7.28.2014

Hackathons: Crowdsourcing Creative Ideas Aids Real World Problems



Could your next great idea come from a “hackathon”?  Hackathons are a very intense, face-to-face, and time limited form of collaborative problem solving that originated in the 1990s. These hackathons were traditionally designed to bring together computer programmers from around the world to create new software and tech solutions. Now however, companies such as Facebook frequently host hackathons to create new features such as the “like” button or “poke” feature. Hackathons have essentially become a creative way for companies or groups of entrepreneurs to pool or “crowdsource” ideas from large groups of creative minds.

Companies, organizations, and non-profits are now putting together hackathons to create innovative ideas and products, while also generating new ideas that might solve real-world problems. For example, British Airways recently hosted a hackathon 30,000 feet in the air as part of a new innovative initiative! British Airways flew 130 creative minds from San Francisco to London where they were asked to address the disconnect between talent and job opportunities relating to areas such as science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Some of the potential solutions that were created are to be presented to the United Nations. To read more about British Airways’ Hackathon click here.

Similarly, in October 2013, a group of South African entrepreneurs launched the idea of a “Startup Bus”, where 30 chosen participants were part of a four-day hackathon on a bus!  The bus left from Zimbabwe and ended up in South Africa and during these four days, the participants broke off into teams and were expected to collaborate and come up with a new startup idea relating to Africa’s current economic state. The aim of the Startup Bus was to give participants some insight into some of Africa’s most challenging sectors, i.e. health, energy and mobile technology.

This type of creative crowdsourcing or idea generation is extremely useful for those interested in starting their own business, but may not necessarily know where to begin. They also provide an excellent foundation for motivated and innovative individuals to come together to collaborate and network in order to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.

Check out the hackathons that are happening now!
 


Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: startsmart.info@gmail.com

7.21.2014

Tech Companies: Are They the Key to Africa's Growth



In an effort to build a more inclusive and opportunistic world, tech companies are opening shop in Africa. These tech companies are boosting both the social and economic growth of African countries as well as scaling and impacting the entire development of the continent. Products that might have taken years to sell to Africans are now being sold through e-commerce platforms. Information is now available across the entire continent, making Africa an incredibly large market for companies to tap into.

Tech companies have also become relatively cheaper to start, which makes developing a tech startup that much more attractive to the average African. This does however bring about a challenge—access to funding. All that these young entrepreneurs need is access to a computer and internet to get the funding they need to get started. Although still in the beta phase in Africa, crowdfunding is an excellent method of gathering small funds to assist in the development of a startup idea.

The Startup Africa Fund is a crowdfunding project that provides Africans with the ability to fund innovative tech ideas. The site was established in August 2012 and gives Africans access to larger funds that are focused solely on African tech startup initiatives. The goal of the Startup Africa Fund is to provide seed funding of $25,000 to $100,000 for one to four tech startups a month. Projects like these are pushing entrepreneurs to take risks and put their ideas out there in order infiltrate the continent and spur both social and economical growth across Africa. 

Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: startsmart.info@gmail.com

7.14.2014

Slicebiz: Seeding Grassroots Funding for Innovators



Africa is experiencing immense growth in the private sector led by young and local entrepreneurs. These young entrepreneurs are adopting technology that is continuously boosting the continent’s growth potential and innovative spirit. With such rapid increases in available information and communication technology, there continues to be an increase in the number of jobs and opportunities available to Africans. With such robust growth potential, Africa unfortunately lacks the necessarily tools and resources in order to raise the vital funds for grassroots innovation.

Although crowdfunding can still be considered to be in beta phase in Africa, it has the potential to completely evolve the startup financing culture of the continent. It has already been adapted in certain African countries to create new and interesting online financing platforms. For example, there are as many as three crowdfunding sites in South Africa, i.e. StartMe, FundFind, and ThundaFund. There’s also M-Changa in Kenya and StartCrunch in Nigeria; however, I would like to focus on SliceBiz in Ghana.

SliceBiz is an “easy-to-use web-based investment platform that can be used by anyone to make ‘micro investment’ transactions.” This platform allows users to create an “angel investor” account that is linked to a payment source of their choice. This lets startups gain access to a wide number of aggregate investments from a large pool of “accredited” investors who belong to larger businesses. By doing so, startups can receive their initial capital from accredited investors before turning to a larger middle class group of investors to provide smaller funds. The purpose of this is to allow small African startups to gain the necessary attention needed from accredited investors who can essentially vouch for their ideas or products. With this type of financial and moral backing, these startups can move on to scale their impact across the continent.

Sites such as SliceBiz encourage young and talented grassroots innovators to pursue potential solutions to Africa’s most pressing issues. Think about what SliceBiz might do for you and how your startup might help change the face of Africa!

Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: startsmart.info@gmail.com

7.07.2014

Lessons Learned: Trying Our Hand at Crowdfunding



In early April, Start Smart launched a month-long Indiegogo Campaign  to raise the funds necessary to help us transition from our pilot phase to being fully operational. 
  
While we ultimately only raised about 20% of our target amount, we are glad to be in a better position to get things moving. The funds raised will go towards our online and offline marketing efforts, which will enable us to scale our operations both in Ghana and eventually across the rest of Africa. We believe that a stronger online presence will allow us to help build a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and spread our message globally. Furthermore, with respect to our offline efforts, we aim to engage more frequently with potential customers by introducing them to the benefits of our tools and resources, while continuously gathering feedback so that we can better serve them. 


We are extremely grateful to all of those who contributed to the campaign and are to glad to know that you believe in our mission. While we are far from being experts on crowdfunding, there were some lessons we learned that you might find helpful in your own campaign.

  • Raising more awareness about the campaign prior to its launch through social media and other platforms. This will enable you to potentially reach a larger audience pre-launch and generate a strong buzz
  • Increasing the frequency of communication about the campaign within your target audience. It may be even more helpful to identify an individual who is dedicated to managing the entire campaign

Have questions about running your own campaign? Send us an email!


Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: startsmart.info@gmail.com

6.30.2014

Understanding Your Customers



Without customers, your business unfortunately cannot be successful. There needs to be a strong and clear linkage between what you have to offer and what your customers need. The best way to gather this information is through research using existing resources (e.g., market research databases) and by gathering your own data (e.g., through customer interviews). The process of understanding your customers and overall business environment are continuous as the world we live in evolves constantly. Never assume that you know what people want, take the time to ask them!
 
Interested in learning more about how you can better understand your business environment?  Sign-up for Start Smart’s Building a Winning Start-Up Course today!

Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: startsmart.info@gmail.com