- The biggest killers of startup success are: Entrepreneurs rushing to build solutions for problems that they don’t fully understand;
- Lack of proper and early customer discovery and validation is one sure way to fail; and
- Startups in Africa are sometimes easily distracted by media hype, competitions, and investor pitches!
- Universities need to provide fail-safe environments for startups where students can venture into entrepreneurship
Bernard Chiira is business incubator manager at Strathmore University’s @iBizAfrica in Nairobi Kenya. With extensive experience in managing startups, Bernard holds a Master Degree in Mobile Telecommunication & Innovation and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business and Information Technology from Strathmore University. One of the executives at AfriLabs Foundation, he shares with IT Edge News, his passion and commitment to promoting sustainable startup ecosystem on the continent – these were the thrusts of his presentation at Sahara Sparks 2017 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
What does Afrilab plan to achieve as a body?
Afrilabs aims to create valuable connections between innovation hubs in Africa. We also aim to help our member hubs leverage on opportunities for their hubs and the startups they support at a continental and global level. Through our annual gathering, we also aim to facilitate the meeting and discuss important matters in regards to innovation and technology in Africa between hubs and other key stakeholders such as investors, government, development partners, and entrepreneurs. This year Afrilabs Annual Gathering will take place in Cairo Egypt in October.
“Government not only has the mandate to create a friendly and favorable business environments but also to institute direct support to the innovation and startup ecosystem.”
Is it possible to build synergies among African hubs, labs and innovation centers with a view to engaging the global technology and investment markets via a common front – within the framework of Afrilab?
Yes. At the very core of the Afrilabs is the purpose of connecting hubs in Africa. Afrilabs provides a platform through which investors in the global tech markets can access information and deals on a single platform. Through our partners VC4Africa, we also provide any investor seeking out opportunities in Africa to meet startups seeking to raise funding across various fund rounds.
Let me take you back to your presentation Sahara Sparks – What do startups need to do achieve success?
A number of things but will share three for now. In my experience working with startups across East Africa, I have observed that some of the biggest killers of startup success are:
- Entrepreneurs rushing to build solutions for problems that they don’t fully understand. Lack of proper and early customer discovery and validation is one sure way to fail. Entrepreneurs and those who support them must invest sufficiently in this stage if they want to achieve startup success.
- Rushing for investors and funding too early. Startups need to understand that value attracts investors. One of the surest signs of success for startups is early traction in the form of users, customers and sales. Focus on these and you are on a path to success.
- Startups that follow through and focus on the core business of building great products and services that are responsive to the needs are bound to succeed. Startups in Africa are sometimes easily distracted by media hype, competitions, and investor pitches! Sometimes the distraction is actually due to lack of funding for basic stuff like food and rent and founders spend too much of their time and talent working on side projects just to keep the lights on and the stomach full.
- In order to sufficiently harness the full potential of economic growth attributable to innovation and entrepreneurship, the government not only has the mandate to create a friendly and favorable business environments but also to institute direct support to the innovation and startup ecosystem, where such support is needed to ignite development or growth of the enterprise . African governments are now awakening to this role and there’s still a lot to be done. Academia especially universities need to do more in terms of providing a fail-safe environment for startups where students can venture into entrepreneurship with enough resources: early-stage funding, training, and mentorship. Universities also need to build entrepreneurship and innovation culture. This can be done by focusing on solving societal problems sustainably and commercializing research. This can only be done if universities develop the capacity to translate research into commercial value through IP and technology transfer service, incubation and acceleration programs.
Evaluate Sahara Sparks 2017 – did it achieve your objective?
Sahara Sparks was an inspiring event. It was very well organized, great contingent and speakers. By all means, it raised the profile of Dar es Salaam as top tech and innovation destination in East Africa. I think the time for Tanzania is now.