4 key lessons I have learnt so far running a startup in Kenya

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Source PractialPMO

 

Every Friday, I try and make room for peers running startups, to meet, share lessons and experiences, key milestones and our Aha moments. For me these peer to peer meetups have been the best way to learn, mature and maintain my sanity when it comes to running a startup. Every time we have these peer meet ups, we always jokingly wrap up by saying we should write a book to remind ourselves and tell our kids of this crazy startup journey.

 It’s almost 3 years of running a startup – Weza Tele Limited, now in its validation stage- that involves refinement of core features, initial user growth, metrics and analytics implementation, seed funding, first key hires, first paying customers and finding our product market fit. Running a startup here in Kenya is not the same as running one that has been nurtured in Silicon Valley. If the book happens, I will be able to share more lessons based on the Kenyan context, forget the hype but the reality of things. For now, I will only mention four lessons that every new startup or entrepreneur who asks me for advice about starting up a startup – I will make them read this blog post.

#1 Detached passion:

 I remember my team and I disputing over whether we should kill our retail product or not. We spent hours and resources on brainstorming, mock ups, developments and shipping the product. So why should we let all these efforts and initial investments go down the drain even if we were not making any money 12 months down the line? We tried all sorts of things such as using the product ourselves and we ended up being the only active customers for our product. It took time for us to sit down and agree that it did not work; and other people did better because they had the resources and capacity which we did not have. After using key performance indicators such as revenue growth, active customers transacting to evaluate the success, we finally had data to inform us it was time to “kill” the product and move on. It was tough and emotional, but we did it. Looking back, I am so proud of myself and my team. We learnt that detached passion (having strong desire towards your products but not letting it consume you and leave you powerless with no ability to make rational decisions)  is important and a step to then building the real solution that your targeted users need. There is need to redefine passion as we continue to redefine failure and let it be the adrenaline to commitment and execution and not the blocker to fail early,  measure and learn then iterate. Having detached passion, has contributed to my personal growth and maturity as a leader when it comes to decision making with a clear feedback loop.

 

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Source: 365 Andrew Sketches

 

#2 Know what you are selling and how to sell it:

 I am coming from an IT background and so did the rest of the founding team. At the beginning what really mattered to us was features and more features but it turns out the users ended up using only a quarter of those features. We realized that we needed to stop spending much time on developing new features, which were not based on customer needs but on our feelings and desires. Most important, we learnt that we needed to define the product so clearly that it has nothing to do with features but the benefits and value being offered. I have learnt before you hire talent in marketing and sales, it’s important for the co-founders to lucidly define the product, build a methodology based on experiences and do the sales themselves. Else if the co-founders can’t sell their own product, even the hired will not be able to sell the product in the right way = no customers at the end of the day.

Suggested photo: http://goo.gl/OClZP9

#3 “Must have” fundamental values:

Sweat-fear experience. Patience. Persistence. Speed.

Running a startup is a crazy affair. Its full of sleepless nights, tons of stress and constant pangs of guilt. It’s exciting, especially when a milestone is hit and new customer acquired. Every time I am interviewed or speak in startup events, Am asked the same question; why I took the entrepreneurship direction. To be honest, I don’t have the answer to this question, I am not sure it’s the same reason what everyone else says, ‘to change the world and be rich’. For me, it’s been a time to learn and grow; then figure out relevant and scalable solutions to solve real market problems. So I am still trying to find myself in the journey. It’s going to be a long journey of finding key pains and scalable solutions that solve targeted audience problems. Change of business models, strategies, value propositions and even endless debates with the team and exploration in different segments will be the order of the day. If patience and persistence is not there then it’s going to be easy to quit and walk away. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t realize it would be this hard. I have also learnt to fear the right things. Employees will quit, initial co-founders will also quit. Any other big company with optimal resources, can start your idea tomorrow. A corollary is that you shouldn’t relax just because you have no visible competitors yet. No matter what your idea, there’s someone else out there working on the same thing.

