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Why most Zimbabwean start-ups AREN’T failing. That is the question.

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Seed Sprouting

This is a Guest Post and does not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of Techzim. We have a strong filtering process of what makes it to our blog and are confident that you’ll enjoy the article below.

An alternative look at the Zimbabwean start-up scenario and a direct response to Why most Zimbabwean start-ups fail

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Seed SproutingYes, that’s right. You didn’t miss anything. Zimbabwean startups ARE NOT failing. They aren’t failing enough.  That’s because they are not many start-ups in the first place. The better question to ask is: Why there are not a lot of Zimbabwean start-ups.

Over the past 4 years, estimate statistics indicate that a lot (about 95% or so) of the few Zimbabwean tech start-ups (over 50, possibly below 100) have failed. While the article Why most Zimbabwean start-ups fail explores the reasons behind the earlier statistic, more attention should be paid to the amount of start-up activity in Zimbabwe.

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Failure, while not desirable, may have been looked at in the wrong way altogether. Maybe failure should be considered a necessary and “not-to-be-feared” …for lack of a better word….thing that will be needed to propel the Zimbabwean tech industry to the likes of Kenya and South African tech hubs.

Failure

  1. Has a winnowing effect, separating the mediocre from the excellent, which raises the standards of ideas, execution and entrepreneurship in general.
  2. is the shoulder that some of the most successful start-ups have stood on. Most successful founders are marked with battle scars from past failures.
  3. Breeds success. While they are no statistics at hand, it is highly probable that they are higher success rates where failure rates are also high, than when failure rates are low.

Here are some of the reasons why there aren’t many Zimbabwean start-ups.

Copy and Paste is good. Originality is overrated.
There is nothing new under the sun. And on the internet. New ideas are harder to come by because almost everything has been done. Pablo Picasso said “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. Hi5 was in existence before Facebook . Altavista before Google. The Walkman before the iPod.  Social networking, internet search and free email, and portable music. Same basic concepts, different execution.  The Sawmer brother, How Three Germans Are Cloning the Web, have made millions for themselves in Europe duplicating not just the website design but business models of companies like eBay, Zappos and GroupOn. So…go on, steal someone else’s ideas and make millions with it. Entrepreneurship isn’t on how fresh your idea is, but how you successfully execute an idea. Any idea.

Atychiphobia
There’s even a name for it. Fear of failure. It cripples ideas to the extent that they never see the light of day. A lot of successful tech start-ups are buried as ideas and business plans that never saw the light of day because of fear of failure.

Capital. Or the lack of it
Too often the need for start-up capital has been cited as the reason why start-ups never get off the ground. While this differs on a case-by-case basis, there are some start-ups that could easily bootstrap their way until profitability without the need of any significant capital injection. In addition, would-be funders are keener to invest in an idea that has already started than one that is still in someone’s head.

Perfecting the idea.
Most tech start-ups are started by techies, whose real intentions are to “see-their-work-up-there” and make claim to the fame that comes with it. Fortunes are an added bonus.  An element of vanity exists in everyone…let the geeks be. Unfortunately it also becomes the ultimate stumbling block as the need to create the “perfect” product/service becomes the motivation. But perfect never comes. Even Facebook is rolling out changes every other two weeks. Get an idea, create a minimum viable product and get to market quickly to test it. Fail and fail quickly.

They are a lot more reasons why Zimbabwean tech businesses aren’t starting up. Some genuine…some not. We need to explore more into the reasons why we aren’t failing more because as the rest of the world has shown again and again. Failure can be an option!

This guest post was authored by Anesu Freddy, a Creative Director at Maumbile Multimedia. You can follow Maumbile updates on Twitter on @maumbile

image via: divine-journeys.com

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19 thoughts on “Why most Zimbabwean start-ups AREN’T failing. That is the question.

  1. Great post from a different angle. I especially agree with you about supporting copy and paste. Most Zimbo’s have developed this mentality of “Joomla, WordPress etc” are bad. You dare release a site using them and its immediately lacking! No. What they need to realise is that the people using Joomla etc are drastically cutting their costs and development time as opposed to buliding a new buggy CMS that needs to be perfected by them which may detract from them also focussing on the business side of things.

    Capital is a problem – yes, and so are the people seeking it. Its important for the guys seeking money to work on their public speaking skills. I remember once I had a very pathetic business plan but my public speaking skills actually landed me some funding some one else could’ve probably used much better. They also need to understand that the people they are pitching the idea to dont yet feel the enthusiasm and fire that you do for the project. I now have a fair bit of money I can give away to certain “start-ups” but eveytime they pitch me an idea the problem is that they are too in love with the goods of their project and the millions of benefits that it can bring that they forget to realise some of the major hurldes standing right infront of them and these are the main things that the man with the money will be looking at.

    As for the fear of failing? Just do it! But unfortunately for some of the “geeky” types I’ve encountered thats very hard for them to do. The brains are there but that impulsive nature seems to suppressed by all those ones and zeros inside there. I suggest they maybe find partners..kinda like the looks and personality of the business to work hand in hand with the brains.

