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Lies, damn lies, entrepreneurship and Africans supporting each other

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Munyaradzi Gwatidzo
Munyaradzi Gwatidzo, The founder and CEO of Astro Mobile

The life of a startup entrepreneurship is anything but easy. Anywhere in the world really. What is considered the normal failure rate is nothing short of scary and alarming.

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Very close to all startup companies are headed for failure before they can become anything, again, anywhere in the world. The odds are stacked against the entrepreneur so much, any break anyone can give them is welcome relief. Anywhere in the world. But more so here. If the local tech startup ecosystem is to improve, we need to support each other.

Over last week, after reporting that Astro – a new local startup company in devices and exploring Software as a Service platforms – appeared to be lying about their products, some of the feedback we got from readers, was that it was wrong for us to mention this. That we are what’s wrong with the tech startup ecosystem as we are just pulling them down. That a startup has many struggles already without worrying about bloggers scrutinising them. The Astro founder himself, Munyaradzi Gwatidzo, went to the extent of showing us examples of glowing articles penned by other bloggers. Why can’t you be like them, being the message.

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We love startups. We talk about them everyday at the office. Astro happens to be one of the few we talk about more often in terms of how they see the future that their competition seem oblivious to. That they are bold in the steps they take and raise money for it. Astro are not trying to be the best device company, they are working to be a platform company. They have made attempts and are working on payments, on a music market and we think streaming as well. They see a broadband everywhere future where smart TVs will be in average income families, and they are positioning already for that future. They are working to disrupt DStv’s market dominance in the future. We respect such boldness and risk taking in a local startup.

But then the lies come. Astro tells a room full of the media, ICT Ministry officials, Investors and key customers that they have invested in 8 months of R&D to come up with the world’s thinnest phone, which turns out to just be fables. The room applauds them; ministers, permanent secretaries, academics and the few investors that local startups are chasing, all marvel at the strides Zimbabwean innovators are making in spite of the odds.

That the startup is making a fool out of everyone is a small issue of course. The bigger issue is where do they draw the line? What else are they lying about and who else are they lying to? And what precedent are they setting in the ecosystem? And if we all line up as a herd supporting blatant lying, really, what ecosystem are we even talking about?

And when all this nonsense blows up in their face, like it has done before many times (even for Gwatidzo himself) how will this affect other entrepreneurs looking for support from the ecosystem. If local investors get burnt by these lies how does that affect other startups raising funds locally?

The frustrating thing, and what we don’t get yet, is why Astro has to lie in the first place. Slapping a company’s logo on phones designed and produced in China is itself not wrong. It’s done all the time even by the mobile operators. It’s a brilliant model as Astro doesn’t need to invest in R&D yet in these early stages when they don’t have the money for it. They can build a strong brand on this without needing to lie.

They don’t need to talk about how they design phones and how their innovative design is now the thinnest phone in the world. There are many creative ways to play with the marketing words without blatant lying and misleading the market.

Lying doesn’t help technology entrepreneurship locally. It hurts it.


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70 thoughts on “Lies, damn lies, entrepreneurship and Africans supporting each other

  1. Astro is doing a good job . Its producing a good quality phone that can compete with the best .But this does not give them the right to lie. I am one of the guys who support the local industry by actually buying their products. After the atrocious customer care service from Gtel after my A706 developed faults I am actually considering the Astro route. From the spec sheet this phone exceeds the Gtel A717 by far. Also a comparison with the V2 specs shows its a advanced copy of the V2. They did not need to lie. TechZim is correct to expose them. The lies will only detract people from an otherwise good product. They have been only a short time in the business and they are doing a fantastic job. I dont expect them to compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple in such a short time. if you have ever been short -changed you will never support people who lie. I need to buy knowing what I am buying.

  2. kabweza wd never be able to take down astro even if he tried,kkk,
    astro has many blind loyal customers who buy (&love) their over priced products at 500 hard earned dollars uchitoshaya kuti zvafamba sei, i doubt kabweza can convert and save all those lost sheep kkk

    and hanzi support local? word? i dont see anyone rallying behind vanhu vanohodha ma jean kuChina cz thats exactly what mr gwatidzo is doin -buyin and sellin asian goods
    i ain hatin, but astro is not a local product – period.

    aaaaaand this is a techblog i dnt think there is a more appropriate place to rant about such issues. iblog rake futi sakaaaaa…… Tanga Rako!! kkkk

  3. This article reminds me of what Strive Masiyiwa said in one of his facebook posts when he mentioned that in business you must never compromise your INTEGRITY. Though I think Kabweza could have expressed his point in much fewer words, his role in IT locally plus his Facebook/ Twitter following warrants that he speak out on Astro’s falsehoods despite how uneasy it may be !