#4 Talent management:

In the Kenyan tech scene, talent has been lacking. We are all fighting for a limited pool of talented individuals. It has been very hard to define the thin line between talent and experience. I have come to learn that you can become a talented python coder overnight by going through online tutorials but that does not grant the ‘dyed in the wool’ experience to executing a fully fledge product.

Experienced talent is hard to find and if you find it, the battle comes to the retaining them in a startup. I think one of the biggest nightmares for every serious startup out there, is loosing their best talent. What is key is to start thinking about motivation and retention strategies early enough and ensure ownership and a conducive environment as starting steps to talent management.

Suggested photo:

http://goo.gl/BuHdD2

Looking back, it has been crazy and sometimes fun but I like it. The experience and lessons I have gathered so far are priceless, I cannot trade them for anything. Everyday I can feel and hear myself maturing, making me want to do it all over again with the same people.  Looking forward to share more of my lessons on my blog in the coming months as I doubt there there will be time for writing a book :)

A luta continua!

1 vote, 5.00 avg. rating (93% score)

Developing an ICT Hub model for the rural tech community in Kenya

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ICT Hubs growth across Africa has so far been seen as a nexus point for economic growth and ‘techprenuership’ development in Africa. In addition, these innovation spaces can be viewed as a catalyst for socio-economic development through creation of technology-led entrepreneurs and youth employment.

In Kenya, it is evident that majority of the ICT Hubs are concentrated in the capital city, Nairobi, where we currently have at least 16 innovation spaces ranging from; business incubators, pre-incubation spaces, hubs located in university institutions, knowledge centers, incubation spaces, maker labs and investments hubs. On the other hand, in the 2 other capital cities, Mombasa and Kisumu, we only have virtual spaces in each, Mombasa tech community hub and Lake hub respectively. However, it does not look like it will stop there, just recently, ICEAddis in Ethiopia saw an opportunity and are currently in the process of setting up an ICENakuru that focuses on training youthful entrepreneurs in leadership, technical and soft skills to solve problems in Nakuru county through innovative solutions.

It is clear that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have the potential to change old and new forms of economic activity. This can result in e-literate groups and unemployed youths having access to resources to develop solutions centered towards their community problems. Such groups would also be able to gain skills and knowledge through exchange of ideas and events and workshops. Therefore there is need for ICT Hubs based in the urban areas to start evaluating potential opportunities to extend their services and support beyond the city. The first step is to identify the factors, needs and challenges faced in setting up a Hub in the rural areas as well as learn from the past failures of existing local initiatives, e.g. Pasha centers.

Pasha centers, a public private partnership initiative that was expected to deepen use of ICT in rural areas by providing host of services to the public via computers connected to the internet, or by using and marketing other ICT-enabled applications has been termed as a failure. This is because of various reasons that include but not limited to:

  • A recent report commissioned by the Kenya ICT Board noted that more than half of the about 60 entrepreneurs that had been advanced loans are unable to service their loans and the many licence fees that the centers have to pay as well as the structuring of the loan that entrepreneurs received to start of the digital villages has been crippling to the project.
  • The entrepreneurs that received loans from the digital villages (Pasha centers) say the project failed due to misunderstood nature of the centers by the local authorities that subjected Pasha Centre owners to constant harassment.

ICT Hubs will be an important means for the Government to grow an inclusive, innovative economy for the benefit of the country. Therefore the ICT Hub model or mechanism for integrated service delivery to rural communities may be applied for this purpose. More so, it is important for ICT Hubs in urban areas to clearly define a proper strategy and assess the needs of rural entrepreneurs through continuous outreach while considering certain factors as show in figure 1.0 before setting up.

Figure 1.0 Factors to consider when setting up an ICT Hub

Tech entrepreneurs in rural areas face a myriad of challenges including: lack of Internet access, lack of business support, lack of business expertise and skills and lack of training. These challenges have hindered their growth and sometimes forced entrepreneurs to relocate to Nairobi to access some of these resources. ICT hubs could play a major role in curbing some of these challenges experienced by rural tech communities, in order to ensure the development and growth of their ventures.

