How To Speak Startup in Africa

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Many a times have I sat with various people across myriad entities we engage with locally in Namibia and in broader Africa and have been met with incredulous stares followed by ‘Say What Now?’ at the language that we employ.

If you work in the tech startup space (or have recently binge watched HBO’s Silicon Valley), you will notice that people speak with terms and abbreviations which might lead you to wonder if programmers have applied Zip compression to the English language while speaking.

In Namibia, and I suspect most of the emerging economies around the globe, this lingo tends to leave even IT managers of large scale firms scratching their heads. That being said, there is a lot to say for tech startups in Africa creating their own set of flummoxing abbreviations but let’s leave that discussion for another day.

However, The Tech Guys is here to demystify startup lingo into a more common lingua franca. The tech startup nerds in Africa, after all, are worth trying to understand as they’ll probably be the integral puzzle piece for African prosperity in the 21st century and beyond.

So, without further ado, I give you How To Speak Startup(Try not to be too serious about it….seriously though.):

Tech Startup – An unfunded group of people with an idea that potentially solves a problem using technology. They probably don’t sell or fix your PC’s or do email server installations. Not to be confused with your workplace IT helpdesk.

Code – what software engineers/programmers do.

Disrupt – To make a previous way of doing things look bad by using technology to do it a new and vastly better way.

MVP(Minimum Viable Product) – A prototype of your startup idea, that usually is little more than a Powerpoint presentation.

Acqui-hire – A strategy for acquiring talent pioneered by Google in the mid-2000s that happens when a bigger company thinks your team is good but your idea is hilariously bad. Also called a “signing bonus.”

Failure – A bad thing that has recently put on a pedestal as something to be celebrated.

Cashflow Positive – Someone gave us a dollar.

Pivot – What happens when a company realizes its course of action is not living up to expectations. (See also, Failure.)

SaaS (Software as A Service) — It loses money.

Pre-Money Valuation – A number you made up.

Post-Money Valuation – A number that you made up alongside your VC with the addition of some cash. Your burn rate is probably too high.

“I work in PR.” – I am, in fact, in possession of several journalists’ email addresses.

Exit – Exits come in two different flavors for entrepreneurs: good and bad. Good exits happen when you’re “killing it,” your company hasn’t killed you yet, and another company comes along to buy yours. (See possibly, acqui-hire.) Bad exits are another way of saying you failed to disrupt much of anything besides your VC’s portfolio performance.

“I’m a serial entrepreneur.” – Person who had two ideas, both of which failed.

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The Space – Because calling the field in which they’re operating an industry, vertical or even genre is too hard, entrepreneurs like referring to their company as being a player in a given space. They especially like doing this when they know they’re in a crowded market. We don’t know why they do this either.

VC – 1) Venture capitalists raise money from wealthy individuals and institutions and dump lots of said money into young companies in exchange for a cut of the company. 2) An institutional dealer of pharmaceutical-grade Opium. (See also, Opium.)

Opium – OPM, or “other people’s money,” is an incredibly addictive substance to entrepreneurs that’s rarely respected or missed until it dries up.

“We’re doing great.” – We are not doing great.

SF / The Valley – 1. The place you refer to when convincing government officials that investing in tech initiatives is a good thing. 2. A place that VC’s and tech luminaries talk up as the greatest place on Earth that you must move to if you’re from anywhere that isn’t San Fransisco or The Valley.

“We’re growing 500 percent week-over-week” — Last week we had one user, today we have six.

“We’re not currently raising capital.” — We’re currently raising capital.

UI/UX – A portmanteau of UI (“User Interface”) and UX (“User Experience”) often used by design-challenged entrepreneurs when referring to the aesthetics and usability of their product when actual understanding of good design principles is fundamentally lacking. Used in a sentence: “Our Push for the ‘Find My Goat A Date’ app is crushing it because of our design wizard who is slinging some hella dope UI/UX.”

“We’re a design-centric organization.” – We don’t know how to code.

Non-GAAP Profitable — What companies that are very unprofitable like to claim. The idea that non-cash costs don’t count is usually the sort of sickness you see here.

“I’m the business guy.” – (See: Growth Hacker.)

Gravity — What The Tech Guys is trying to escape using maximum thrust. (Yes, we are going to build rockets.)

Growth Hacking – Sales, marketing and associated activities, but with a label that incorporates the word “hacking,” because nontechnical people want to call themselves “hackers” too.

“We’re seeing great gross margins, and so are investing in growth given our strong, SaaS unit-economics.” — We lose money.

