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Chinese and Kenyan innovators establish a start-up to revolutionize lifestyle entertainment industry | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Larry Liu [left] works with his team members in a working space at iHub, an incubation space for innovators located in the upscale district of Nairobi, capital of Kenya. Workers [right] using earphones from the brand Pace Africa work at a music studio in Nairobi. Larry Liu is the embodiment of the flourishing China-Kenya friendship, having lived in the East African Nation for four years and pioneered initiatives that have transformed the market. The 27-year-old is now the CEO of Pace Africa, which is a one-year-old start-up that has introduced high-end entertainment gadgets in the east African market. XINHUA PHOTOS - LI BAISHUN and  JIN ZHENG

Chinese and Kenyan innovators establish a start-up
to revolutionize local lifestyle entertainment industry

by Jin Zheng, Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Larry Liu is the embodiment of the flourishing China-Kenya friendship, having lived in the East African Nation for four years and pioneered initiatives that have transformed the market.

The 27-year-old is now the CEO of Pace Africa.

It is a one-year-old start-up that has introduced high-end entertainment gadgets in the east African market.

He is on a mission to make an enduring impact in his new-found home.

Together with Jibril Blessing, Liu and six other Kenyan colleagues have secured a working space at iHub, an incubation space for innovators located in the upscale district of the capital of Nairobi, where they meet daily to execute their ideas to hasten growth and impact of their enterprise.

During a recent interview with Xinhua at the trendy open space for innovators and technology entrepreneurs, Liu said the company, which he co-founded with a renowned Kenyan Video director commonly known as J Blessing, is reshaping entertainment in the country.

"Ours is a start-up that is growing pretty fast since its establishment in April 2017.

"We deal with quality audio products like earphones and headphones.

"They are cool, trendy and meant for the youth," said Liu.

His seven Kenyan colleagues including the co-founder J Blessing, comprises of a sales representative, two digital marketer, brand manager, an administrator and a customer care representative.

Located in an upscale suburb north of Nairobi, iHub is a prized destination for local and foreign technology wizards who have pioneered thriving start-ups across key economic sectors.

The upper floor of Senteu Plaza where iHub is housed has elegant interior decor, comfy seats and wide corridors that ease movement of resident innovators and visitors.

Its roofing is environmental friendly while its floor tiles which are brown in color bring out an authentic feel to technology enthusiasts who flock the place every day.

Liu and his team clearly enjoyed the ambience at the iHub as they exchanged views on how to grow an enterprise that is slowly reshaping how African music lovers enjoy their favorite songs.

He told Xinhua that his vision is to design niche entertainment gadgets for the African market whose potential is profound thanks to a bulging youthful population.

"We are a local company with an international vision.

"Our products are designed here and sold through online platforms," said Liu adding that KeepPace.Net has set up a foundation to support upcoming musicians.

The bubbly aerospace engineering major disclosed that his start-up will in the near future venture into sports, digital shoes, smart watches and artificial intelligence (AI) speakers.

"It is within our near-term goals to promote healthy lifestyles through technology," Liu told Xinhua.

He revealed that PACE headphones are already a hit in the local market thanks to savvy marketing and endorsement by top celebrities in the local entertainment industry.

"In March this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta endorsed our headphones and bought dozens.

"Our products have also been endorsed by top artists, celebrities and business executives," said Liu.

He clarified that Pace Africa was founded out of a strong belief in the continent’s potential to produce quality entertainment gadgets that can generate global appeal.

Kenya’s growing army of innovators, artists and budding entrepreneurs have forged enduring friendships with their Chinese counterparts to establish thriving enterprises.

J Blessing, a famous Video director and producer, said his encounter with Liu marked a new beginning in his quest to transform the entertainment industry using technology.

"The idea behind PACE was to avail quality music listenership to the ordinary person at a reasonable cost and our brand has grown tremendously.

"We are young in the market and perception from Kenyans is positive," Blessing told Xinhua.

He noted that his random encounter with Liu at the innovation hub was not in vain since they later bonded and shared a similar vision of transforming the way Kenyans accessed their favorite music.

"My meeting with Larry was per chance and after a brief exchange I realized we shared a similar vision.

"It was a coincidence that both of us wanted to actualize the vision of establishing an indigenous company with the potential to spread globally," said Blessing.

He had a positive gut feeling of how a talented and entrepreneurial Kenyan youth could join forces with his Chinese counterpart to establish an indigenous start-up in entertainment industry, that had potential to spread tentacles globally.

"What makes us different is having a combination of Chinese and Kenyan talents to grow a brand.

"My 14 years of experience in the music industry and Larry’s background in aerospace engineering makes us a great combination," Blessing told Xinhua.

He clarified that his relationship with Larry is rock solid while differences in culture and working norms have not affected their shared dream of establishing a thriving entertainment start-up.

Kenyan music lovers have embraced PACE headphones and earphones to listen to their favorite musicians at the home, workplace and during long distance traveling.

One of the sales representative at Pace Africa, Linet Riguru said the market for high quality devices to stream music has potential for growth in Kenya thanks to rising incomes in urban and peri-urban areas.

"I have always used our headphones to listen to different genres of music and I can confirm they have a crisp sound and their portability is ideal while traveling," she said.

Ruguru gave a glowing tribute about the working relationship between Chinese and young Kenyan technological entrepreneurs to help reshape the music business.

Nekesa Were, the acting managing director of iHub, said the relationship between Chinese innovators like Larry and their Kenyan counterparts is mutually beneficial.

"Larry is not the first Chinese to come through the iHub but may be one of the more prolific and by that I mean he has gone out of his way to build interaction between him, his team and iHub so that it is a win-win relationship," said Were.

"We have a lot of Chinese business people that walk in through the doors, we see lots of potential and opportunities for us as iHub and community," she added.

Khaligraph Jones, a renowned Kenyan musician who has developed a strong attachment to PACE head phones because of their sleekness said that a partnership between Chinese and local innovators has injected vitality in the entertainment industry.

"The sound, quality and everything about PACE is great.

"As an artist I would say that and also because of the fact that it is easily accessible in terms of pricing," said Khaligraph.

"When we have people from China and Kenya collaborating, it shows unity and growth.

"We want to see this collaboration create more opportunities for people here in Kenya and China as well," he added.

             

 

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