There is potential for an ICT hub model implementation in rural cities to help in addressing most of these issues by identifying services and functions needed by communities. Most importantly, urban ICT Hubs need to understand that contexts of different communities vary based on their needs, therefore services and functions may differ from one community to another.

It is on this note, that Hilda will be further investigating the potential of setting up an ICT hub model in the rural areas in Kenya as well as comparing different factors to consider while scaling to different counties and assessing potential application areas where rural tech entrepreneurs could create innovations based on county needs in enhancing socio economic development.This investigation will be her master’s thesis under the iHub Research fellowship program.

 

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Mentorship – a key ingredient missing in the tech startup ecosystem

 

All the startups can agree with me on this one- it’s hard getting not just a mentor but the right mentors for your business.

Sometimes what we need is someone to share with our ideas, listen and glean from their wisdom and experience in the hope of reducing the startup failure rate, or just so that we overcome the feeling of aloneness and loneliness in the harsh space of making a business thrive. Thus mentorship, among other missing vital aspects e.g. feedback mechanisms and trainings, marketers etc in the tech startup ecosystem, are often forgotten.

I believe many of the challenges current entrepreneurs are going through can be highly eliminated with the help of a mentor at the steering wheel. Some of these challenges include business models that are not scalable, poor marketing strategies, lack of proper prioritization and balancing of tasks in business operations including the major challenge of capacity and skills development. Truth be told, all tech startups need real mentors, who might not necessarily have to be ‘superstars’ in the industry but have began and grown successful and mature startups.

A mentor as someone to advise, guide them; someone who has been there, done that and is willing to openly share their experiences; someone to swap ideas with and get different perspectives from.

At first, we entrepreneurs have diverse tons of ideas, but lack execution skills hence getting mentors makes much sense. Sometime we tend to look so far for these mentors, ending up being disappointed if they don’t give us enough time or meet certain expectations. My advice to tech startups is to start lean by learning through their peers  - trading ideas, recommendations and getting feedback from their peers as an elementary form of mentorship. Peer to peer mentoring is where one tech startup learns from a related tech startup that has been able to curb the challenges they are facing. I know of a few startups that have done prodigiously well out of hard work, sweat and tears and learning from them is an asset. Secondly, mentorship can also be achieved through networking opportunities from events and activities that happen in tech hubs and environs.

With new platforms such as VC4Africa virtual mentorship marketplace and other interests of mentoring programs setting up in Kenya such as Qinect Africa; there is already potential to set up long lasting relationships between mentors and mentees. In the current digital age, it’s hard to say virtual mentorship is unfavorable to face to face mentorship as there is need to blend the two media to ensure an effective mentorship model is achieved. In my opinion, the quality of the mentorship relationship is more important than the media of choice as it is heavily influenced by the amount of interests that the mentor and mentee have in common.

Unless mentorship is injected as part of a key component of the tech startup ecosystem; it will definitely take much longer for tech startups to reap success as most of them are young talented minds (age 18-35) running the startups with little or no experience before. Mentorship is a powerful tool that can act as light bulb in accelerating the success of the tech startups today.

 I am not sure of mentorship models that have worked well locally and globally and can be extended as benchmarks for tech startups and Hubs to learn from. If you know of any please share them as comments and give reasons/successes why you think they have worked.

1 vote, 4.00 avg. rating (83% score)

Where Are The Women in STEM?

The clamour for innovation in the African society today is loud. In the era where there is a lot happening in ICT, innovation and entrepreneurship, why are there still very few women involved in these areas? Past research reports and workshops have openly addressed women participation issues and the need to build more capacity of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics); to give them a chance to contribute to the growth of the economy. According to an ongoing study conducted by iHub Research on ICT Hubs, it’s evident that there are still very few women in co-working spaces such as ICT Hubs/Labs developing innovative ideas or working on challenging science related projects. Even if the women are there, they take up the non-STEM jobs such as: sales and marketing, receptionist or administrator, etc.

Few ladies participating:

I recently, attended a USSD workshop by Weza Tele, where they called upon developers, technologist and other tech practitioners to be part of the workshop. It was disheartening to find that out of the 32 people who applied, only two women took part (one lady + me). Is it that the event was not well communicated or are women disinterested in learning practical knowledge on new technologies?

