution across the continent. Scholars focused on entrepreneurship, corporate strategy in emerging markets, digital business, or Africa need to take advantage of this significant book and the great insights it provides.
— Garry Bruton, Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University & Associate Editor of Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal

Papers and Working Paper

 

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making sense of africa's emerging digital transformation and its many futureS

with Bitange Ndemo (published in the Africa Journal of Management issue 4, 2017)

Digital technologies have spread across the African continent at an inexorable pace. Widely cited data on adoption rates suggest that digital technologies are making their way into every facet of life in African societies — a broader change process cast in this paper as digital transformation seems to be underway. We look beyond adoption rates and examine actions that bring about favorable economic, organizational, political, social, and cultural environments which digital technologies depend on to realize their transformative potentiality. In our view, pure adoption does not indicate any broader change or transformation but rather indicates a potentiality for change — a latent power to catalyze broader societal change processes. In this paper, we develop a framework to make sense of Africa's emerging digital transformation. In so doing, we elaborate on the multiple environments that digital technologies are embedded in and, by extension, the multidimensional change processes they need to ignite. The goal is to provide a better understanding — and new avenues for research — why actions and changes in some environments tend to more readily embrace the new possibilities offered by digital technologies while others seem disconnected and are lagging behind.


Entrepreneuring an Industry: The case of Kenya's Technology Entrepreneurship Sector

with Klaus Weber – Working Paper

The technology entrepreneurship narrative cast as a desirable pathway toward self-fulfillment and national socio-economic progress has by now morphed into a global phenomenon. Inspired by highly visible tales about entrepreneurs and their recipes to success, new industry sectors have emerged and entrepreneurial cultures become enacted in seemingly disparate places. Kenya’s technology entrepreneurship sector, also known as Silicon Savannah, is such a prominent setting in which entrepreneurial startups grapple with an unsettled field as ideas about how to perform technology entrepreneurship are in flux. Entrepreneurs have to reconcile local ideals with global ideals of becoming a successful technology entrepreneur. This tension severely complicates the entrepreneurial process and creates substantial variation in how technology entrepreneurship is enacted. In an effort to systematically capture this phenomenon of entrepreneuring an industry, we unpack what entrepreneurial strategies of action emerge, how participants come to pursue particular strategies of action and what outcomes are generated.


Globalization in Action: Templates, Tensions and Strategies of Action in Kenyan Technology Entrepreneurship

with Klaus Weber – OMT Best Paper on Entrepreneurship Award Finalist – Working Paper

A cultural dimension of economic globalization is the proliferation of seemingly universal templates for economic action. One example is technology entrepreneurship, which is increasingly presented as a recipe for economic development and national competitiveness. But what does it mean to perform technology entrepreneurship? The paper develops a micro-phenomenological answer to this question. The case of the nascent Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in Nairobi, Kenya, shows how participants in this sector construct contrasting templates of entrepreneurship that are coded as alternatively “local” and “global.” We develop a dynamic process model of local changes in response to globalization that captures the ongoing and generative dimension of diffusion and translation processes.


New Kids on the Block: Applying an Interorganizational Ecology Perspective to the Global Diffusion of Organizational Forms

Working Paper

The by-now omnipresent and largely taken-for-granted diffusion of organizational forms thought to advance market formation and socioeconomic development (particularly in transition and new-minted market economies) in various economic regions around the globe is well documented. Yet organizational sociologists lack a systematic framework for assessing the profound impact that these nonnative forms can have on the evolutionary trajectory of the organizational context in the adopting locale. By modelling this organizational dimension of global diffusion processes with concepts and empirical insights from population ecology, an evolutionary process model emerges that theorizes effects of form diffusion on firms that adopt nonnative forms, on the forms themselves and on the adopting organizational context—or, as population ecologists would call it, the community ecology—as a whole.


Chasing the Next Dollar: How Portfolio Workpreneuers Survive and Thrive in Kenya’s Hustling Economy

Working Paper

Drastic socioeconomic changes over the past decades have profoundly affected the Global North, with the result that the institution of stable, full employment — upheld by the “organization man” — has entered a new era that is fundamentally changing work into a world of flexible work arrangements that oftentimes run in parallel which is best captured by the image of an assiduous multi-active individual. This paper argues that a fresh view on contemporary work dynamics through an inductive qualitative study outside of well-researched contexts can provide new conceptualizations of the multidimensional work realities today’s workers are exposed to. Using empirical data from Kenya’s technology entrepreneurship sector and an interpretative methodological design, four interrelated work dimensions emerge: hustling, organizational work, relational work and personal finance activities. Taken together, these constitute a comprehensive interface from which the multi-active individual in Kenya engineers a comprehensive work portfolio to hedge risks in the pursuit of a steady income flow, create social welfare and pursue the possibility of exerting agency for changing the status quo in an otherwise volatile and unpredictable environment — transforming the multi-active individual into a portfolio workpreneur. The implications of this conception on the future of work, organizing and organizations are discussed.


The Institutional Production of Difference

with Christopher Steele and Jayaram Uparna – Working Paper


Book Chapters

 

Weiss, Tim and Weber, Klaus (2016). The Art of Managing World Views in Kenya’s International Technology Sector. In Ndemo, Bitange and Weiss, Tim (eds.) Digital Kenya: An Entrepreneurial Revolution in the Making. Palgrave MacMillan

 

Weiss, Tim (2016). Entrepreneuring for Society: What’s Next for Africa? In Ndemo, Bitange and Weiss, Tim (eds.) Digital Kenya: An Entrepreneurial Revolution in the Making. Palgrave MacMillan

 

Hanley, Lisa; Wachner, Aline and Weiss, Tim (2016). The Role of Social Investors in Developing and Emerging Economies. In Lehner, Othmar (ed.). Routledge Handbook of Social and Sustainable Finance.


Proceedings

 

Weiss, Tim and Weber, Klaus (2016). Globalization Dynamics in Kenyan Technology Entrepreneurship. In John Humphreys (Ed.) Proceedings of the Seventy-sixth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management


Practitioner Reports and Business Cases

 

Weiss, Tim (2015). Combining the Best of the Valley and the Savannah: Comparative Advantage for the Next Generation of Technology Enterprises in Kenya. In Lisa Hanley, Stephan A. Jansen and Beate Grotehans (eds.) Entrepreneurial Solutions for Social Challenges in Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico and South Africa. Complete report here.

 

Hanley, Lisa; Wachner, Aline and Weiss, Tim (2015). Taking the Pulse of the Social Enterprise Landscape in Developing and Emerging Economies: Insights from Colombia, Mexico, Kenya and South Africa. Complete report here.

 

Weiss, Tim and Wachner, Aline (2015). Navigating a social business through unchartered waters - Valid Nutrition’s strategy to access capital.