What can African Startups borrow from Silicon Valley

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Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is the the heaven of tech entrepreneurs, startups, innovators and  hubs. We all crave Silicon Valley and I am one of the people having huge craves. According to Wikipedia :

Silicon Valley, in the southern San Francisco Bay Area of California, is home to many start-up and global technology companies. Apple, Facebook and Google are among the most prominent. It’s also the site of technology-focused institutions centered around Palo Alto’s Stanford University. The Computer History Museum and NASA’s Ames Research Center are in Mountain View. The Tech Museum of Innovation is in San Jose.  

we have a famous saying If you cant Beat them Join them. and what if you cant Join them ? what if you don’t qualify to Join them ? we never ask our selves  some of this negative questions or maybe we do but we never out speak them. Most of the Blogs and tech Enthusiasts have come up with thoughts and realities. We have our our “silicon Valleys” we have countries Branded as Africa’s Silicon Valley , KENYA being the top hit on all index searches.

Kenya has a good history on technology improvements dating years back.

  • 2003 – M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer service, was first conceived in London in 2003, by Nick Hughes, Head of Social Enterprises at Vodafone, one of whose group partners was Kenya’s mobile phone carries, Safaricom.
  • 2007 – Fast-forward 4 years later, Safaricom rolled out on a mass scale in Kenya – where M-Pesa tapped into a huge demand for mobile money services among the unbanked. M-Pesa has a stronger and more trusted brand as well as better distribution channels than any local bank. “The success of M-Pesa strongly suggests that banking for the masses in Africa is likely to be driven more strongly by mobile operators than by legacy banks” according to Gordon Institute of Business Sciences – Digital Disruption: Changing The Rules of Business for a Hyper – Connected World Report.
  • 2007 – Also saw the conceptualization of Ushahidi.
  • 2008 – Ushahidi, developed as geo-mapping software to pinpoint violence during Kenya’s disputed 2007-2008 presidential elections. Ushahidi has evolved into a highly advance open software provider and to date, the organisation has made possible the creation of more than 60 000 maps detailing environmental issues, elections and human rights abuses in 159 countries and over 31 languages.
  • Ushahidi also launched BRCK – a robust portable internet connectivity device designed to keep people connected in rural and urban areas where electricity and internet connectivity are problematic. This service has been received well as far as the US.
  • 2010 – iHub formation and 152 companies have formed out of the iHub since launch. iHub has +- 15 000 members and on a day to day, – young Kenyans work in tis labs and interact with global technologists such as Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer (a past speaker).
  • 2010 – The completion of the TEAMs (The East Africa Marine Systems) undersea fibre optic cable – significantly increasing broadband in East Africa. TEAMs was a project by Kenya’s then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications – Bitange Ndemo – who saw Kenya’s vision as becoming a regional ICT hub.
  • 2010 – Launch of M-Farm which was founded by a trio of women – the company gives farmers access to real time information about market prices and where they can sell produce and buy supplies. M-Farm was recognised by President Barack Obama as an inspiring “hope” for the country – during his July trip to Nairobi for the Global Entrepreneurs Summit, which also confirmed Kenya as fast emerging as a business hub within the global market place.
  • 2013 – Kenya formed its own fully fledged ICT Authority.

From Venture Capital For Africa

There is a couple or many things to learn and borrow from Silicon Valley, Not Elements of success only but how to embrace failure  for the growth of us as a continent in the Tech culture.

We Should Build platforms not Products

In the old economy, the math was simple: The more products you sell, the more money you make. Silicon Valley doesn’t think in terms of “products,” instead embracing the unbounded economics of the platform, where connecting users and interactions is the new coin of the realm. Unlike a static product, a platform’s value is defined by the users who populate and use it; a platform can morph to adapt to their needs and continually unspool new services and innovations. Valley companies think in terms of ecosystems, networks, and shareable services — elements that are crucial to scaling very quickly. Any business needs to make money eventually, but the power of rapid scaling is a huge competitive advantage that those in the Valley understand keenly.

Think like engineers and customers.

While “user-centered design” has become an increasingly popular term, Silicon Valley lives and breathes it in a way that senior executives elsewhere can’t imagine. In Valley companies all levels of the business, from the CEO to coders to cross-functional teams, are hardwired to look at problems from the perspective of the user in order to figure out what sets of processes would create the smoothest, richest experience. They obsess about the customer; everyone is expected to solve customer and user problems whenever and wherever they find them.

Give employees (and their dogs) a long leash. The strongest founder-led organizations recognize what really motivates their people. Mission-driven employees naturally expect competitive compensation, but more important is the opportunity to shape the path of innovation, to play a meaningful role in growing the business, and to develop their own leadership chops. The more autonomy employees have to be resourceful and make decisions, the more likely they will be to stick around. Artificial constraints, such as formal organizational hierarchies and belabored consensus-building processes, create waste and dampen motivation. The most innovative companies set clear expectations around goals and investment risk but let employees define the best way to meet them. If that means being open to flexible work schedules and letting people bring their dogs or bikes to the office, so be it.

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