Figure 1: One of the ladies who attended the USSD workshop, in a practical session

 

Women often tend to shy away:

Issues of creative meet ups, entrepreneurship and pursuing science related subjects’ women often tend to shy away. I remember when I was choosing the subject focus for my undergraduate, majority of my female peers chose humanities (Business Administration, Philosophy etc) as their first choice. On the other hand, I did not think twice about choosing Information Technology.  My passion of ICT, science and entrepreneurship, formed the foundation reason in choosing Information Technology as my course. Although my peers did not ever discriminate against me because of the choice of course I took, I still felt out of place as in the beginning we often met to share our experiences. Whenever it was my turn to talk about the exciting things I encountered during the week; as soon as I started talking about this new programming language I learnt or showed them a system I developed, the look on their faces reflected me as a geek and weirdo.

Gender gap in STEM:

The gender gap is not only seen in the tech field but also in science related opportunities such as STEM careers, scholarships, events and competitions. I believe the answer to increasing the number of women in STEM, is young women need to first change their mindsets to believe that they can be the change makers when it comes to STEM, entrepreneurship and innovation. They should clear the theory that males  are the key, default players in these fields. There is also need for role models to come out strongly to inspire and motivation the younger women.

Where to find the women:

We complain much that they are few women or as my title echoes ‘where are the women in STEM? ’. It’s time we stopped asking this question, minimize having debates to discuss gender gaps in STEM, and on social barriers that continue to block women’s participation and progress in STEM. Instead, we should be seeking to find the women who are already successful in changing Africa. I believe this is where WMIAfrica (Women who Mentor & Innovate in Africa), comes in to fill the gaps. WMIAfrica is a new online network that aims to combine sharing of successful innovative stories for women by women and facilitate mentoring for young women in STEM. The aim of the network is to create empowering stories, resources, and jobs by allowing successful women to share their experiences by inspiring and encouraging younger women to actively participate in STEM opportunities.

If you are a woman, willing to share your story and be an inspiration to other women then you need to get on the WMIAfrica map so that people can stop asking where you are. Creating awareness on women already doing great work in STEM and putting them together in one place enables them not to feel weird as they endeavor in their STEM field. The women can be able to share their stories and be role models to other young women aspiring to walk the same pathway. How then, can we now assist, promote, recruit, and inspire other women – something that WMIAfrica aims to achieve for women in Africa. Development of a critical mass of STEM women in Africa is one of the pillars for the promotion of innovation, diversity, human capacity development that can contribute to inclusive growth and creation of wealth.

Few African STEM women facing challenges:

The retention rate of the few women who embark on STEM related disciplines is neither encouraging as it is hindered by discrimination. The few African women in science, mathematics and engineering also face unique challenges (from subtle assumptions made by individuals to systemic difficulties imposed by institutions), that are likely to derail their careers at a much higher rate than their male counterparts. And the result is that all over the continent, there are still very few women scientists and engineers with even fewer in leadership positions to articulate the inclusion of women in the management of science and technology institutions.

Promotion of women in STEM:

The promotion of women in science and technology requires actions at all levels using different modalities including advocacy, enactment of appropriate policies and capacity building. There are also issues of strategy such as acquisition of skills for prospective market demands; capacity in teaching and research in new and emerging areas of science; advocacy; mentoring and the use of role models in the promotion of women in STEM. What can Africa do to meet the demands for quality science and engineering education and increase the number of women in science? These issues need to be discussed and strategies and actions developed to accelerate women’s access and participation in science and technology.

The truth is that there are women in Africa doing great stuff. I believe women could achieve more if they start telling the world what they are doing, network, and share resources and job opportunities to increase the quality of more women in STEM through avenues such as WMIAfrica.

