Posts Tagged ‘startup’

Mara Foundation Business Hackathon Pre-Launch – Startup Reality Check

This was the theme of my presentation at the January 25 pre-launch event for the Business Hackathon event organized by the Mara Foundation (http://www.mara-foundation.org/) and Mara Launch Pad (http://www.mara-foundation.org/entrepreneurship/mara-launchpad.html).

This would be my second hackathon-style event after the Startup Weekend that I had participated in April 2012 (http://wp.me/pXn3W-5v) where I pitched an idea that had been cooking, baking and squirming in my head for a coupla years. When Nigel Ball (@nigel_ball) asked me which side I wanted to be on, I took the opportunity to sit at the end of the table to mentor.

So back to the prelaunch event, assembled were the following (in the order that they presented):

  1. Reinier Battenberg, @batje, Director Mountbatten and Open Source Evangelist, Drupal, mapping et al
  2. James Makumbi, @jmakumbi, Software Developer and Founder of Billable Hours Uganda, a cloud based law firm management solution, and one of the first Ugandan developers on Stack Exchange (my inspiration to join and become active)
  3. Simon Kaheru, @skaheru, Director Business Convergence SMS Media is one of Uganda’s first enterprenurs in the tech scene through SMS Media and a though leader in the mobile technology space
  4. Solomon King, @solomonking, Web Solutions Provider and Founder of Fundibots, a non profit to encourage passionate African children (and adults) grow and experiment with machines, gadgets and technology – do I hear soldering, garage workshops and Sky net development in basements.
  5. Christine Ampaire, @axtine831, Founding Team member MafutaGo, GirlGeek, Geekprenur
  6. Davis Musinguzi, @davisthedoc, Health IT Developer and Enterprenur, Mentor for the WinSenga team that won the Microsoft Imagine Cup in 2012

The first presentation (below) was a reality check on what the enterprenurs are to expect before the event, and after to provide context with regard to what opportunities are out there and what to take advantage of.

 

 

Additional lessons that were given by the other panelists are summarized below:

  1. You do not have to start a business with a product, you can provide services to customers by packaging and supporting existing software solutions 
  2. Tech startups do not have to be about software and hardware, they can provide laptop sleeves, covers, and other accessories using local materials
  3. Look at alternate revenue streams by leveraging the brand and buzz created by your core product or services
  4. Do not be afraid to pivot your business, from Eric Ries of the Lean Startup: Pivot or Reboot (http://to.pbs.org/WaCA9w) or Pivot Do not Jump to a new vision (http://bit.ly/TAFZ36)
  5. Not all the people you pitch to will have the same vision as you do, listen to them, do not give up, learn from them
  6. Leverage and use the simplest technology you can
  7. Use other people’s money, 100% of $1,000 is way less and more risky than 10% of $25,000 investment – watch the numbers, allow investors to let you  grow to sustainable levels
  8. Develop credibility – register a legal entity, track the total cost of ownership to client (licenses, hardware, warranty and support costs), have a person who watches the money (revenue and costs)
  9. You need teams of people to support your vision, you cannot do it alone
  10. Complete your education and take opportunities that arise when they do, those papers “may” help you get to the next level
  11. Get out of the office to the street and into the lives of the people who use your product – listen to them and learn from them

What are your opinions, what did we miss? Leave a comment

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Mobile Money – The Next Frontier Ubiquity

Mobile money is on an exponential growth curve in Africa, due to the growth in mobile phone penetration of GSM SIM based phone networks, and is considered the next frontier in financial inclusion for the unbanked, and easing the costs of transactions on the continent. The primary success of M-Pesa by Safaricom in Kenya is driving adoption, but now that the teething challenges are being understood and models for dealing with them are becoming more prevelant, maturity challenges are now becoming more prominent and are causing many to wonder whether the promise is being achieved.

Starting primarily as a money transfer solution by telecoms it has proven to be a lucrative alternate revenue stream for the telcos who are being pressed due to increased competition in voice (now a commodity), lower charges in international calls from Voice over IP (VOIP) alternatives, higher capital costs for infrastructure to support a burst in mobile data growth, and lower phone usage due to social networks like Facebook/Twitter/Google+.

