Saturday, 27 October 2012

The African Dream- Part 2

Dry sand-Namibia-Sussuvlei

Source: http://africanphotos.gm



After my last visit back home I had come back more focused and patient; knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I applied vigorously to a lot of big companies and was fortunate enough to be granted interviews which meant that I was on the right path. But after some time I realized i was probably traveling a path that leads to a dead-end.

I had to try something and of  which I did. A lot of people thought it was incredible and encouraged me and gave me advice on how I could make it work. Buoyed by the positive response; I was enthused to  make the project a success and I worked hard towards that objective.

The project had brought a new light to my life and opportunities were starting to become more open and clearer..But after sometime everything started to fade away. The limited access to internet had finally caught up with me again. I couldn't reply to emails send by people  who wanted to work with me or help  after coming across my article. Most importantly I couldn't work further on my project to really create a winning product. I had received a lot of positive feedback to improve the project but couldn't take advantage of it because it required reliable internet access.

Slowly I started to see my dreams fade away but I couldn't give up when the finishing line had looked so real. I just kept up the believe  like everyone I had seen succeeding around me. I kept programming and doing market research, offline.

One day while I was hanging out with a couple of friends from my neighborhood, my phone rang and it  was my friend whom I had last spoken to in a couple of years. He had called to offer me to come to Namibia where he was now working as a land surveyor.We had been both at the same university and things had worked out for him. There were more opportunities than back home; their education system
is not able to produce enough skilled personal thereby creating opportunities for foreigners like us.

Besides that access to internet is far much better and affordable. He just thought things will work out much better in Namibia than home. I was a bit hesitant- having never left Zimbabwe before, but  I finally decided to take a wild leap of faith and experience a new environment and culture.

After a couple of weeks I finally boarded the bus and began my journey to Namibia. The journey which is approximately more than  3000 km, was very tiring. I spent most of it imaging and wondering how life was going to be. As we entered Namibia I couldn't help feel sad leaving our beautiful country and not being be able to contribute meaningful to the economy.

When I finally arrived I was dead-tired but was on the other hand received warmly by my friend. He picked me up and took me to his house. While on our way I couldn't help but enjoy the beautiful landscape on which Windhoek is built on. During that moment I just felt things were going to work out fine for me.

I have been here a couple of weeks but the people having been incredible friendly that it already feel like home. The internet access is far much better; electricity is also available all day. I have been working on my project and in a few works I would be ready to launch the new version of the website with improved features and better content like music. The African Dream is alive and well!!!



















Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The life of an aspiring tech startup entrepreneur



First of all, just like artists you can only be called or recognized as entrepreneur after you have only started a very successful business. Before then it doesn’t matter whether you are currently working on your business full-time; if it’s not successful no-one will recognize you as an entrepreneur.

Unless you have had the luck of raising millions of dollars, shining your shoes and putting on a tie is something you would have to get used because you would have to work. It doesn’t matter whether you like the job or not; it’s something you would have to do just to pay bills.

Friends and family are going to tell to just get a decent job and stop wasting your time on dreams that may never come true. They may-be right but you would have to ignore them and hope you are darn right.

The ability to keep a stable relationship will be foreign unless you find a very understanding partner.  This is all because you are going to find little time to spend with you time because you will have to put in long hours working on your idea. Besides that the unpredictable nature of starting business won’t bring stability to your life which will make it difficult to have a stable relationship.

Failure something you would also have to embrace when starting out. You will make a lot of business mistakes; create a product that’s not market-fit. If you don’t give up everything will get easier and clearer with time, but you will have to learn. Thus with time you will be able to make smart decisions, create killer products.

Creating a business is a long and unpredictable process and it’s something you will have to learn also. Dreaming is something you will have to continue doing even though things might be going side-ways, because one day not tomorrow, today or anytime soon everything will be as you planned or better.

 

 

 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The 4 most successful African technology startups ever



African internet usage has been on the rise with an estimated users of  about 143 million-13.5% of the the total population. While African internet users are only 6.2% of the  total internet population, it is the the growth rate of the internet access that has been impressive with in some case as high 110%. in a year. Everyone has been looking to Africa for future growth While most people are interested  they have been in dark about the startups that have been started in Africa and went on to be successful.

To give a quick background of African startup scene  I have compiled  a short list of startups that was started in Africa and was very successful. The list contains  however some that may not be considered startups in the usual sense but have been included because they closely resemble startups and the ideas that they were successful were relatively new also.