  4. I follow techzim closely, for three years now but I am surprised with kabweza’s hate of everything gwatidzo. I spoke to gwatidzo one day and he plainly told me that techzim dislikes astro brand and seek to diminish it at every turn and opportunity, then I disagreed with him but ow I know he was correct. its amazing that kabweza knows well that vana Samsung and Huawei vese vakatanga vachikopa. I my opinion you only seek to magnify the negative things that I agree they have done and do not give them equal credit. deny it or defend it all you can, kabweza wakamaka astro. ko tanga ka rako local brand tione kuti unizviita sei. I ead other articles on http://www.technomag.co.zw and thy bring out the same sentiment abt originalityof their product and claims but you can tell that the article does not carry a hate tone like kabweza’s. kabweza grow up and be a professional at your job my guy

    1. Seriously, you’re OK with ASTRO claiming they developed the device? Rather than sent a chinese company their logo and wait a few months for the stock to arrive.

      As Limbikani states there is nothing wrong with coming up with a brand and being proud of it, just don’t con people by saying you built it when you didn’t.

      1. even dairibord is manufacturing milk in sa and selling it here, who is lampooning them? its toll manufacturing, even ana Samsung and apple produce these gadgets out of their countries so as to cut costs of development

        1. The issue here is LYING. Is it emotions, or does the zim tech community not understand english?

  5. Haha, ASTRO stop saying you developed the phone and just stick to the marketing of your branded device.
    Seriously!

    Limbikani, keep up the great work at Techzim we want real tech news not people trying to boost their own ego’s.

    1. murikurwadzina itai enyu ka nhai. u cnt praise a journalist who put a Hollywood type of a headline like that. Limbikani usafurirwe nevanhu unodzorerwa kuMalawi

    1. And you sell it for $499 thats around 190% gross profit. Obviously after taking into account over in an extreme case it means your profit will be 100% conservatively. That god business sense. i applaude Astro for that. But making claimings which can easly be discredited by a simple google image search that unethical. What is worrisome is the mistake is more of stupid and you still want to stick to your guns? maybe u want us to get some callipers to truly measure the thickness?

  6. Astro should be taken to task for the lies. Imagine what our investors think? That we come up with ideas, get R&D funding but go backdoor to purchase the goods for rebranding and resale???
    We want this CEO in Parly for a Q&A session so that we set an example (not to mention the entertainment value from the discomfort of a liar)

    1. go their yourself and see if they want their time wasted at parly Gay no i mean Guy

  7. with all due respect i personal think the whole article is more personal attacking on Mr Gwatidzo which makes Mr Limbikani unprofessional. U are a star and motivate to many but i believe they cnt all not stand your unprofessional conduct with others. Starting with your headline its shows your foolishness and lack of maturity as a journalist. Maybe you are Mr almighty the greatest innovator. If he did change name to Astro its enough inovotions to be noted thn attacked foolish Limbikani

  8. @ Parly Guy and Limbikani : Astro at their launch he point out that they integrate many things from others companies like Sony cameras. U can go around the world n not find a phone like that. go online check. what you can only find is a phone with similarities but not the actual phone with actual things. You u can join a battery from Samsung n LCD from Iphone and other things from different brands do you think you can find sm1 to claim it. Is thinking hard

  9. THE Spirit working in you is not a good spirit. its called a spirit of destruction. You are after Gwatidzo and his establishment. You should be ashamed of yourself. its a demon in you that can easily say Lies-Damn Lies. They is no God in that no peace at all. You are agent of darkness plz repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. be nice be good build not destroy. Hebrews 12:14 ” follow peace with all men and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord” be in peace with him

  10. If you lie about your product you should be called out. Journalists & bloggers would not be doing their job if their are not critical. It’s not the duty of Techzim to simply support nonsense simply because it’s a local product. If anything that’s the attitude that is stopping us from developing world class products and companies. And seriously, lets not defend this unprofessional behaviour by Astro. I would like them to succeed but not through peddling falshoods

  11. amana hatizi ma grade 2
    they put logo chete, if their design is stolen let them sue copycat

    R&D or market research kkkk

  12. this guy is just a distributor that has made enough sales to start putting a brand name on the gadget. i don’t see why people are saying we should be supporting him, after all these devices are not even designed in zimbabwe. I know all these phones but as different brands. even that astrobox isn’t his idea. Have a look at the Intel nuc or the AMD gigabyte brix. I am glad we have TechZim to help expose such dubious business practices that will ruin and tarnish the IT reputation in Zim. No harm in astro just focusing on marketing the device and they shouldn’t claim it is their idea. mxm

  13. I agree with Anonymous that they are just a distributor that has managed volumes that enable them to put their logo on the merchandize. Much like the blank CDs and DVDs that many of us buy from Fainoos.

    Has Fainoos ever claimed to have set up a LOCAL manufacturing plant for blank disks?

    How can anyone seriously defend such uncouth business practices? We cannot grow as a nation if we defend such bad practices.

    Some want to compare this with Dairiboad producing Chimombe in South Africa but if you look at that case then you will see what integrity is. They have OPENLY stated that they prefer to make Chimombe locally but it is currently cheaper to have it toll manufactured in SA than to produce it locally by up to 20c per box. It is also CLEARLY written on the milk box that the milk is toll manufactured in SA so if you are a consumer who reads the packaging, you know what exactly it is that you are buying.

    The Astro Team needs to come out and tell the truth. They need to show that they are not pulling off a con like the NHAVA people that misled consumers and government. If their work was stolen they need to prove it to us otherwise they currently look like shameless liars.

    INTEGRITY IS KEY IN BUSINESS.

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