By Namatirai Zinyohwera
I met Philip Kiracofe, the CEO of StartupBootCamp Cape Town a few years ago. What started as a short elevator pitch, turned very quickly into a fury of tough questions and I immediately noticed that I did not have all the answers – I simply was not prepared. Fortunately, I was talking to a co-founder of an accelerator and there is no better place to fail and learn than in an accelerator.
I kept a sustained focus on trying to deliver the key message of my concept, but this simply did not cut it. Finally, Philip acknowledged my best efforts in trying to “feng shui” the situation into an investor pitch and he made it easy for me. I took on a R1000 challenge from Philip, to prove my concept on the streets of Cape Town, within a 24-hour time-frame – start clock!
“Now we are talking”, I thought to myself. I had “hustled for tech” before at Feastfox, Universal Avenue and other start-ups, and was quite confident that I would be able to do a neat job. In less than 24 hours, with some agonizing bruises and bumps, I delivered my results.
- I initiated 3 ride-share experiences with complete strangers.
- I initiated 3 routes.
- I interviewed 3 drivers and 7 passengers in total.
- I made a profit of R10.
This was the single most significant practical learning experience of my ideation journey. I came closer to the solution and now more than ever, I understand more intimately the language of the problem I am trying to solve. I was fortunate enough to learn this from Philip, and would like to share this key learning with young entrepreneurs, armed with pen and paper (just as I am), to take the brave step forward in testing out their concepts.
The lesson is, get your head out of the desk and get started with the practical aspects of your concept. Produce a quantitative argument and allow the data to lead the way.
In a nutshell, all I had was an idea and whilst a concept is certainly a starting point, it is hardly one stable enough to generate broad-based investor interest. In seeking out further assistance from investors, incubators, accelerators etc. aspire to be a post revenue start-up, no manner how humble your margins (that should be your rule of thumbs). After-all, the profit is in the pudding and to appease the appetite of investors, you have to serve it with proof.
A post revenue status means that you have begun making headway towards a profit generating project, which can be used to measure inputs and outputs, towards achieving scale.
In tech start-ups, it seems to me that we often obsess over the use of technology, versus trying to present a practical solution to the problem. We focus on cool buttons and features, losing focus on the subject matter. The technology we implement is only a medium of delivering the solution.
Instead we must take on problem solving headfirst, to acquire practical and replicable results from experiments that we conduct. In my experience, this will ensure less waffling and more bullet points.
Learning from other people’s experiences, is always a great shortcut to the imagined destination. Mentors, YouTube Documentaries (I discovered Dan Pena here) and strangers, are such a great aide in helping us visualize the goals we need to set. There is no substitute for experience and out there is someone closer to your solution, than you could ever imagine.
As a conversationalist random chats rule everything around me. Here you can unlock some of the most riveting, in-depth, character building insights and experiences. Paying attention to advice with constructive criticism, hard lessons can be learnt, inspiring a series of fortunate changes that can impact ideation exponentially.
Any well-meaning go getter is haunted by ideas, ideas, ideas, ideas. Whilst there may be many ways to skin them in 2020, you can bet your bottom dollar that there is no going far without strategy. Personally, I have always enjoyed playing strategy games from a young age, thus I have carried this habit from the virtual world to this one. But after all is said and written, there comes a time to roll up one’s sleeves!
Taking the first step to proving your concept can be a daunting task, especially with the obvious lack of funding. In the safety of friends and family, one can get comfortable with sharing visions of grandeur. But looking further than that, is as important to the growth of the idea as it’s first round of funding – seek to achieve traction.
As millennials, we have enjoyed a fair amount of slander and misunderstanding from the establishment. We have exhausted almost all descriptive words with negative connotations and have become an instant inspiration for new adjectives, which can better explain our alien personalities. I however remain optimistic about our future – we have done our best to survive the gravitating turbulence of the information age. With our minds constantly fixated by different stimuli, it is quite apparent that we constantly need to refocus ourselves, away from the fluff, to arrive at the real stuff.
An openness to continuous learning will get us there. In today’s constantly changing landscape, it is certainly the best way to stay relevant and is a sure cure for any possible eventuality of insignificance or total obscurity of a thinking mind.
Namatirai Zinyohwera is a Business Development Consultant, specializing in tech startups and enterprises looking to scale into the African Continental Free Trade Area. A self-fashioned Pan-African Technology Evangelist, who believes that technology is the medium for Africa’s Renaissance. Continues to campaign for data-led innovation, to be at the forefront of problem-solving in thinktanks across the continent.