1.Thawte Consulting
Website: http://www.thwate.com
Founded by Mark Shuttleworth in 1995 whom you probably know because of Canonical Limited who happens to be the company behind Ubuntu. Thwate initially founded and run out of his parents garage in South Africa is certificate authority (CA) for X.509 certificates and is the second largest public CA on the internet.It was however sold to VeriSign in 1999 for around  $575 million dollars.
More from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thawte

2. Mxit
Website: http://www.mxit.com
Mxit is free internet messaging application founded in South Africa by Herman Heunis a Namibian in 2005. As of  February it had 50 million users in 120 countries with 10 million active users in South Africa. The service has a sign-up rate of 50 000 users a day. 750 million messages are sent and received via the network daily.
More from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mxit

3. Ushahidi
Website:http://www.ushahidi.com
 Ushahidi is non-profit software company that develops open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. Ushahidi which means testimony in Swahili, was created to keep track of the Kenya's presidential 2007 elections violence sent by eyewitnesses via mobile phone or internet. It has since been used in 2010 to track the earthquake in Haiti and also during the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008 .
More from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushahidi

4. M-Pesa
Website: http://www.safaricom.co.ke?id=257
M-Pesa is not exactly a startup but the idea was something new. It is a venture by Safaricom- the largest mobile network operator in Kenya and Tanzania . M-Pesa allows  subscribers to transfer or withdraw money using a mobile phone without the need of a bank account. The success of M-Pesa the first such service in the world has actual made it famous with the western media.
More from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-Pesa

These startups have arguably been the most successful startups and I believe we will have a whole lot of success stories especially in the mobile phone industry in a few years.


Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Internet Business Model




I had told a colleague that I had created a web application.After the usual congratulations about building something, an inevitable question followed.  "How are are you going to make money?"  I have since gotten used to this question; almost everyone asks it.

Well I told him the usual form of making money online like advertising and charging for the service. He seem to understand the advertising method even though he had doubts about it's viability given the limited presence of businesses in Africa on internet. You just don't see them advertising online thus his skepticism.

About charging for the service he just couldn't understand how one could charge for the service given the limited availability of online payment methods available local. Besides that he also pointed some of the most useful websites like Facebook are free and even if he had the payment method he wouldn't pay.

I just couldn't find a way of convincing him of the viability of the internet business model that I had told him. What he thought was the business model for companies like Facebook and Google is that telecommunications pay them according their use. He argued that telecommunications are the one who make money by charging for internet access; something which they do exorbitantly. They should be having some form of agreements on revenue sharing with the developers of the applications, he continued reasoning.


When I told him there are no such agreements he was baffled and  told me that he still felt that telecommunications must share their revenue with developers. This idea I have found is shared by many people in Africa. Everyone you have discussion with always suggests this showing that internet business model is still unfamiliar  to a lot of people here.

The idea of internet business is still confusing here and it will be a long way before the ordinary people can understand it. This means that raising money from friends and family is going to be very difficult. Even raising  money from prominent business people is still a long way. Africa will have to wait for foreign investors who are also still skeptical of it.

Winning is not everything



The very objective of playing any game is winning. Losing always leave you disappointed, depressed and demotivated.  Startup game is no different at all.  Well, I used to believe that every time you do something you should get the desired results or it’s not worth the time and effort you spend.

Whenever we are starting something new; there is always that pressure to succeed or the idea is labeled as a bad one. But if you put things into perspective; you might get a lot of positives out of your experience. Sometimes that experiences and lessons you learned might be what you need to succeed with your next venture in a way you never thought possible.

The Experience

When I started http://www.mixdem.com , I expected it to really blow up and hopeful be one of the next success stories out of the Southern Africa region; it’s still possible but I would have to create a solid product and that I am going to do with my limited resources. It’s going to take time to build a solid product but I won’t give up. When I launched I got a lot of feedback, but little activity on the website. I even thought my idea was not good. But the fact that I got a lot of valuable feedback was enough validation of my idea. I couldn’t just quite clearly see it at the time; feedback is one step closer to making the product people want and with the right product success inevitable come.

Besides the feedback I met a lot of people and got a lot of opportunities. The experience you gain is something you can only get from trying. What should be important is the effort you put in trying to make things happen. I believe if you show the right attitude and you keep on fighting eventually one day will come when you will get your desired results.

The Story

This other day, I watched a movie; I have forgotten the name, about an American college which had lost some members of its football team in a plane crash. They had taken some time away before they could play in the league. When they finally got back into the league everyone was excited and emotional about the prospect of watching their team participate. Many felt winning was the perfect way honoring those who had perished in the crash.

The day came when they played their first league game. They lost horribly and everyone was disappointed save for the coach. Tension rose in the team. The whole town was in turmoil. The college principal‘s job was on the line. Everyone felt it was better not play than playing and losing; in their minds it was dishonoring the memories of the victims of the plane crash.

The coach was the only one who was not worried about losing. While he was addressing his players; he said something which caught my ears and attention. “Winning is not everything; but what matters most is how you play, because if you play with all your heart eventually one day you will win.”  He also convinced that if they play with all their being, it wouldn’t matter whether they lose or win; they would have honored the victims of the crash.

These words were enough to spur the team to hard earned victory which eventually put them on a winning streak. They way they played were inspirational; they looked like they were losing but fought and eventually won the game in the last seconds.

Conclusion

From the movie which is based on a true story I could clearly see that one should not be worried much about winning or being successful in your endeavor but instead should put every effort you can in making it a success. It’s better to fail with honor than just giving up easily and besides there are lot of things you can learn from the experience.

