On Thurday, 26th September, I was in a room full of aspiring entrepreneurs and start-up founders eagerly awaiting for the evening workshop to begin. The event took place between 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm at the Growth Africa offices, Cape Office Park, Ring Road Kilimani – Nairobi.
3 speakers came forth to share their knowledge and experience on forming start-ups and I’m glad I had the chance to listen to them because such knowledge is valuable for any aspiring techprenuer.
According to techpreneurspotlight.com, a techprenuer is “a warm-blooded animal, male or female, who feeds on no sleep, limited resources and a passion for technology: aka, any person who creates a company around his or her vision of leveraging technology to change the world.”
In this first part of Founders 101, I’ll share what I got from the first 2 speakers. Most of the information is in point form; no need of writing a lengthy article since the speakers were quite straight forward.
(A). Perfecting & Monetizing an Online Offering – Munyutu Waigi
(Munyutu Waigi is the founder of Rupu and Ringier Kenya)
What is it?
- Solving problems
- A lifestyle is not a title
- Solving a real world problem (solving a day to day problem)
- Leaving a positive legacy
- Hunger (for creating and using innovation)
- Sacrifice (dedication, focus)
Focus on your core business
- Don’t let your startup be a jack of all trades. Is it an e-commerce company? Is it a software development company?
Find someone who can do something better than you – being selfless:
- Where do you find them?
- Don’t beat around the bush
A good entrepreneur is a good sales person
Have a humanity perspective in your business
- Make your company approachable
- Mind over matter
E-Commerce is still not popular in Kenya
- But it will work in the next 5 years
Online companies are making a big mistake of spending a lot on advertisement
Money goes to those who are not too busy looking for it (quote)
- We have to bridge the offline world and online world in Kenya; people in Kenya doubt online commerce
- Have a particular market target
Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
- Have a working prototype
- Idea vs. Prototype, which is better?
Closing note: You can’t keep on waiting for investors; go on with your business.
(B). A primer for aspiring entreprenuers in Kenya – Moses Kemibaro
(About Moses Kemibaro)
Ideas are nothing without execution
- Everyone has good ideas
- He who executes wins
- Look for support and make sacrifices
Learn to earn; then make the leap
- Getting to a job that does what you want to do
- First look for experience e.g. employment
There is no such thing as a good market
- Everything is up for disruption e.g. Facebook vs. mySpace, Blackberry vs. Apple
• Your ideas are not unique; how is your idea different?
- Do your homework
- Scope out your competition
- There’s nothing new under the stars
• Don’t burn your bridges
- You might need them later on e.g. former employer. Apple was saved by Bill Gates (Microsoft); today Apple is bigger than Microsoft.
By 1997, Apple’s fortunes had sunk so low that it reached out to its sometime partner, sometime nemesis for a hand. Gates appeared via satellite at the MacWorld conference that year, agreeing to invest $150 million in Apple and to develop and ship future versions of its Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and development tools for the Macintosh. The companies also settled remaining claims in their patent dispute.(http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-20096955-75/steve-jobs-and-bill-gates-its-complicated/)
Don’t fall in love with your first business idea
- The more business ideas you have the better you get
Nothing succeeds like the look of success
- Fake it till you make it???
Field test before placing the big bets
- Its low cost and low risk
- Testing your prototype with a few customers and get feedback. What do they need?
• Fish where the fish are
- Use market segmentation and the 80/20 rule i.e. the Pareto rule always
- Identify the market segment that will give you the largest returns of your efforts e.g. 20% of customers that give you 80% stress is of course stressful
Seek co-founders who complement you
- Spread the skill base as your startup needs it
- Gain more skills e.g. accounting, project management
Leaders are not born, they are made
- Acquire skills beyond your comfort zone
Fail to plan, you plan to fail
- Think business canvas
Investors can go to the NSE and buy real estate in Kenya
- So why should they invest in your startup instead?
Don’t get screwed by your investors
- They’re in it to win it
- Business as usual, nothing personal
Is your startup idea globally scalable?
- Think global, start local
Winning a startup competition does not mean your startup is viable as a business
- Competitions do not make a business
Barriers of entry are incredibly really low especially for I.T. related startups; just do it
- It’s easier to have a startup in Kenya e.g. affordable I.T. equipment, accessible and fast internet(15 years ago these opportunities were rare)
The world is your talent pool
- Outsource globally if you cannot get things done locally to world class standards e.g. from Estonia etc
- Think unconventionally
- Think out of the box
Prepare to work really hard
- A lot harder to execute
- Focus is key
Thinking out of the box is cliché
- Be unconventional and act out of the box
Tenacity is the fuel to make up your startup succeed
- Startups are not for everyone
Blog what you love, love what you blog(like this blog)
- Blogging is the most inexpensive way of building visibility for you startup e.g. 37Signals
Build a brain trust
- Building a network of people who are in the same space
- Experienced and inexperienced people
- Entrepreneurs will help you know what to do when you need it most
Murphy law happens
- What can go wrong will go wrong
- Be clever and versatile
Miracle happens in startups
- When they do happen be very thankful to God
Delegate or go mad
- Running a 2 startup outfit is not the same as running a 20 person business
• Business is personal
- Friends and family will give you lift-off
- Referrals will keep the business coming in
You gotta hustle some
- Sell like your life depends on it
The fishing is best where few dare to go
- Learn to be daring; you may actually win
- Nothing ventured, is nothing gained
• Your health and wellbeing is more important than your startup
- Your family, your life is everything
Brian Birir October 8, 2013