Why Should Open Data Matter to Entrepreneurs?

Having access to the right insights and data is important when you're trying to start a business. Unfortunately, for many entrepreneurs (especially in the developing world) this data is often scare, inaccurate or completely unavailable.

Thankfully, entrepreneurs aren't the only ones who are realizing how important open data is and over the years there has been a marked increase in initiatives aimed at increasing the quality and availability of data.

Below are a few of theses initiatives, as well as the positive effects that they are having:

How has open data helped you along your entrepreneurial journey?

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Are You Ready to Leave Your Full Time Job to Start Your Own Business?

 We've all had the feeling at some point- I want to be my own boss! Sometimes it's after: a demanding project, an interaction with an unpleasant coworker or when a job no longer challenges you. Regardless of how it starts, or if it lasts, there are a number of things you need to keep in mind before you make the transition to running your own business.


What Does Failure Really Teach Us?

As entrepreneurs, failure has become a part of our narrative. It's almost like a badge of honor, which reflects who the "real" entrepreneurs are. We've all heard the TED talks and blog posts about it, but often the focus is on what happens after. We hear about the great lessons learned, once recovery happens but how can people cope while they are in the midst of it?

Check out these great posts on coping with failure as an entrepreneur:





How have you coped?

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The Art of Management: Are You An Effective Leader?

Management is one of the most challenging roles to fulfill. It requires an ability to:

  • Drive the organization's overall vision and culture, and create one if it doesn't already exist
  • Build an effective team and create a clear system for developing synergies
  • Keep talent motivated, by balancing the needs of the organization with the professional goals of the individuals that keep it running 


The Business of Technology in Africa: How Can You Build a Local Uer Base- Part II

Guest Contributor: Tim Kotin

In the previous post in this series, I shared some thoughts on building a local user base for your business in Africa. The key takeaway was the importance of first determining “WHO” your target users are, and whether there are customers or consumers (or both) of your products or services. In this piece, I will share a few brief thoughts on “HOW” one can acquire and retain these users, borrowing occasionally from my personal experiences at IBM and more recently SuperFluid Labs, a data analytics and technology consulting firm serving enterprises mostly in East and West Africa.


The Business of Technology in Africa: How Can You Build a Local User Base – Part I

Guest Contributor: Tm Kotin

Building a user base for a new business is as critical in Africa as it is anywhere else in the world. I have picked up some important lessons after spending the last half-decade building two African businesses: E-coach Solutions, an education technology company serving individual learners and SuperFluid Labs, a data analytics and technology consulting firm serving enterprises. My experience with both businesses have enlightened me to many similarities as well as some important distinctions for different business types when it comes to acquiring customers.

Before delving into a discussion of how to successfully build a user base for a new business, it is important to first know “WHO” those users even are. Many startups have mistakenly expended significant resources of time, money and effort trying to market their product and services without first precisely identifying who their target users are. And even for target users of each business, we learned to distinguish between our customers versus the consumers of our products. Customers are the individuals that directly pay for your services/goods, whereas consumers are the individuals/entities who enjoy the services/goods your business provides.

For SuperFluid, which provides solutions to enterprises such as banks, we learned that the consumer of our business intelligence and data analytics solutions (e.g. the Chief Risk Officer) was often different from the direct customers of our services (e.g. the Chief Finance Officer or the Chief Operating Officer).  For E-Coach, which provides education solutions for learners and institutions (our consumers), we discovered that parents were ultimately our primary customers. They often either purchased our solutions on behalf of their wards or provided authorization to schools (via Parent-Teacher Association) to adopt our services and thus bill students via sanctioned fees.

I have come to learn that this first step of defining “WHO” your target users are – and knowing whether they are customers, consumers or both – is crucial in other to determine the best strategies for 1) finding or attracting them, 2) converting them into potential buyers, 3) selling them your service or goods, and 4) retaining them by continuing to delight and serve their needs.

In the next post, I will share some lessons and insights on how “HOW” to build up your local users once you have identified the “WHO”. 

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The Business of Technology in Africa: Where Are the Opportunities?

In the first post of this series, I shared my own personal experiences around starting a technology business in Africa. In this second part, I’d like to dive into two areas where I’ve seen the greatest levels of activity, and, if in my opinion, the attention is justified.
The likes of Jumia and Konga have made a huge splash in the Nigerian e-commerce space, and while they have received a great deal of praise, they have also received significant criticism some of which raise important questions on the readiness of the African market for e-commerce.

The focus of many platforms have been around payments and providing merchants with access to customers beyond their immediate storefronts. While some adaptations have been made, such as cash on delivery as an alternative to electronic payments and personalized onboarding for merchants, the e-commerce space is still missing out on a few key questions which have limited success in the space.

Some of the questions that could unearth more opportunities in the e-commerce space are:
  • Who are the platform’s primary target customers? Are you focused on building a buyer-centric experience, a seller-centric experience or both? Each of these group’s different needs will require different approaches to prioritization.
  • If you know the target customers, have their needs been appropriately prioritized? For example, is it correct to assume that sellers prioritize having customized storefronts, or is order fulfillment a more pressing challenge?
  • Which part of the value chain do platforms have the capacity to support? Will they hold inventory and manage a fleet of vehicles for delivery, or will these kinds of processes be outsourced to third parties?

Social Applications
Some entrepreneurs have tried to leverage Africa’s growing population of young and avid technology users by building social applications. Many of these applications have focused on modified approaches to instant messaging and picture sharing.

While many of the applications are free, the models for monetization are often heavily reliant on advertising revenue. Though the potential exists, there are again a number of questions that still remain unanswered and as a result success has been limited in this space. Some of those questions include:
  • Should entrepreneurs focus on building local substitutes to global social applications like Facebook (this has been the pattern in countries like China, largely due to government restrictions), or should they be focusing on value-added tools which build on existing behaviors?
  • How do products interact with data? If there is a heavy reliance on it will local data costs and accessibility have an impact on how the product is used?     

While these two sectors focus on very specific examples, they do provide a starting point for you to reflect on how to identify opportunities in the African technology ecosystem. Interested in learning more about how you can identify the right opportunities? Send an email to info@startsmartgh.com.

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