“We’re stomping on the gas pedal, given our strong SaaS unit-economics, and are actively seeking additional capital to power our sector-leading growth.” — We have lost all our money and need some of yours, please.

“We’re Killing It!” – Your dreams and investors’ dollars are probably being killed.

We hope this helps you navigate your encounters with tech nerds or wannabes.

This is a modified version of TechCrunch’s Alex Willhelm and Jason Rowley’s 2014 article with some adjustments to locally contextualize things ;-)!

APPLY NOW FOR THE AMPION VENTURE BUS 2014!

 

What is Venture Bus?

 

40 entrepreneurs on 1 bus for 5 days through 4 African countries! Designers, business experts and developers meet on the Venture Bus and team up (usually into 8 groups) to create innovative startups providing solutions to local challenges in Africa, specifically Namibia in our case. Yes, the Venture Bus is coming to Windhoek! Whoop!

Continue reading “APPLY NOW FOR THE AMPION VENTURE BUS 2014!”

StartupBus Africa 2014 getting ready to kick off!

 

The StartupBus programme was founded in 2010 in the US by  Elias Bizannes on the premise that “Entrepreneurship cannot be taught but we believe it can be learned”. The idea is to put around 40 multi disciplinary entrepreneurs on a bus in a given locale and have them build a company in three to five days after which they pitch their business models/ ideas to a panel of judges and one company gets chosen for funding/acceleration. The big payoff is the networks created by participants who go on to utilize their skills and new found connections back at their respective places of residence and/or business.

Startup Companies
Companies started by StartupBus alumni.

Alumni of the StartupBus competition have spawned some notable startups amongst them Instacart which just recently secured 8.5 million USD in funding from famed Silicon Valley tech VC, Sequoia Capital, Branch which was recently purchased by Facebook for 15 million USD and Sterio.Me which has already partnered with schools across Africa to roll out its pilot programme to help students access educational content over mobile.

Fast forward to 2014 and StartupBus competition is now present on three continents with over 200 participants, but we would like to home in on the StartupBus Africa programme. The first StartupBus Africa competition kicked off in 2013 with a southern African leg touching down in Harare in Zimbabwe  and Joburg, Bloemfontein, Cape Town in South Africa. This year the competition is aggressively expanding, enlisting a whopping 160 entrepreneurs and will include the following countries on the bus routes:

  • West Africa:
  1. Lagos
  2. Benin
  3. Togo
  4. Ghana
  5. Ivory Coast
  • East Africa:
  1. Kenya,
  2. Uganda
  3. Rwanda
  4. Tanzania.
  •  North Africa:
  1. Morocco
  2. Tunisia
  3. Algeria
  • Southern Africa:
  1. Zimbabwe
  2. South Africa
  3. Botswana
  4. Namibia
Startupbus Africa
The Buspreneurs on last year’s trip.

Last years StartupBus Africa competition spawned Workforce a mobile construction labor hiring platform, funeral.ly a funeral management app and Sterio.Me a free educational platform to help teachers engage more with their students through an SMS activated audible quiz. With this years expanded bus routes and many more entrepreneurs there should be many new exciting startups coming from African soil.

On top of their outstanding entrepreneurial skills, the participants bring sound knowledge in IT, web design, new media and business development. They will form interdisciplinary teams and work on different projects during the journey, with focus in 3 key areas: energy, healthcare and education.

StartupBus Africa
The StartupBus process.

 

At least half of the buspreneurs come from Africa and because we believe in the entrepreneurial energy of young women, we strive to have 50% of female buspreneurs on each bus.

Namibia!

To make sure that the bus reaches Namibian roads we need YOUR help. There are several sponsorship options for your organisation or company to become partners in StartupBus Namibia. Please click here get into contact with us or send an email to [email protected]

 

Namibia’s strange internet domain fiasco.

Namibia has found itself in a strange situation. Our country’s top domain is owned by a private Namibian entity. This is a problem. Although it is not uncommon for private entities to be in administrative control of issuing a certain countries domain name, these entities usually operate within mandates set by a national communication regulatory body or by government itself. But not in Namibia boeta, you just have Ondis. Chessssss!