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Peer-to-Peer Learning in ICT Hubs

“When you learn, teach, when you get, give.”  - Maya Angelou

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” – John Cotton Dana

Learn. Teach. Two words that startups and members of ICT Hubs should breath and live out if they are to succeed. Having travelled to different Hubs in Kenya and Africa through an on-going study by iHub Research; ‘Understanding African ICT Hubs model and impact to its startups/members’ , I can testify the modus operandi of the startups in the ICT Hubs is akin. They are operating in a high-risk environment, with little capital, a dearth of business skills e.g. marketing; but are great techies who can code in their sleep. What you might not know is that most of them have experiences that in my opinion are the most powerful assets to endure irrespective to the success or failure of their startups.

I have listened to the experiences of other entrepreneurs in the African ICT Hubs and as well as sharing with them my experiences as an entrepreneur. One thing the startups should know is that the experiences they have are rich in serving as a learning platform that helps them suppress their existing challenges and thus help them to mature faster. This inadvertently acts as an encouragement by enabling them to be ready to tackle future challenges.

Newton from Weza Tele teaching other startups on USSD; how to make money and its challenges based on his experience at Weza Tele Ltd

It is time startups start utilizing their experiences to teach other startups/members in the space who then learn from their solutions/experiences in order to accelerate their own growth by working smarter. This can be achieved in different ways:

Curiosity:

Members in the Hubs are friends and are mostly in track with what each other is working on, their experience levels, investments accrued, etc. They know all that. But ironically, they do not bother to know what tools of trade their colleagues are using, how they go about working out tax matters, conducting Intellectual property, what project management practice works best for them, how they conduct market research and what is their experience in all the aforementioned. This curiosity should spurs peer learning that can lead to new and creative ways of managing your business as an entrepreneur, develop new instruments and options incase what you are using does not work out. Success is not only about being the most famous startup and having a great product but also about  getting the best tools, a skilled team and  proper structures.  Startups can only achieve this by being curious enough of what other startups in the Hub are doing.

Networking:

 It has been articulated before that events in the Hubs e.g. workshops and hackathons have acted as a platform for forming friendships, knowledge sharing and creating new networks and collaborations. I do value the events that many ICT Hubs have been working hard to hold in order to educate, promote and inform their members but what worries me is that there is often no consequent feedback to find out if the events are of value and how that value can be measured by their members. I have heard very few startups  saying they have gotten actionable networks from events held in their Hubs e.g. investors and business deals in their ventures.  However, maximizing peer to peer learning is the best way to leverage the networks of one startup e.g. If startup A is looking for a tax advisor and through such events they get to know that startup B has had one who helped them go about tax aspects while billing clients, salaries to optimize their cash flows, etc; they can then ask the experience of startup B with the said tax advisor leverage on the same network.

Mentoring:

 When I was in High school, every time my Maths teacher taught us vector equations, I chose not to understand and had the mentality that vectors was a hard topic and it did not help that I also disliked the teacher. Ironically, when my desk mate and peer Christine did a few examples with me and taught me, I found it so easy and I ended up doing vector questions first thing in my final exams and excelling at that! We all to some extent loved group work while revising for exams or doing projects  as it made concepts easier to understand by breaking the monotony of cramming and initiating understanding, work was done more creatively and in practice as compared to when doing it individually or theoretically hearing it from the teacher.

 Same applies to the startups in the Hubs. They should share their experiences with other startups in the Hub through a form of peer-to-peer mentoring. This is where there is a personal development relationship where a more experienced startup helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable startup in a practical way.  Through utilizing peer mentorship in the startup ecosystem they need not to wait forever for their Hubs to get them sources of advisors/mentors in order for them to surmount their challenges.

By working on collaborative projects channelled by the ICT Hubs, peer-to-peer mentoring can be injected by letting them learn from each other and executing their experiences on the projects. I believe that learning is most powerful when it first starts with the members in the space, treating each other as peers and learning from each others experience as they keep evolving and performing self-assessment on themselves.

My firm belief is that Hubs should start empowering individual startups, help them to solve their existing challenges, and curate learning experiences then create a ‘peer culture’ where once they build and develop one startup, peer startups should be able to benefit from the helped startup. This way, startups take peer-to-peer learning to a whole new level with a surprisingly, low demand to money and time. The Hubs management  should then act as facilitators to ensure there is training, reviews and approval, recommendations, controls e.g. templates, standards, guidelines and support in the peer to peer learning culture.

