Founders Spotlight: Alakanani Itireleng (Founder & CEO, Satoshicentre Global Group)

Ten years ago when she was looking to raise medical funds for her son who was born with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy,  Alakanani came across Bitcoin. Despite not being able to raise the required funds and losing her son in the process, she saw the value in the then-nascent technology and decided to pursue it further. Satoshicentre, a fintech and blockchain co-working space, was then born from that incessant pursuit of knowledge and through it, Alakanani seeks to bring together like-minded individuals to build blockchain and fintech projects. In this interview, she takes us through her career journey, the various projects going on at Satoshicentre and much more!

In your own words, please tell us who Alakanani Itireleng is?

 Alakanani is a wife, a mother and an entrepreneur.

Your professional background is in teaching. Please tell us how you ended up in blockchain technology advocacy? 

I was a religious education teacher for 12 years and got hooked on blockchain in 2013. Initially, I got to learn about Bitcoin in early  2012 when I was looking for side hustles to help raise funds for my little boy who was born with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. I spent time on the internet trying to make money so I can take him for further help outside Botswana. Unfortunately, I failed to raise any funds due to all the scams I came across online and I also lost my son in April of the same year. I then just stopped the online things but in 2013 I felt the urge to learn more about this Bitcoin thing and ever since then I have never stopped learning and empowering others on the technology.

What motivated this career pivot?

The desire to know more and become a catalyst of change.

Please tell us more about SatoshiCentre Global Group

 Satoshicentre is a fintech and blockchain co-working space in Gaborone, Mogobe Plaza, third floor. The idea behind Satoshicentre is to have like-minded individuals come together and collaborate with an aim to build blockchain and fintech projects. We believe if we can have a networking space where blockchain enthusiasts can meet daily and share ideas, Botswana can also be part of this growing technology. At Satoshicentre we have a network of leaders and investors in the blockchain space and we believe this can help us to connect startups housed to with us receive instrumental mentorship and a possibility of having their ideas funded. We want to be holding networking after-hours activities which we have already started doing and also invite blockchain experts to the centre in order to offer the entrepreneurs at the centre the right resources they need to be part of this revolution.

What was the motivation behind starting SatoshiCentre?

To be a catalyst of change 

Blockchain technology is still fairly new in Botswana. How receptive have Batswana been to services offered by SatoshiCentre Global Group?

We started off by simply holding Bitcoin meetups, teaching people about Bitcoin. We then partnered with different blockchain ecosystems to hold free developer trainings.We have done Ethereum Smart contracts, solidity training, Cardano smart contracts and also recently trained people on Stellar. We have also been exploring the lightning network which is a layer 2 payment protocol on top of the Bitcoin network. Despite all that, we always have the same face of people showing up at these events and we don't know if this will change in the coming future. For most people, when they hear us talking about Bitcoin, they think of quick money and when they realise we are focusing on the technology aspect, they lose interest. 

What challenges have you faced in scaling up SatoshiCentre Global Group and how have you been surmounting those challenges?

In the beginning, the greatest challenge for me had been gaining the confidence and belief that I could build Satoshicentre even without a tech background. Having a teaching background and in Religious Education for that matter made a lot of people sceptical and say “what is this lady on about”. I had to invest a lot of my time in first educating myself and being in a position to drive the vision of Satoshicentre and get talent to run the centre. The other challenge of course like any business was the funding to run the business and getting people to understand what blockchain was all about but at the end of the day, our patience paid off as we managed to get partnerships that were instrumental in getting the vision going. I think our growth as a company has been made possible by the fact that we have never wanted to give up and we kept believing and today we are looking at expanding Satoshicentre to other countries because we want it to be a gateway for blockchain startups in Africa.

Botswana has big ambitions of being an active part of the 4IR which is driven by technologies like blockchain. Despite this, the adoption of 4IR technologies is still very low and slow. What do you think can be done to speed up the rate of adoption? 

Education is the key to adoption. People can’t adopt what they don't know.

What do you think we stand to lose by not rapidly adopting such technologies?

We will remain consumers of other people’s innovations. We need to be innovators, creators and explorers. It is only then that Botswana can be able to develop and grow its own technology presence. Our motto at Satoshicentre is “Discover, Support, Innovate”. We want to discover talent, offer support and make sure that we innovate. The future is decentralised and that future will be made possible by technologies such as blockchain, robotics, the Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial intelligence and many other techs which we are still to discover. When you just observe the space we are in, you can see how crazy and beautiful the technology is. Think the metaverse, NFTs,etc. 

What has been the proudest of your journey in the field of blockchain technology so far? 

Taking the vision of Satoshicentre out there and just running the centre to where it is. We have won international awards two of them, one in Sandton and one in Washington DC. Check

What has been the best advice you have got in your entrepreneurial journey? 

The best thing you can do is to get started.

What vision do you have for Satoshi Center in the next 3-5 years?

To become the go-to collaboration space in Africa when we are talking blockchain and to have helped produce at least 3 globally recognised blockchain businesses.

Are there any projects or events happening at Satoshi Center that you would like to share with our readers?

We have been working on the PLAAS ( project for more than 3 years now. The biggest challenge has been getting the talent we want in order to build the PLAAS blockchain (our own protocol called limited proof of extinction). Because of this, we have seen ourselves trying different blockchains which has seen been really a pain. We have and we have put it up on Google Playstore but it's still in build (it's a non-blockchain project). We also have Kobocoin ( who have been an instrumental partner. We also happen to have Yellowcard which is a cryptocurrency exchange and has been part of the blockchain business housed at the Satoshicentre.

We will also be having Bitcoin Pizza day this year in May  (and every year henceforth) to celebrate the first commercial transaction of Bitcoin when Laszlo Hanyecz back in 2010 brought two Pizzas for 10000 Bitcoin.

We have monthly networking events called “Satoshicentre After-Office-Hours” which we advertise on our Satoshicentre Facebook page. The SatoshiCentre After Office Hours is a series of casual networking events hosted at the co-working space. These events feature fintech and blockchain entrepreneurs, start-ups, corporates and other stakeholders in Botswana. They consist of talks, panel discussions, meet and greet, networking, ice-breaker sessions and introductory/market entry announcement. Of course, during these events, we share drinks and snacks!!!!!

What is your advice to young people who are looking to found startups in the blockchain technology space? 

Just getting started, believe in your idea, if you don’t start now then when?

Lastly, please share with our readers your contact details in case they want to get in touch with you or call 72173308

NB: Interview has been slightly edited for clarity

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