I still remember the ZOL startup of 2010 like it was yesterday. A room filled to the with young and ambitious talent that wanted to make a difference and bring back their country from out of the cold limbo of the just past decade long crisis. Fast forward to today and many of those startups are gone, long forgotten and the few that have made it can only have their successes chalked up as modest.
I’ve been meaning to post this since the Culture Shift Zimbabwe hacking event a few weeks ago. It’s a lessons learnt post to just note the things that tech entrepreneurs, developers and other such tech people should not keep in mind when coming up with new solutions.
C2 Media, a local digital design & development company, has launched Zwee.ly a network of local web and mobile properties. From information on the Zweely website, a common feature of the properties will be an emphasis on mobile and social. There’s also clear emphasis on appealing design (to us at least), something C2 clearly excels at.
Today was the final day of the Culture Shift Zimbabwe challenge. After a two day long hackathon of refining their ideas, writing code and finally pitching their ideas this morning, 3 out of the participating 6 teams were selected winners and will be further developing their solutions with the assistance of the British Council.
We were recently in touch with Simukayi Mukuna, one of the two co-founders of a new pay-per-view video streaming service called Wabona. The service was launched in beta in November last year, and the Wabona team has since been accepted into a 88mph startup incubator in South Africa. it was great opportunity therefore for us to hear out their perspectives and plans withe the service.
Day 2 of the Culture Shift Zimbabwe ideation was held yesterday. The main purpose of the day was for teams of techies and cultural people to form teams based on solutions that they want to work on. It was really great watching the ideas come together, additional features suggested and lumped into the solution, then stripped off, simplified.
Today was the first of the two day Culture Shift Ideation, an event to get software developers, designers, creative arts people and entrepreneurs to find solutions to problems in the arts sector that can be solved by technology. It was great having individuals and organisations from the arts side get to learn of the possibilities tech platforms avail locally.
Appfrica announced today the winners of the 2012 Apps4Africa business app challenge. The three winners of the 3rd edition of the challenge are startups from Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana. Each of the three will get US $10,000. The winning startups were selected from a list of 30 finalists announced 3 weeks ago.
“In the good old days, the traditional ‘rusambo’ was a gift of cattle. Today that can be quite daunting for the groom to be – where, how and who does one get to find, look at, buy and transport the cattle to the bride’s family? Does the bride’s family have the capacity to keep and look after the animals? Can you trust the person doing the buying, especially if you are living on the other side of the planet?”
To Microsoft Africa has traditionally been a place to sell its enterprise software products. Through local partners yes, but the continent was primarily a place to push products to. I imagine they were not making much owing chiefly to the piracy of its products on the market and so far it looks their concern about this was just as low. Whatever volume of products they were pushing sufficed. In that era Microsoft ruled computing both in the enterprise and at home and could take its sweet time postponing understanding and helping its market grow.
As prospects of viable e-commerce business in Zimbabwe increase, startups are launching to meet the opportunities. One such startup, MyZimStore.com, has launched a network of websites to sell gifts and flowers online. The site’s target customers are both internet users in the country and those in the Diaspora.
Although the Zimbabwean economy is now stable, several companies continue to close and the unemployment rate as we know it is still over 80%. While open source mostly refers to software, I believe it can also apply to economic development programmes and that such programmes can play a huge role.
Gary Shayne who founded Cellular Systems, later renamed Celsys, which he listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange when he was only 27 years old and went on to sell to Lonrho was a chartered accountant, and not a telecommunications engineer. Sure there were many telecommunications engineers who knew telecommunications, and who could boast more experience in telecommunications than Gary, even 27 years of experience, but what did they do?
Several weeks ago (now months actually) we received the GTel A707 Infinity smartphone from GTel, a local mobile devices company. I was at their Harare HQ for some other business when the CEO of the company, Chamunorwa Shumba, offered that I take the phone with me, use it for a while, and possibly write our opinion.
As the Zimbabwe & Zambia co-hosted United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference draws near, the opportunity of using technology to showcase the region globally and indeed to facilitate business processes stares tech startups in the face. One startup, Zimbabwe Bookers, is looking to fill the long neglected gap of online hotel reservations. Neglected because not enough entrepreneurs have attempted to fill it and, more importantly, because so far the few that have tried, haven’t had much success.
A wave of digital innovation is currently seeping Africa and at the same time, causing a sea change in the conventional thinking on the role of technology, innovation, creative economies and development. Culture Shift Zimbabwe will challenge entrepreneurs to find creative new ways to benefit from the digital shift and respond to local market challenges as well explore unexploited opportunities.