Developing a peer-to-peer learning culture is important and beneficial to the members/startups in the ICT Hubs as long as it is also creating value as the benefits can lead to increase in creativity, innovation and create a true learning and growing Hub. Startups should often ask themselves, “how do I learn more and perform better and help others to learn more and perform better?”

 

It can be said that the journey to a successful ICT community begins with the development of one startup by its Hub.

 

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Success of an ICT Hub

 

As Africa gears itself for an IT revolution, a number of innovation spaces in Kenya are quickly positioning the country as a regional leader in technology and it is hard for this growth to go unnoticed globally. The thriving entrepreneurial environment and the need to create more employment opportunities for the youth; that contribute  about 9.1 million and account for about 32% of the population; is perhaps the force behind the bustling technological innovation spaces. A question I keep asking myself is why are there many innovation spaces popping up every now and then, are they solving a need or responding to the hype? According to recent research, a new African hub is springing up nearly every two weeks.

The Kenyan Success Story

Apart from the larger-than-life and ever evolving money transfer service, M-Pesa; Kenya has also received a lot of recognition due to the rapid rise of innovations spaces mushrooming, the first of its kind in Africa being *iHub-Nairobi which resulted out of  the tech community needing space and resources. Previously, developers were forced to meet in coffee shops and restaurants that had limited WiFi connection. These meeting places had a couple of challenges in that they were expensive for developers to work from there, as they had to buy something to either eat or drink. Additionally, there were many distractions that arose from the restaurants. Since its inception, the iHub has expanded into new initiatives such as iHub-Consulting, iHub Cluster and iHub Research, registered thousands of members, and become the meeting place in East Africa for the tech community, investors, business people and venture capitalists to meet and interact through opportunities and events.

The iHub Success Story
iHub’s success so far can be defined in these upcoming initiatives as mentioned above. In addition, having registered more than 8,000+ virtual members who interact via the web platform, 240 green members who physically access the space, 9 red members who pay for a semi-permanent desk space for a period of 6 to 12 months. Subsequently, there are 5 startups (that I know of) sitting in iHub, who form part of the 101 who interact with their online platform, some of these started in the iHub and have now matured to be incubated in upcoming incubation centres such as Mlab, GrowthHub, iLab and Nailab. Other startups have further graduated to their own offices such as KopoKopo and Mfarm.

iHub’s success metrics may be completely different to metrics defining success across other Hubs in Africa. Yet their success has inadvertently inspired similar innovation Hubs to sprout up across Africa, and many are striving to meet iHub standards and/or replicate its model of implementation as they try to meet their members expectations and remain sustainable. I have had many guests from other countries in Africa, who have sat down with me to help them understand the iHub model with an objective to implement the same model in their own countries.

The question many of these guests forget to ask themselves is  Can the success of iHub be replicated? No and Maybe

 

The success from one Hub to another varies on various factors

By taking the examples of the Innovation spaces mushrooming across Africa, it becomes easy to understand why one hub succeeds while another finds it next to impossible to get it right. One major finding that iHub Research has noted in the ICT Hubs study so far,  is that different hubs are made up of different models with different components that impact differently to their members. The success of each Hub/Lab also varies based on other external factors that contribute to the ICT growth of the country: ICT GDP, ICT support from the government,  level of corruption, good infrastructure, ICT budgetary allocation, telecommunication investments and the innovation thirst of a country among others.

A Hub’s Success : The Internal factors matters
In addition to the external factors; the success of each Hub is defined by metrics that only apply to them, that have been put to define their growth exponentially. This growth is what contributes to their ability to have stable resources such as fast internet connectivity, more investments opportunities,  conducive environment and sustainability as the core factors that drive the implementation of a successful  Hub that then attracts multitudes of members.

It also goes without saying that a massive community of talented young members who are the core of the Hub model is crucial to a hub’s success. This then allows the hub to attract more  members, investors, government and other key stakeholders needed in the ecosystem to shape the hub by playing key roles before ‘competing’ with the rest in Africa. These stakeholders are the ones who will help nurture the hub by mentoring the young mind-sets by working closely with them and provide useful resources and expertise that will help scale their businesses into success.

