FORTNYT SERIES – START-UP #5

The 5th Fortnyt Series under the theme WORTH TO PURSUE IDEAS AND CONCEPTS (How can you measure worth pursuing ideas and concepts as a starter?) was hosted by TechBuzz Hub located in Ntinda moderated by Peter Bampeire C.E.O Optibrave digital.  The session was paneled by consultants with a vast knowledge in small businesses (start-ups) to give insights on how to identify the right idea, concept features and ideas as well to consider before starting-up or launching ones’ solutions.

The panelists were;

Mr. James Wire Lunghabo: A technology and business consultant with a lot of interest in business and technology.  He is a blogger with at wirejames.com that speaks of issues related to business, technology and agriculture. He is highly dedicated to help small business which is why after his MBA decided to help small businesses by providing technology solutions across various spheres.

“Some of the mistakes we have made are so expensive that I don’t want anyone to go through”.

Mr. Keneth Twesigye: Computer scientist, Technology enthusiast, Innovator and Serial entrepreneur. He’s highly dedicated to helping start-ups raise up and scale higher that’s why at such a young age he has managed to register a lot of success, he is a Co-founder First Fortune Company Limited and Founder/ Team Lead at TechBuzz Hub, a place that facilitates support and capacity building for start-ups through services like mentorship and training, consultation, incubation and co-working space / office solutions.

How would you relate your expertise to our theme today? “Worth to pursue ideas and concepts!”

Twesigye: “The way you identify the pursuable ideas matters” Said Keneth, he started business when he was only 11years walking from his parent’s home to grandmothers home to collect egg plants pack them and sell them. ”I would move from my mother’s home to my grandmother’s home, buy egg plants from her, carry them home, pack them in buveras (polythene bags) and sell them through nearby trading centres.” said Keneth, and that’s when people around him began to realize his abilities to manage small businesses.

Keneth also ventured into innovation which he says were ”Good innovations that were featured on voice of America” however he was faced with challenges of theft of his gadgets (laptop and phones) that’s when he started birthed an idea of TechBuzz Hub in order to support his so many ideas and eventually other innovators and entrepreneurs faced by similar challenges.

James Wire: James recalls a time back in 2003 during the construction of Bujagali dam where households were provided with electricity only twice a week and yet at the time he was operating an ICT business which was greatly affected by electricity shortage, “We had two days of power, I had an ICT business and at the end of the month I had to pay off workers”. In the midst of that situation there were alternative energy solutions that were being sold to households to provide lighting “Solar lamps being sold were expensive, looked around what happens at the bottom of the equilibrium”. James Said.  He looked on the internet and landed on a website with the same goals and ideas and he wrote to them giving reasons why it’s crucial for them to partner up “did my research kero energy can compete with a solar lamp”. “Ordered for kero energy to sample the energy to the locals just to get feedback and in no time people were asking for more” and that is how his company Barefoot Uganda limited was birthed. “Trial and error now has a revenue that doesn’t go below 20million and it all started with a simple idea” James stated.

There was exhibition in Ghana called Lighting Africa where James was invited to attend and he knew it was a great opportunity for him to attend however he need 3000 dollars to cover transportation and accommodation costs. “ I was running here and there trying to raise the money, and is when a client who I had done business for in the past and never paid called me and asked me to go pick up my cheques” Said James. “You can see there are always stumbling blocks, if you see something that’s easy take time and analyze it” He added advising people not to focus at the ten (10) challenges they are facing but rather address them one by one.

Write ideas down if you haven’t implemented them, get into the habit of writing ideas down” Said James.  It’s okay even if someone has already implemented them. Giving an example of; British airways that has lived for 50yrs and Virgin airways that has spent 20yrs Sibyakwesoka meaning (it doesn’t matter who came first) the market is diverse there is room for you to grow and succeed. He added

if you think you’re not ready neither are they all you need to do is to start and you will see that there is something that they are not doing right”. Unknown scholar. The moderator noted advising people to simply pursue their ideas as long as they highly believe in them.

What is your take on people who say they have and are protecting their so called good ideas from idea predators?

Twesigye: According to Keneth “there is nothing like reference to say, someone has stolen my idea! You don’t know how I plan on implementing it” he said, encouraging people to never get afraid to share their ideas because the more you talk about them, the more ideas you discover on how to best implement them. Keneth affirms that he doesn’t believe in idea predictors but rather believes in sharing and building of ideas to making them better. “Many people have ideas but what differentiates you is your ability to start and when you start always go back on the drawing board“ Said Keneth.