The next step is to grow into a mobile commerce payment solution, for merchants, organizations and businesses in order to compete against established players like banks and other financial institutions, debit and credit cards, online payment systems like Paypal/CheckOut/Google Wallet, NFC based mobile payments. Overcoming this frontier means delivering a more streamlined user experience to the consumer which is key to adoption.

Below are 10 features and approaches that I think mobile payment solution providers need to do in order to become relevant in the mobile payment space:

1. Merchant originated payment requests – current mobile money systems are setup so that the payee sends money to another number, which leads to errors if the entered number is incorrect (which is a major customer headache). Having merchant originated payment requests, almost like the withdrawal requests from agents, can reduce the errors in the transfer since the customer only has to approve the transaction.

2. Delayed payment outside the current session – the money transfer can only be completed in a single session, however if the payment request can be made and stored on the customer’s phone (like an invoice), and the payment made at a later date can provide an efficient invoicing/payment for coommunity delivered services like utilities, education, etc

3. Payment request forwarding – allow the payment request to be forwarded to and fulfilled by another number

4. Telco Number Independence – where number portability is not available, the ability to use mobile numbers from competing telcos, which means one service can grow out and reach all customers

5. Transaction Payment plans – other than per transaction, allows a larger volume of transactions to be done at a lower cost

6. Easy creation of merchant accounts to increase the ubiquity of usage

7. 3rd Party system integration points – since a lot of the mobile money systems are tightly integrated with telecom systems this raises the costs and slows the pace of integration with other businesses like banks

8. API for system integration – providing APIs through which 3rd party providers can integrate with the mobile money systems via the web and Internet to support online transactions

9. Standards – there is no standard for the mobile money services therefore any integrator needs to interface differently to each system. These standards can extend to using contacts in mobile phones

10. Support for alternate delivery channels such as mobile phone, web and desktop apps to increase ubiquity

What are your thoughts?

Startup Weekend Day 3 – 60 sec pitch, Customer Validation, Business Value, Wrap Up and Lessons Learnt

Day 3 of the weekend was entirely focused on validating the target customers, revenue numbers, business models and completing the proof of concepts for the pitches to the judges at the end of the day.

How did the morning begin, well we found out that we did not have to develop a platform as there was one tried and tested platform, so it would make it easier for the team to develop a proof of concept. This also opened up an alternate revenue stream for implementation and hosting which was really great as that was one big business risk.

We also had a great discussion with one of the mentors, Sean Krepp of Grameen Foundation, who is currently involved in a lot of data collection and monitoring, on the business models, value propositions, risks and how to laser focus on a customer problem.

Dry Run for Final Pitch

Dry Run for Final Pitch

The strange thing about Day 3 – Sunday was that the energy levles were ebbing towards empty as the timelines etched towars the finish line. The first checkpoint was at 12 noon where we had to present the first draft of the final pitch presentation to the mentors who were around as a “dry run”. Thank God for the mentors because they were relentless in their pursit of information, updates, validation of customers, revenue models and business justification.

The afternoon was slow as we got all ready for the presentations with finalizing the documentation for the presentation. We emptied the rooms and organized the ares for the last pitch. Well finally the judges arrived, and it was with great fanfare that the final pitches began, and of course Databud was the first off the tracks, and we had a great time “first presenters” always do.

The Guest of Honor, Hon. Ham Mulira, arrived during the pitches, and from my vantage point seemed to enjoy the energy and vitality that was going on. He seemed to be going back in time to when he was younger I think, coding in C on those UNIX machines.

Databud Final Pitch to Judges

Databud Final Pitch to Judges

Well after the speeches, the judges went to to deliberate and we had a few words from the Guest of Honor. Just as Hon. Ham Mulira was getting up, one of our mentors, Reinier Battenberg, did a Kanye West, and asked the attendees in the room to give the lead organizer, Richard Zulu, a round of applause for organizing such an event and being such a community leader.

Hon. Ham Mulira was eloquent, in touch with the times and gave a great rendition of his days, but his take away quote as “You do not have to be great to be start, but you have to start to be great”. After he introduced two of his guests, great manners for a big man.

Once the speeches were done it was time to wait for the judges to come back and announce the top three apps of the evening which were Sonda, MyZiki and BetOM.