In my opinion, before defining if a Hub is successful or not it’s important to keep the following factors in mind:

  • Reason for existence:  Why do they exist? Is there a need they are trying to solve? What is their vision?
  • Implementation strategy: How have they  built the Hub through  clear structures and operating procedures?
  • Team: Are the employees skilled and passionate to be part of building and driving the Hub’s model?
  • Location: Is the location strategic enough to attract young talents from academia institutions?
  • Community Engagement: How do they engage their community of members? Do members feel they have ownership of the space?
  • Activities and events: How do their events and activities add value to their members? Do they get feedback from members on what other activities and events to facilitate in the space?
  • Feedback and monitoring mechanisms in place: Do they take time to gather and listen to the feedback from their community of members and incorporate their ideas as well?
  • Sustainability strategy: What is their short term and long term sustainability model?
  • Open Innovation culture: How have they promoted the open innovation culture?
  • Collaborations and Partnerships: Have they embraced any collaboration and partnerships with other local institutions such as universities, local investors, government, experts in the ICT field?
  • Innovations of their members: What innovations are the members working on? are those innovations sustainable and successful?
  • Resources: What are the  kind of resources they provide to their community of members and how fast, efficient and of value they are to benefit the members that will contribute to their innovations sustainability and brand positioning e.g high speed internet, mentorship ,testing facilities etc ?
  • Value Adding Strategies: Do they have strategies implemented to  solving their challenges  that will then ensure continuos recommendations that will add value to the members of the community?

It’s time Hubs (existing and new ones) realized that they are operating in different contexts:  type and number of community members, culture, different support and infrastructure and different level of commitment of other useful stakeholders in their ecosystem. They should therefore work at building their community of entrepreneurs and nurturing them by meeting their needs instead of competing to be the best or ‘most successful’ or having the largest numbers.

What is more important is for the ICT hubs to work together in collective synergies and learn from each other keeping in mind if it works for one Hub, it may not work for the other. It’s very hard to replicate success, but by learning from each other’s Hub and their initiatives and working closely with the community of members who are talented and energetic then this success journey can easily be achieved and replicated uniquely in each Hub.

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Corruption: One of the key obstacles to ICT growth in Cameroon

Corruption in Cameroon, is the trend on all media fronts: print, tv, radio, and the internet. Hardly a day goes by in Cameroon without a story on fraud, embezzlement and other corruption types. Trends in Corruption in the country threatens social cohesion. Citizen conversations too are peppered with anecdotes about civil servants and private-sector workers demanding bribes. However, they talk about the injustice but have resigned to their fate in not taking action in response to the cases of corruption that they have witnessed.

Why Cameroon?

I spent the past week in Cameroon in the passionate journey of ICT Hubs/Labs study around Africa. The project is housed by iHub Research with the aim of understanding the community of entrepreneurs, their innovations and the sustainability model in place. These findings will help in drawing better strategic collaborations among hubs based on their comparative metrics, encourage exchange of ideas across hubs and build innovative knowledge that can lead to transfer and scaling of ideas from one country to the other. The aforementioned subsequently lead to ICT growth in the different countries which ultimately contributes to the economy and development of the nations.

The study began in Kenya profiling the iHub followed by HiveColab, the Ugandan hub. From East Africa, the study has moved west, to Cameroon which has the hub, Activspaces. Activespaces matched all criteria in selecting the hubs to be profiled and this led to the collaboration formed between iHub Research and Activspaces. As with all other hubs, profiling would be carried out through interviews, videos and observations. As the project lead, iHub research sent me to conduct this study and collect findings.

I have never been to Cameroon before. I therefore did not know what to expect but I was excited to meet the community of entrepreneurs at Activspaces and their community manager (Al Banda) who I have been in contact with virtually. More than the excitement, I was ready and looking forward to learn, share, exchange ideas, and experience the country.

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8 votes, 4.75 avg. rating (94% score)