James Wire: According to James he believes that trying to hide things doesn’t help much and asserting that non-implemented ideas are worthless giving an example of how working alone leads to very slow progress “Uganda Telecommunication Limited ( UTL) being the first and only telecommunication body at that time became very complacent with very high airtime charges lowest being five thousand and charging a monthly subscription” Said James, but the coming of other telecommunication bodies like MTN, Warid which transitioned to Zain and is now Airtel made the services better and people are now benefitting from the services they offer. Competition keeps us on our toes noted James.

“Ideas can be broken into segments, one idea can be translated into different things that all comes back to your vision” giving an example of two friends who occasionally took photos at university during graduation ceremonies but one transitioned (Richards Studio) and he now successfully owns a number of photo studios in Kampala while the other is still runs through universities taking photos.

What features of an idea do you believe and advice starters to consider as a way to measure feasibility and sustainability of the solutions proposed?

Twesigye: Feasibility is net worth and sustainability is how I will manage, when you have those two concepts well-articulated, then that idea most-likely will work said Keneth.

Can you dedicate your time other resources to it? If you’re not dedicated towards actualizing the idea despite challenges, then it’s likely that you will fail. But if all your soul believes that idea XYZ holds your destiny, then likelihood of success is so high.

Target market: Your target market matters a lot. This can be zoned through demographics (Age brackets), geographical location and maybe, situation analysis.

Which team players should complement my abilities in the idea? Friends that are focused and are working towards achieving your vision but also, be aware of the go-outs, burn-outs friends that only think about partying all the time

“The budget, what are you looking at when starting your business:“ most people in Uganda today have failed to start because they want to take on big business ventures that require a lot of capital. He advises people to “start with the small ideas and you will get to the big ideas”. Said Keneth

“Have / follow a systematic structure” Said Keneth. For example,  I hope to restructure the Chapati/Rolex businesses by probing for a structure and eventually the business will start attract intermediary and high class customers.

Again on structuring, when people are asked for their business plans they rash online and edit the template of a business plan structure of a completely different market which ends up failures as they do not resonate or speak to your target market.  “A good structure needs to attract different stakeholders and TechBuzz Hub can help you structure your business” Said Keneth advising people to have a good and monitored structure in that when things fail you can always go back and see what you did wrong.

“Start small, learn a lot and invest that money as a resource in things that matter” Said Keneth

James Wire: According to James; before considering pursuing an idea people need to first ask themselves “can you be a customer of your idea? Can you consume that product? Can you pay money for it?” Said James. “People gravitate towards working things” He noted if you have an idea and you have put it into practice with an already developed product, people will be willing to give you a chance.

Another feature to consider is “how local is the idea? Can your neighbor, cousin be your customer “Said James. “You start local then go global “James added giving an example of Mark Zuckerberg who started small by providing a communication channel for students at his university.

“What is your passion” was another feature that needs to be considered according to James noting that most people don’t want to risk but want to achieve success.

”You need to know what passion levels you have for those ideas” said James. Before marrying and starting a family of his own, James wanted to have a functional business and is capacity to manage his own time, is when he quit his steady job where he received a salary of 2.4 million a month to pursue his goals.” I wanted a functional business and manage my own time so I quit my job paying me 2.4million a month, people couldn’t believe” Said James.

“What is your cycle of influence? When you grow up you realize the importance of having good manners when you were growing up” Said James.  If you were well-mannered and have people who believe in you, those are your first customers, they give honest feedback and they are forgiving, tell you what is wrong with the product, improve it and they will buy from you next time so by the time you go to supermarkets to supply your product you have made some results. “Customers are not forgiving” James noted.

“How far are you ready to go and to what extent can you reach” Said James according to James the further your willing to go the further you will do! Recalling to incidences in his past the first one was when he was fresh out of the university he asked his father to give him a land title, “Give me a land title I want to start a business, my father responded your stupid go and get a job!” Said James.

The other incidence was a friend of his who offered his father’s house to crane bank in form of collateral and started a café but the business wasn’t going well as expected, “it reached a time and my friend could see his father’s house being taken away by the back”  James cited. He decided to sell the business but got about 15million and by that time the interest had accumulated to 50millionugx. However he was lucky got a job that paid him 3Euros a day and was able to pay off the loan in three months.  “I am now much wiser maybe I could have lost my father’s land due to my adventure” Said James.

How do you identify the right idea? How do you validate it? And how best can you launch?

James Wire: James attempted the first section of this question by referring to the statement he made earlier, you can identify the right idea and validate it by simply asking yourself whether you can be your own customer! What is your passion limit? Said James.

“When it comes to launching just start provided you have the minimal viable product just start” According to James these are the basics that a client wants, these other things are top-ups, giving an example of Mukene: its minimal viable product is cleanness and free from stones, its packaging and how its packaged is just a top-up. “I look back at Mukene’s first packaging and I say we could have done better” Said James, “Never wait for a product to be 100% done, there will always be three things that need to be fixed” He added.