While we may not have won we had a great time, for me it was a great learning experience and a once-in-a-lifetime event. Of course now I will be attending hackathlons and similar events whenever I can get a chance to improve and further develop my skills.

Final Pitch to Judges - Front View

Final Pitch to Judges – Front View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE:

Follow the experiences from the first two days at:

  1. Startup Weekend Kampala – Day 1 – Ideas, Pitches, Teams
  2. Startup Weekend Day 2 – Platform, Mentors, Coding, Product Positioning, Decisions during Execution

 

Startup Weekend Day 2 – Platform, Mentors, Coding, Product Positioning, Decisions during Execution

Day 2 started well, but what I can say is that it was a rollercoaster of a day I must say with ups and downs but well here it is. The day started early as there was a lot of energy from the night before, I got to the venue by 8:00am checked in and setup my laptop as I waited for my team mates to arrive.

The plan of the day was to develop a navigable prototype as a proof of concept that this is possible. Once I had a cup of caffeine, oh yes so much of this stuff is needed for such events that a dedicated coffee maker is inevitable … it was off to meet the mentors who were moving around and talking to the different teams.

The first mentors, Reinier Battenberg and Deborah Elzie, offered the first blow of the day, we were not the only players in the market and a new player had just launched 3 weeks prior to the startup weekend and they had lotsa datasets. This was the first crushing blow to our flight in the clouds, however on talking with other mentors the advice we got was “differentiate yourselves from the competition” – now this is the beauty of having mentors around because they help you navigate the valleys as you find them.

Well back to work we went, as we prepared for the 12noon checkpoint with renewed energy. The focus of the 12noon checkpoint was to practice the 60 second pitch, and sent targets for the 4pm checkpoint. This checkpoint provides a valuable status check from the “code product” to focus on the business model, value proposition, revenue and cost projections, etc … basically the business side of the apps.

Well it was back to work code, revenue models, more research on how to differentiate ourselves from the competition. Between noon and 4pm, all I can say is the rooms were intense with coding, thinking planning, etc.

In summary Day 2 was execute on the run, re-think and refine while on the run. What an experience … we worked long and hard into the night getting ready for the final sprint towards the finish line …

UPDATE:

Follow the action for Day 1 and Day 3 at:

  1. Startup Weekend Kampala – Day 1 – Ideas, Pitches, Teams
  2. Startup Weekend Day 3 – 60 sec pitch, Customer Validation, Business Value, Wrap Up and Lessons Learnt

Databud – Startup Weekend Kampala – April 27 to 29

I will be attending my first startup weekend in Kampala, on April 27, 2012 to April 29, 2012 and well I thought that why not share my pitch and get advice on how to refine it. No idea is great unless shared right?

In the absence of #opendata in Uganda, there is a whole lot of data locked up within individual government systems, documents, in non standard formats which needs to be unlocked, the data set free so that it can grow (Data Bud) – the data buds and grow

A picture is worth a thousand words right – below is the whole concept

Data Bud Concept

Data Bud Concept

Comments, additions, advice? Looking forward to seeing ya this weekend

Application Solution – Outsource, Incubate Potential Providers, Fund Startup or App Challenge

This is a question where I have no knowledge but would appeal to organizations of all sizes, and in all sectors.

You have identified a need for software based solution for a project, however at the stage that you are, the details of the solution implementation are not known at the time, and you do not have sufficient internal resources to develop the solution. However you have a window of time to refine the potential solution, but only have one shot to get it right.

The options that I see are:

  1. Outsource – to a potential long term partner to develop and implement the solution. Of course this has an inherent risk in that costs may spiral out of control, you do not have much insight into the development process, and well you depend on all their processes
  2. Hold an App Challenge – these have become very common, however in this case you would define some requirements for and leave the problem solution to the competitors – I am yet to see this done
  3. Hold a Start-up Weekend – I am not sure how this is different from an app challenge but I would like to be educated
  4. Fund Start-up – question is how do you select the start-up, from app challenge or start-up weekend? How is this much better than outsourcing to an established company with prebuilt processes.
  5. Incubate potential start ups – Is this is an extension of the Fund start-up option, where by instead of owning the start-up outright you provide a space where start-ups can innovate and grow around your problems

Please comment and let me know what pros and cons for each of the options are.

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