The start-up ecosystem in Kigali is booming. The growing demand for co-working spaces and innovation hubs is testimony to a burgeoning entrepreneurial scene in Rwanda.
A suitable space to set up shop remains one of the challenges for young entrepreneurs who are starting a business. Fast internet, access to materials, and being part of a community of like-minded people are crucial in the growth of any business.
Alongside Impact Hub, K-Lab and the recently opened CCHub Design Lab, Westerwelle Start-Up Haus brings its own unique proposition to the ecosystem. Community manager Sarah Rukundo explains:
“Westerwelle offers not just a work space, but a community. Here different start-ups and stakeholders meet to exchange ideas, collaborate and expand their skill set.”
On over 1,200 m2 the Westerwelle Startup House offers more than a 150 work places, available through various memberships, that include the use of fast fiber internet, access to meeting and conference rooms, weekly events and training.
Since its launch in October 2018, Westerwelle has welcomed more than 30 Rwandan startups through its doors, from all sectors and industries and in various stages of maturity. The celebrated rooftop is an informal extension of this co-working community.
Walking around the premises, the buzz is unmistakable.
The interior has been created to encourage member contact and co-creation. Floor-to-ceiling glass gives a bright, light feel to the place. Industrial flexible partitioning systems create smaller or larger spaces, with varying degrees of privacy. Some people have set up their workstation on communal tables or are in meeting in groups of three of four in smaller cubicles or around the cozy coffee corner area. There are plenty of nooks and corners suitable for Skype calls, or just to enjoy quiet, solitary time. Green walls and red pillows combined with glass and metal create a welcoming, industrial look.
Westerwelle is already expanding its offering. An intriguing work-in-progress is the so-called “Maker Space”.
Right now it looks like a large artists’ atelier, with sawdust on the floors and wood and tools lying around. Along one wall, desktop computers are lined up on desks and a couple of shelves in a corner contain two 3D printers and stacks of filament.
Design engineer Bertie Ford, in charge of the Maker Space, tells us that in a few weeks the space will be ready.
“We will offer full support to our members to prototype their ideas into products, to test and to improve. Besides the 3D printers, we will add machines and tools for wood working, digital embroidery or architectural drawing.”
It looks like Westerwelle is eager to set a new standard for co-working spaces in Kigali. “Although our facilities are hi-tech, we are not just here for the tech-sector. We like to host a community of businesses from different industries, so they can find creative ways to work together.” says Sarah Rukundo.
As for the roof top? She laughs, “It will also be available for external workshops and corporate events — we can’t wait to make it happen”.
Photo credits: Westerwelle Start-up Haus & Nadege Imbabazi
Ilse Lasschuijt works as a writer, editor and copywriter based in Kigali, Rwanda, with an interest in a travel, tech and (life)-style.