June 23, 2017

Entrepreneur: Ideas and Execution, Not a Walk in the Park


Ideas are cheap… acting on them is quite expensive. Ideas come about in the most absurd moments e.g. when you are in the shower or in your middle of sleep and suddenly you have that Eureka moment or your Aha! moment. If you happen to be in such a situation take a pen and a piece of paper or book and write it down because no matter how smart or intelligent you are, you are human and prone to forgetting things.

(If you were in the shower, I recommend you get out first as it has proven difficult to write while under a jet of water)

Back when I used to study programming I was given an assignment to come up with a mobile app as part of my final project in college. Naturally, I agonized over what idea I should come up with before the one month time period would elapse and I inevitably had to submit my project. It almost seemed hopeless as every idea seemed weaker than the last.

One morning, as I was going to the shop to buy breakfast (a student’s staple of milk & bread), I saw a group of farmers supplying their milk to a dairy co-operative that they were registered with. The farmers had with them cards that the collectors used to record their produce and a digital weighing scale completed the entire moving picture. As a counter measure to the digital weighing scale the collectors had to record the milk produce separately just in case the weighing scale should fail or experience a technical hitch. Right there and then I had my idea and decided to take it up as my project.

To cut the story short I ended up developing two apps; one targeted at the dairy co-operative for recording the farmers milk produce at the point of collection and the other app was for the farmers to receive a message on their supply record of milk and goods and services taken on credit i.e. artificial Insemination and store records such as feeds taken on credit. As I was pursuing this idea many of my colleagues encourage me so much so that others saw it as the next big thing and this motivated me to go hard at it.

I later graduated and my project saw me inducted into one of the idea incubation hubs within Nairobi for a period of three months.

This is where it got real thick, real fast. First, they conducted a needs assessment for my app which entailed;

• How many members are in your team?
• What are the core skills set your team brings to the table?
Background of each team member
• What skills do you feel the team is lacking?
• What is the partnership structure?
• Do you have a sector expert as a core member of your team?

• Do you have a prototype?
• What platform have you chosen to use?
• Who is your audience?

• Do you have a budget?
• Have you made your first revenue?
• Are you currently raising capital?
• Business Model?

• Is there a member of your team with programming experience in the platform you would like to build the product in?
• Do you already have a prototype?
• How it works? If not, have they started working on it? Halfway?
• Is the prototype being tested/used currently?
• On which platforms have they used it before i.e. Android, Windows, Web?
• Main challenges of software development?
• Developer experience in programming (in months and years)?
• What they would like to create?

5. UI/UX
• Have you done user testing of your product?
• Has the product been branded (logo design, brand guideline)?
• Any feedback from your users about the system?
• Does your team have a graphic/front end developer?
• How do you feel about the current user interface design?
• Are wire frames done?
• Are task flows done?
• Have you done user profiling?

In the process of trying to get the right model for my business, I had to drop the app that I had initially created for the farmers since the farmers were not my initial customers but co-operative societies were, and if I had a breakthrough in having 5-10 of them on board then I would have a platform to incorporate the farmers into in the long run since I could not go straight to the farmers without going through the SACCO’s themselves.

On matters to do with accelerating growth I had thought of involving coffee and tea farmers. If the model worked for dairy co-operatives, I knew I had a scalability option at my disposal. Every entrepreneur needs to have this figured out because investors, venture capitalists, angel investors will always want to know what comes next.

If you have an idea it should make you think of the future and the long term vision because all great entrepreneurs think about how there idea is going to change the world. It’s all a question of what’s new? What’s next? How do you get there first and fast?

Let’s take a guess into the future based on today (and a few things from imagination). Shopping has stopped being a rigid experience confined to the trolley aisles in a supermarket, it’s now possible to shop online. But what next? Interactive online shopping? And what about entertainment? We’ve gone from watching sitcoms to following real life dramas. So what next? Personalized Interactive live T.V?

But that’s already happening. The dreams from twenty years ago are alive today so the smart entrepreneur must live in the near future and not today.

(……Dickson Mutuma is an entrepreneur, CEO and Founder of Chronicals………)

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