When startups pitch to big companies there is usually some fear on their end as they are afraid of getting their ideas stolen and them being left in the dust. One such person who claims they were affected by this is Ignatius Munengwa. He claims Econet stole an idea he pitched to them back in 2011.
Last year, he took the telecommunications giant to court over the issue (the issue is not yet resolved in court) and it seems now he is back! He has sent a letter of complaint to POTRAZ (the regulator for all telecommunication companies in the country) over the same issue and seems to be fighting his battle on two fronts now.
A quick recap…
In 2011 M Comm pitched a security response product called ‘Panic Button.’ This product was supposed to be linked to security companies’ rapid response to Econet’s mobile network.
M Comm say they had already secured a partnership with one of the largest security companies to deal with the response side of things and were now just waiting on a mobile network operator (MNO) to provide the interface with the security companies. This is why they approached Econet and Ignatius Munengwa signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Munengwa also said Econet did not sign the non-disclosure agreement due to a restructuring exercise. After this, he provided more information on how the business would work including information such as cash flow projections and profit sharing between Econet and M Comm.
According to Munengwa, in 2012 he was informed that the project had been suspended. After following up on the progress of the project for 3 years, in 2015 he was informed that the project was no longer viable due to its potential in terms of revenue and subscriber growth or retention impact.
In November of 2015, the same year Munengwa’s idea was rejected, Econet launched Connected Home. The connected home was designed to offer home surveillance and security, automated services for some domestic features. The service featured a rapid response system and Munengwa felt his idea was being implemented and he was not getting his dues.
To Mr Strive…
He posted on one of Strive Masiyiwa’s mentorship posts (from April 12) on Facebook. He was questioning the values held by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s management and why his company did not seem to follow the words he (Masiyiwa) spreads on Facebook. Here’s what Munengwa wrote to Masiyiwa:
I genuinely believed in your mantra of youth empowerment, innovation, integrity and fighting to protect your ideas and grow business in Africa through smart partnerships and therefore approached Econet to launch a unique product and discussed this with your management team here in Zimbabwe. To my dismay, I later learned that this unique product was going to be launched through the Econet Services without my involvement.
After trying several times to appeal to your management team, we ended up going to court to resolve this. My issue on this matter is how different your posts are to the ethos and ethical values represented by your organisation. The message you convey on various social media platforms is amazing but the integrity of the brand and team Econet in Zimbabwe is suffering under the reality that your company is seen to disempower young entrepreneurs like myself. A commonly held view among others that have tried to partner with Econet is this: you approach Econet for a strategic alliance and you work towards a solution and soon after exchanging information, Econet in bad faith, launches the idea or business model.
If your integrity and the values you promote on this platform are the core values driving your companies, then why is the management culture of your companies so divergent? I hope that you will take time to attend to what I am highlighting, if not for me, then for the sake of improving congruence of your well known personal values with the brands your name is synonymous with.
To the regulator…
He has also now taken his issue to POTRAZ and wrote a letter of complaint to them hoping they can also help him resolve his issue. In the letter he detailed what happened and went on to express his disappointment in Econet:
Econet has not acted in good faith and displayed a lack of integrity in the manner in which they have dealt with me. It is evident that Econet will disempower young entrepreneurs like myself for their own gain, rather than reward those who have genuinely engaged with them ideas that develop their business. I am therefore appealing for your intervention to review this matter as I seek equitable recompense for the utilisation of my business innovation which has been launched by Econet
Can POTRAZ actually resolve this issue?
Well, we are not really sure how exactly POTRAZ can resolve this issue since it’s already in the courts but we did reach out to some legal practitioners and we will be looking at how and if POTRAZ can actually influence this situation.