UTU HOUSE, Kenya
The home of Blockchain and AI in Nairobi
Jason Eisen is one of our most favourite people in the world. He is super positive, cosmopolitan type of person, with a great business understanding, always smiling and ready for a good time! He is also the founder of UTU Technologies — one of the startups from Starfleet 1 that builds a trust based platform.
Few months ago Jason Eisen also opened UTU House in Nairobi — a hub for Blockchain and AI projects, home to events and a bunch of cool people with great ideas.
We sat down to ask Jason few questions about his Blockchain journey and his vision for UTU House:
Can you tell us a few words about yourself and how did you get involved in crypto?
I have a pretty atypical background to some extent. I studied international relations in Washington, DC and then worked as a government relations consultant for a short time, and then in international development consulting for several years. In early 2013 I founded MARAMOJA transport in Nairobi, the first taxi app in Africa, which is now expanding across Africa. We reconceptualized the taxi app from the ground up for Nairobi, a place built on interpersonal trust. This became our differentiator and core IP as we developed our “trust engine” into a standalone company, UTU Technologies, offering a suite of AI-powered trust infrastructure services.
We got into blockchain in early 2018 when our Investors at Zeroth AI helped us pinpoint the value of implementing our vision for a more trusted internet on a blockchain — a vision I described in a Medium post some months back. As we iterated on this it became immediately clear that a trust protocol built on a technically robust, scalable blockchain would be the missing piece of the puzzle to deliver our value proposition to its full potential.
In short, what inspires you to do what you do?
The very nature of our business inspires us — to work on something as core and fundamental to the human experience as trust. We think that the current trust infrastructure for the internet is not just broken, but woefully inept by design. To bring a technology to the world that we believe can have wide-ranging applications in bringing a very human model of trust to digital transactions.
The team we’ve put together of brilliant engineers and vision- and value-aligned business partners also makes our daily work all the more inspiring.
What is UTU house and how the idea was born?
UTU House was born by chance. A friend of the company happened to own a big beautiful house in the Lower Kabete neighborhood of Nairobi. The was was vacant and the landowner was very progressive minded. As soon as we saw the space we knew that in addition to housing our company, it could serve as an amazing shared space, community hub, and event space for the many people and companies in Nairobi pursuing AI and blockchain projects. We wanted to do something to give back to the community by offering a more affordable space to people building innovative solutions using blockchain or AI (we’re less than half the price of other local co-working facilities) with a network of like-minded people.
What is special about the UTU house?
Well the house itself is pretty special, a beautifully modern yet cozy atmosphere set on nearly an acre of mature gardens in one of Nairobi’s leafy green suburbs. But more than that, the community of people sharing and utilizing the space is growing and becoming increasingly cohesive. New projects have already been born of chance meetings at the house, partnerships developed, and lots great educational opportunities to learn about blockchain and AI.
Our name, UTU, is kiSwahili for Humanity. To live up to this name, we also wanted to create a space to share music, art, and culture which recently kicked off with musical artist Stella Mwangi giving the first in a series of a private concerts called UTU House Live. Oh yea, we also have a pool.
Do you host Blockchain events? Tell us more about them?
Yes, we do host blockchain events, from various meet-ups and networking events to trainings and workshops. We hope to develop some even more exciting programming for blockchain startups early in 2019.
How many residents do you have currently?
Our community has grown to more than 30 members now after only a couple months. We still have plenty of space to grow and we’re bringing new spaces online as we grow.
What are your plans for the near future?
Well I mentioned the pool, we hope to get it up and running by the new year…priorities. We are also really excited about a major accelerator program that could kick off at UTU house in the coming months…though I can’t say too much more about this at the moment.
How do you see UTU house in 5 years?
We hope UTU House can become the go to space for entrepreneurs and enthusiasts in blockchain and AI across Africa. We believe that these two technologies, responsibly developed, are going to transform African economies, and we are really happy to play whatever role we can to accelerate that future.
What is the biggest obstacle you see on your way right now?
I think the current market cycle has many people scared so there’s some retrenchment. But most of the folks I know and work alongside are agnostic to short-term market changes and mostly focused on building amazing products that create value and utility at scale. I think that over the next 12–18 months as the DAPP market expands to compete with centralized apps, and on-boarding user experiences are made more seamless, there will be another boom for the ecosystem and the community will expand again.
What is the secret to success?
I’m not sure if I’m qualified to opine on this given that we have a long way to go before achieving our definition of success, but I don’t usually let such things stop me from opining anyway.
I see a lot tech businesses that believe that their path to success lies in pushing certain actors in their networks or platforms down, eg. big Sharing economy companies reducing prices and raising commissions on gig economy workers. I fundamentally disagree with this. I think the path to success and long term value in the sharing economy lies in lifting all actors up. I guess you could say we abide the traditional African wisdom, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
What is your advice to all new Blockchain & AI startups what would that be?
When you talk to the world about your product or company, don’t focus on your technology, as undoubtedly cool as it is.
Thank you, Jason and good luck UTU House!!
If you want to know more about UTU House, here are few channels to check:
Join UTU’s telegram
Read their Lite Paper!
Follow them on Facebook!