    Just my 2cents 🙂

    1. I now have a fair bit of money I can give away to certain “start-ups”
      but eveytime they pitch me an idea the problem is that they are too in
      love with the goods of their project and the millions of benefits that
      it can bring that they forget to realise some of the major hurdles
      standing right infront of them and these are the main things that the
      man with the money will be looking at.

      The love for the product is overwhelming. I remember one case where I suggested to the guy he considers a free to download version 1.0 and then a paid 2.0 or when there has ben sufficient market adoption. The guy would have none of it because he thought he would be losing money in the process. i suppose greed is also to blame, and even to the point where the product cannot be mass marketed or mass produced. In a different case, the guy wants so much control over the product and to know who is using it that every sale is on a “on demand” basis. inherently he cannot therefore sell even 1000 copies of his software because he will be generating keys etc by hand, and himself because he trusts no one but himself. I have had so many exciting observations and experiences. I mean, if he could just think of the bigger picture he could easily make US$1 million (and of course probably see his software pirated to the value of say US$10 million). But what is better, to hold on to the “one of a kind” software with limited sales or make millions even though pirated? after all a competitor can rise up with a better product soon. Software knowledge is the same world over.

  2. THIS is exactly our problem. We are so caught up in “entrepreneurship”. There is no key to success because it is different for everyone. If that were the case with all the entreporn, the how-tos and the WHYs we read daily we’d all be billionaires here now wouldn’t we? We now have the delusion that we’re special and we all know yet months are turning into years quicker than we observe because hey, we’re special, i feel a connection between Zuckerberg and myself, i just have to give time time.

    “Stop Sniffing Ur Own Farts. Great Entrepreneurs are Passionate about Customers, not Entrepreneurship” http://500hats.typepad.com/500blogs/2009/01/great-entrepreneurs-are-passionate-about-their-customers-products-not-about-being-great-entrepreneur.html

    That, in my view, is why Africa isn’t moving (fast enough), including our developers’ skills.

  3. Couldn’t agree more but just to add one more worthy reason:

    Failure to successfully sell your idea in the lounge or bedroom i.e for singles:

    failure to convince immediate family members that you still share a roof with (dads and moms).

    For the married: failure to convince your partner.

    Sustainable motivation is one that comes from within but its growth can be affected by environment. A lot of entrepreneurs are suffering from lack of emotional support and not only that, they are often subjected to abusive emotional attacks as family tries to convince them to do the safer and more traditional thing. Indeed this characteristic is found the world over but I strongly believe that it is more pronounced in this part of the world due to our very short history of urbanization, literacy, and industrialization.

    Most mums, dads, husbands and wives just don’t know how to support an entrepreneur that has decided to do something else besides running butcher, supermarket or a taxi. Until we reach critical mass of go-getters that have learnt from their grand fathers, failure rate is going to be extremely high but its all good, like Anesu says, because we are amassing case studies needed as reference in the future.

    In the mean time if you want to be successful hang out with the right crowd and be very weary the crowd you can’t easily get rid of. Needless to say, do not ignore constractive criticism.

    “Wadii kuita zviri kuitwa navamwe panekupenza nguva”.

    1. Valid point! Those closest to you can easily discourage entrepreneurial efforts. I think one has to persevere in such an environment. Having a strong DESIRE carries you through the toughest of situations.

  4. Very true! experienced some of the mentioned reasons in the past 2 years with our start-up. but one reason i think should be up there is lack of entrepreneurship in founders. there is an element of creating jobs for ones self rather than a business. as long as you are doing it yourself you deny yourself a chance for your idea to tested by many

  5. I was watching a video on Steve Jobs and the STARTING UP of NeXT just after leaving Apple. Well the insights are really beautiful. The first thing, you need to believe in your ideas more than anyone else and you should be ready to sacrifice for them despite other people’s opinions and despite “STATISTICS”. If you are going to make history or make a difference, what you are going to produce should be beyond the intellect and opinions of others otherwise anyone would just do it and becomes an ordinary achievement. Do not ignore advise and opinions but your own vision, insights and execution should be so strong that you will not be drowned by outside noise but can only take up what is useful for your journey. Here is the youtube link to a 22minutes Documentary of Steve Jobs starting Next, the first 6months – the strategic retreats etc all packed in there….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0hBj6JfhHs

  6. Insightful! Fear of failure is probably among the biggest stumbling blocks. When you fail you have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and try again more intelligently. The higher your failure rate the quicker you can realize success.

    1. don’t entirely agree. Just because you have failed a thousand times doesn’t mean the 1,001 time will be much easier. There are a million other things that could still go horribly wrong.

  7. Like the post. Would say the best practice developers need is:Client’s success first then your success follows. It is both an entrepreneurial and developer’s approach.

  8. Hahaha…interesting. Lets keep the discussions alive….

    I however what to disagree with the author, FAILURE is simply the inability to sign-up customers and make profit.

    That said I would be happy if author list for me Zim startups that are currently making a profit.

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