It’s not every day that we come across globally competitive quality work and skill locally. But when we do encounter some impressive stuff every now and again, we like to share it. Spectrum Studio’s work is such. Especially the explainer animation stuff, a service we know that lots of tech companies (internet startups especially) should employ for the products.
Appfrica, the organisers of the Apps4Africa challenge announced today the list of 30 startups on the continent that have made into the funding and mentorship competition’s finals. Out of the 30, the top 3 will be selected for the finals prize of $10,000 each, ongoing mentorship from Appfrica and according to the announcement, opportunities for further funding. The winners will be announced in the coming weeks.
A lot of startups simply stuck their heads into the sand and launched e-commerce sites with a credit card based checkout and no wonder they failed. Whilst at it, it needs to be mentioned that people hate writing cheques and banks hate issuing cheque books even more. www.gtel.co.zw seems to have mastered the art of doing e-commerce in Zimbabwe: it includes Ecocash in its checkout options something most startups need to start doing in addition to adopting and adhering to local customs. Why is there no Miss Zimbabwe app so you can vote for your favorite lady? Why is Ubuntu Shonastill failing?
Although it might not be apparent at first, one of the most common reasons why startups fail is because of the inability by the founders to create a recognisable, respected and indispensable brand-a cult brand. A brand is a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” Examples of popular brands include Microsoft Word, Windows, PlayStation, ZESA, PowerTel, ZOL, Yo!Africa, Econet, NetOne, Telecel, TelOne and Coca Cola.
Local Football updates startup, FootballZone, has announced the launch of its Afcon mobile app that went live in the Nokia Ovi Store last week. According to FootballZone cofounder, Godwin Chiparaushe, soccer fans in Africa will be able to follow the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations on their phones via the app.
Trying Yookos hasn’t been easy and I would’ve just given up had I not been on a blogging mission. See, when you sign up it says the verification email’s been sent to your mailbox, but doesn’t actually send it until you attempt to login with the unverified account and instruct it to send the email. That was my experience at least; 5 times I tried with 3 different emails.
We are noticing that the Zimbo Jam website, which has been offline for close to 2 weeks to recover from the defacement incident, came back online today. The website is Zimbabwe’s most popular entertainment blog (blogazine if you want) and one of high profile local websites to be hit in recent weeks.
Micro-credit and airtime credit startup, Lendme, announced yesterday the discontinuation of its LendmeMula and LendmeAirtime services with immediate effect. The company says they are killing the two services to focus on building a micro-credit Software as a Service platform for micro-finance institutions (MFIs).
The year kicked off with one of the largest ISPs in Zimbabwe ZOL, announcing that it had been acquired by Liquid Telecom, a move which resulted in the Econet Wireless Group cementing its position as Zimbabwe’s largest telecoms firm.
In a story title “More problems for regular SMS: biNu credits now available locally” that we posted here a few weeks ago, we expressed our delight that biNu credits were now available locally. The Australian based company (which now has representatives locally) had just announced that its 200,000 Zimbabwean users could now buy its platform’s currency at Easi and YoTime
I usually argue on the side of “lack of funding is just an excuse”. If you work hard enough, if you’re solving a real problem, if you’re passionate enough, if you think outside the box etc… But sometimes I wonder if the problem is lack of funding, or if it’s more an issue of young people having so much more to lose if they decide to take the startup route and its high risks. More to lose compared to their counterparts in, say, Europe, the US or Cape Town.
For a while now we’ve been thinking about how we can provide some startup friendly advertising opportunities on Techzim. We get roughly an average of 6,000 page views a day and we know that could help a Zimbabwean mobile or web startup company get word out there about their great new service. But we also have to pay bills here so we can’t exactly invite startups to free advertising party.
Earlier this week I was guest on the weekly #263Chat discussion hosted by Nigel Mugamu where the discussion was centered on tech in Zimbabwe; the state of, the challenges, possible solutions, opportunities, funding for entrepreneurs and other issues. #263Chat is a really interesting way to have a realtime virtual gathering and discuss important common issues. If you’re not on Twitter yet, this is a good reason to try it.
One of main objectives when we founded the Jumpstart initiative earlier this year was to “connect startup ICT entrepreneurs to mentors that can guide them on building successful businesses.” We are therefore happy to announce that next week, we’re will host an event to that realises that specific objective of mentorship. On the evening of Thursday, 6 December 2012, we will have 4 entrepreneurs and technical executives from some of the largest companies locally as panellists in a discussion on tech entrepreneurship challenges faced locally and strategies to overcome them.