Twesigye: “The idea is right if it solves a problem you faced yourself” Find out, how many other people are facing the same challenge as you.

“What are people around you looking for” giving an example of university opportunities that are not tapped into, where there are a number of female students who often have the need to look fresh and beautiful “you can sell lipstick and eye shadow as well as deodorant spray to people who come in late and forgot wear body spray”.

“Passion will lead you to your goal” he advised but you must be committed towards achieving your goal.

Audience questions:

  1. You spoke of supplying materials from people in Austria, how were you able to supply them yet you were broke?(Asiinga Derick)

“There is time for ideas and every idea has its time for execution” Said James” I reviewed the study and strategically started selling those products, the fact that the products sold so fast they got in touch with me and told me to raise 10,000Euros if we were to incorporate, I didn’t have a plot of land by then, I started thinking creatively knocking walls” he added.

He did research online and landed on a website called myc4.com an organisation for angel investors submitted in his application requesting for grant and within one week he had raised 200euros, however time wasn’t his best ally so he withdrew his application and resubmitted an emotional attached application stating the reason why he needed the money and how it was going to help people and within a week he had raised 10,000Euros. “Customers always buy feelings James noted. “I opted for that loan, I had two years to pay off that money and the interest rate was low”.

“Do proper research to see that there is high need for that service or product you want to provide” Said Keneth.

  1. What is the right time to start?(Ampurira Wedina)

“Everyone will tell you the time to start is now but I will tell you now with a reason” Said Keneth. For the case of your situation as a student, if you can handle the pressure, then why not start. Recalling a time while still at the university, students who didn’t have jobs were getting retakes and the working students whose time was divided into school and work never got retakes. “People who work know what they want, they don’t want to waste their resources” Keneth said. “When you know what you want, you will know when to start and what to start“ he added noting that when you start with a structured initiative, you will be able to move on quite easily.

  1. World cup is coming up soon I have a sports idea that I want to sell to betting centers to put up a world cup quiz and award sums of money to the winner but I don’t know how feasible that is?(Atuhumuza Ceaser)

“All ideas are unique as long as it is well structured” Said James, think bigger don’t merely think about sports centers, draw it up, how can it be done, how can these organizations benefit from the idea if it’s to be done James added. He suggests Ceaser to come up with a well-structured idea targeting different television stations and radio stations present his idea to them and request for a percentage for relinquishment of rights  “if am to give you rights of usage I must get a certain percentage off  probably each message sent” He proposed.

You need to make a comprehensive study of your idea for more perspectives and rethink about different models of earning” Said Keneth.

How can I commercialize and grow my business? (Meshack Mufuku ‘the East-African’). Background of the Idea! I identified an opportunity out of the loss I was making my son constantly losing sweaters, uniforms and sweaters. In my home area, in Kenya, Uniforms are all got from the county headquarters so I bought an embroidery machine and started neating sweaters from my house,

James Wire:Growth is one thing we all dream about” Said James adding. It’s good you already identified a Niche, you have to look for creative ways to reach to these schools: You should be attending school functions, put up a stall and tell parents what you do and as the business grows you employee the locals these are the same people who will bring you more clients.

At the end of the session different emotions were spiraling and different people had a lot to say about the Fortnyt Series and the work being done by TechBuzz Hub.

“What I have found here is real, people set up platforms for rich kids claiming they are doing work to create an impact and yet in actual sense they are not doing anything. The people I have found  are more real openly sharing their ideas and stories, keep it real don’t lose this originality because the change we want to see is in a lay man”  Said Mr. Lungaho James Wire business consultant as his closing remarks.

Kyambadde Peter a student at Makerere  University studying Engineering had this to say “ Coming here I didn’t have much expectations but I thought they will  be discussing issues related to technology and innovation but what I have found here has challenged my expectations, whatever I have heard deals with our ecosystem”.

When choosing an idea to pursue it needs to be something you passionately believe in and wouldn’t mind wearing yourself out and spending your savings for it to succeed. The idea needs to be something that will develop into a service or product that you, your friends and people around you would feel comfortable purchasing.  It should have a good structure, how you plan to execute it, how it will attract more and make money, why you want to put it in action (its impact).

Feel free to ask any questions related to the topic as well as check out the next FORTNYT SERIES that  scheduled to take place on the 22nd December 2017 at TechBuzz Hub Ntinda.

About the Author

I am an enthusiastic and Self-motivated TechBuzz Hub Human Resource Manager with interest in Innovations, writing and working with people.

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