This private entity comprised of three main individual shareholders called Ondis, in the early 90s saw that the Namibian government and private sector were sleeping on the the internet so they went and registered the .na domain with ICANN and now subsequently own the right to solely issue .na and .com.na domain names.  The company has issued all Namibian domain names through its instruments including those of government for close to two decades now at an average rate of 100USD/year for .com.na domains and 500USD for .na top domain. With close to 3000 Namibian domain registrations to date, these guys must have made a pretty penny. All in all, 3000 domain name registrations to a population of 2.3 million people is not very exciting anyway. I daresay the fact that three guys are figuratively holding the whole country at ransom has something to do with that.

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Super high domain registration costs for Namibian locals.

The cost of Namibian domain names is prohibitive, many Namibian’s end up purchasing .com and other domains which can be purchased from as little as 5 USD ( NAD 56) from services such as GoDaddy.com and Namecheap.com. Dr. Ebehard Lisse, one of the core shareholders of Ondis, has in the past defended prices saying the high cost was due to size of Namibia’s economy and that you would find similar price schemes with similar countries.  A little research shows that this is simply not true.

Southern African Small Country Domain Prices
Figures from each respective country’s domain registrar found by internet search.

Globally, domain registration prices for any country average around 10-20USD per year whereas Namibia’s are well over that range as the figure above shows. The Namibian ICT sector has had to make due with this problem but by no means has kept quiet on the issue.  Since 2008 The Namibian ICT Alliance has in the past requested Ondis to have a more inclusive board so that stakeholder in the various ICT sectors could have better representation. Ondis has not yet ratified the request and has accused the ICT alliance of exerting political pressure instead of engaging with them. Frans Ndoroma MD of Telecom Namibia has also called for a multi-stakeholder body to be implemented to take control of the domain registration license.

I personally see this as a failure of both government, private sector and just what I can call nothing but greed and short sightedness by Ondis. Government and private sector should have exerted far more pressure to standardise the process and now that the internet permeates nearly every part of daily operation of most public and private entities, easy and cost effective domain registration is becoming a bottleneck to proper representation of those entities on the internet today. Conversely, Ondis should have initiated steps to transfer control of .na domain registrations to a publicly accountable organisation years ago. They have cited lack of expertise in domain management and Namibia’s small population as cause of the slow uptake of Namibian domain names but that is just ludicrous speaking as a private entity sitting outside of public scrutiny. How could they even hope to address those same concerns if they do not have a relationship with  civil bodies in government? Their  holding on to the ccTLD licence with such fervour, leads one to assume their motive is purely financial, whatever the case may be.

Lastly, where is ICANN in all this? In 2007 at the Rio Internet Governance Forum they apparently had promised Mnr. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah then Min. of Info. & Broadcast that the ccTLD licence would be transferred over to government. You know what they say about promises. They need to be held to account, whether or not such a promise was made. That they continually allow this situation to pervade by ratifying Ondis ownership of the Namibian ccTLD goes against their own tenets of accessibility and accountability.

There does seem to be a growing amount of talk about the country  on this very issue and hopefully the newly established CRAN and ICT ministry will spearhead a task-force to bring all concerned stakeholders together to sort this issue out. With the unveiling of the new domestic IXP, making sure that national internet domain assignments is a transparent and optimised process for the challenges we face ahead in the rapidly changing technological landscape is key

Bitcoin in the present and a glimpse into the future.

Imagine a world where there was no commissions on global trade? No custom bloc levies, no banking transactions fees. Imagine if an individual/entity in Namibia could purchase a truck from an individual/entity in Indonesia directly without having to worry about currency exchange and bank transfer charges? What if there was no need for a middleman, no bank, no lawyers, no credit unions, no central banks. Continue reading “Bitcoin in the present and a glimpse into the future.”

Namibia sets out to be most competitive tech economy in SADC by 2017

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Namibia has set itself a target in the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4) of becoming the most competitive economy in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region by 2017. This was the message of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister Joel Kaapanda at the Polytechnic of Namibia’s first annual Technology Day here on Wednesday. His special advisor, Mvula ya Nangolo, read the Minister’s speech on his behalf at the day being hosted under the theme “Innovative technologies for enhanced teaching, learning and assessment in Universities of Science and Technology”. “You will all agree with me that without proper investment in education, and especially higher education, this will not be possible. Knowledge and intellectual property are key to achieving national development,” Kaapanda said.
For the country to achieve Vision 2030 and become a knowledge-based society, it is vital that its citizens engage in continuous lifelong learning to acquire knowledge and remain relevant and competitive. He added that monitoring and evaluation reports of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have also shown that some progress has been made in increasing enrolments in primary, secondary and tertiary education.

Continue reading “Namibia sets out to be most competitive tech economy in SADC by 2017”