 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The importance of gratitude


Growing up I never quite understood why my parents would reprimand me if I just accept a gift without thanking the person who had given me the gift. It did not stop there, I was supposed to thank whoever had prepared and served me with food irrespective of whether it’s their job or not. To me it was just something that I had to do; I never gave it much thought.

The Experience

During my internship  at Midlands State University I was the system administrator of  the computer laboratory, Hellenics Hall- the biggest at the university. The lab was located off-campus- to be specific in the  CBD of Gweru City.

Besides me and my supervisor, the laboratory had also non-technical staff, security and janitors.  These non-technical  staff were supposed to report to my supervisor and sometimes they would have to  report to me if the supervisor is unavailable.

These people worked really hard and of the time I worked with them I appreciated the work they did and always thanked them whenever they cleaned my office or anything they are supposed to do as per their duties.

Because I treated them with respect and show gratitude for anything they did for me; these people became my friends.  During that time things wre really hard, the economy was bad,  but most of them  would buy me lunch. They would also give me advice and share interesting stories. I really enjoyed my internship because of the people.

When my internship ended; I was back to being a student again at the university.  Whenever I wanted to use the laboratory- even at odd hours, the security would still let me through. Even during the times when students where not allowed, they would still let me through. After I graduated from the university I continued using the university resources at will. During that time, I never really thought about why they were nice to me but it’s clear to me now.

The Lessons

Looking back now I understand the importance of showing gratitude and the valuable lesson my parents taught me. For every effort we make as human beings for others we sub-consciously feel the need to be thanked or acknowledged for our efforts. While the cook, maid, janitor e.t.c, may not show their feelings they still need to be appreciated for their efforts even though they are paid for the services.

I have since realized showing others gratitude helps you become a better person and will help you in developing relationship with others. People like to be around a person who acknowledges what others do for him/her or just their friendship.

The act of showing gratitude also makes you humble and less selfish. This helps you become a more rounded person who approach life with humility which may help you make better decisions without many illusions about how much better you are than what you really is.

Showing gratitude also makes you learn to appreciate the little things in life. You learn to appreciate the fact that you are still breathing, you have a roof over your head, good health, loving family, a good job etc. Appreciating these seemingly little things improves the chances of your happiness as you realize how blessed you are to have those things in life.

Making another person smile has got an effect of making you feel good and happy. Appreciating other people’s efforts has just got that effect. The funny thing is that sometimes it does not cost anything other than putting on a smile and a warm “thank you”.

Conclusion

Showing gratitude just does not strengthen your character, making you a better friend, workmate or anything. If you are business it strengthens your brand and increase customer loyalty which may lead to increased sales and a successful business. Expressing gratitude should be a habit as it makes us better people and businesses in life.

What I found about having good discussions


“This is the most stupid thing, I have ever heard.” “You must be an idiot.” “Where do you live, a cave?”

These unkind statements and words are usually said when people have strong opinions, but can’t seem to get others to agree with them. Sometimes these heated arguments may degenerate into fist fights and other forms of brawling. The best technology company in the world, the right religion or who is better Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi: are just some of the issues people can’t seem to agree, but love to discuss with more or the same results-quarrels.

Acknowledging that avoiding argument turning into quarrels is very important, and in this article I will try discuss how one can and why they should learn to avoid such a situation based on my experience.

One way, one should approach disagreements is that feeling strongly about any issue does not make you right. Just because you think that your religion is the right one does not make it right, probably only the dead know. Having this mindset will make it easy for you to accept that you may not always be right and others may be right –which reduces the urge to convince others to agree with your opinions even if they do not.

Arguments lead to quarrels, and quarrels are not good for your relationship. Realizing that arguments may adversely affect your relationship is important because it might help you learn when to amicably quit a discussion before it has degenerated into a full scale war of words. Every time you have an argument, think about your relationship, you always find yourself withdrawing from an argument or careful choosing what you say to the next person.

People come from different backgrounds, culture and are by nature different so about have different opinions on issue. One may think that classic is the best type of music and it would be no use trying to convince that hip hop is the best type of music to that person- it’s completely unnecessary and na├»ve to even think that way because music is subjective. Understanding that will help avoid unnecessary arguments on things you may never agree.

Also understanding that if other people disagree with you, it does not mean that they think you are stupid, will go along the way in helping you agree to disagree. Attaching your ego to discussion may make it difficult to listen to any point that seems to disagree with what you think, as it may seem as an attack on your intelligence.

Moreover, acknowledging that discussions may widen your horizon of thinking may help avoid turning discussions into a must win affair. Approaching discussion with an open mind may help learn and realize new things that you haven’t thought about or observed. In trying to win discussion or trying very hard to prove that you are right you may end  up missing a lot of insights that you might gain.

Learning to be respectful of other people’s ideas, feelings and opinions is very important in avoiding discussion turning into scuffles or worse. Even if the other person is completely, ruthlessly dismissing what they have said with scorn will most of the time lead to other person being emotional-which cause scuffles. Careful choice of words is helpful when you want to disagree as most of the time if put across nicely your point, no one will get emotional.

Why we may feel the urge to argue, get emotional over issues, we must exercise self-control in order to avoid destroying our relationships, fights and all other negative effects of heated arguments.