The Journey So far
In today’s world what defines a startup? Is it an undertaking coined by a single person, two people or a group of people? Are they young or old? Which part of the world is it in an increasingly globalized world? What solutions does it offer? What we can actually agree on is that today’s startups are largely technology driven. The case is not different in Africa, it was once called the Dark Continent but now that it is definitely not. Africa is experiencing tremendous growth in terms of income, population, and technological innovation driven by a vibrant tech-savvy youthful population. This has fueled the number of startups emerging out of Africa such as Instabug, Jumia, Sendyit, Fuzu, farmdrive and Chura just to name a few.
We at Wuni an acronym for Work Universal hope to become one of these success stories out of Africa that makes an impact not only in Africa but also the world socially, economically and technologically. We are a start-up focused in the crowd-source space. We have created a platform tailor made for professionals and students alike with wide ranging services but at its core is a product connecting people.
We would like to share our Journey so far to aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs seeking to venture into the start-up world in this case technology centered start-ups and without being incubated. We will share this through specific pointers in no apparent order call them topics or stages if you like.
At the heart of every start-up are the key men and women driving the start-up at the early stages for example Google had Larry Page and Erick Schmidt, Facebook had Mark Zuckerberg , Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes. PayPal had Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman and Ken Howery and more recently Airbnb with Brian Chesky , Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharcyzk just to name a few. These are the guys who coined the initial idea and have the utmost desire to see the fledgling start-up grow. At the same time less committed partners can have detrimental impact on the development of a start-up slowing down the period between ideation and implementation. Having partners on the same wave-length can spur creativity for your young start-up. It also helps to have partners with an array of skill-sets for example one of our founding partners handled the business logic while the other handled the technical bits all with great synergy.
- The Ideation
This is also a critical component for any young start-up, your idea maybe new relative to the target market for example in the case of Alibaba in China or it might be an entirely new concept such as that of Uber and Airbnb. At Wuni we realized that our idea had a little bit of both, the concept was already in existence through other crowd-source platforms and yet other platforms had a different implementation compared to our idea, this gave as a unique opportunity to learn from them and at the same time introduce a different kind of concept in the same space. We have seen this work case and point when Google launched its search engine others existed the difference was that they had a different implementation or the underlying technology was different and now it is safe to say they dominate search. This difference can be a make or break for your young start-up, we realized that the key questions to ask yourself what is the underlying technology stack? How is your business model or logic different from the next start-up or existing business? So far our start-up has been able to answer these questions what about yours?
Building a start-up is a tough call to ask of anyone, it requires dedication and constant need to evolve and improve on the technology, self and others. Part of building a start-up involves the actual building. Each start-up has different ways to go about with the implementation, partly because of different environments and other constraints such as time and money. For us the actual implementation is in phases building at first the android version of the platform and testing in-house and then embarking on the web-version of the platform. We rely on various tools of-course which are free to do the testing on various aspects of the platform largely due to the fact that the internet has made it easy for start-ups to develop. There are lots of open source tools also to use popular tools are from apache software foundation and popular repositories are such as Github. For questions with regards to programming stackoverflow is a popular forum. For wire-framing we relied on balsamiq and for email testing we used the popular tool putmail. There are lots of tools to use so while building you will learn what works or doesn’t work for you and it is the constant need to improve that will determine how fast you develop. Here is a map of our implementation.
We at Wuni cannot stress enough how important research is for developing your start-up and staying ahead of the pack. Let us face it you don’t know everything and the idea that you had in the ideation phase needs to be constantly tweaked and improved, the answer is research of-course. The question then becomes, for start-ups with minimal budgets or are bootstrapped, and a need to have a beta fast, what does research actually mean? To us research meant combing the internet, books and other relevant materials for technology we didn’t understand but that was critical to our start-up, it also meant trying to understand how other similar platforms implemented their technology, it also meant trying and failing and eventually understanding the key concepts behind the technology, for us it was payments what is it for you? Are you willing to go the extra mile to understand the challenging components of your platform? The open source can only get you so far.
The far we have gotten is through equality between the co-founders and sharing a single vision, no single co-founder has more say than the other and the opinions of all are taken into account. It is quite amazing for us that even from the non-technical co-founder great insight can be found with regards to technology and also the technical founder might have an idea or two about management. We find that by sharing what you are doing opinions might arise and a better or improved solution to a problem is found. Our tagline is Outsource yourself, Be Global and by sharing you are essentially outsourcing your problem, globally for us within the organization. Of course start-ups are different and we realize it might not work in other organizations therefore finding the right balance between autonomy and control is critical.
Finally being part of a start-up is the best feeling for any budding entrepreneur, it is like a crash course through different aspects of business, you will get to learn more than what you were taught be it in school or your current organization. Of course we have not figured out everything, the point of this blog post was to give a glimpse of what it is like to start-up in Africa without being incubated. On a later post we will add into this post with regards to our launch and if we are funded with regards to what funding is all about. Don’t be afraid of the journey we promise it quite fulfilling.
Einstein once said “The true sign of intelligence is not Knowledge but imagination.”