Technology is an enabler, meaning it has a place in every industry; the horizontal, the vertical and even the niche. This means that the opportunities are endless for those who wish to build technology based enterprises. We now have a big push from the government coming off a successful National Innovations Forum where His Excellency the President committed Kenya shillings one billion; 500 million apiece from Cabinet Secretaries Anne Waiguru – Ministry of Devolution and Planning and Fred Matiangi’s – Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology dockets toward the realization of the Enterprise Kenya vehicle dubbed the home of African innovation.
While it is indeed easier to start up a technology business in Kenya today than it was a decade ago, it is not easier to survive, and I would argue that the mortality rate is much higher only that there are more businesses birthed.
In our bold quest to create 180,000 jobs, 55 global kenyan companies, 50 commercial patents and $1 billion in information technology enabled services exports to drive collective prosperity by 2020, there are some basic realizations that fall between the cracks of the larger conversation, mostly hinged on the day to day.
Capital and time
Getting to product market fit will take time, even with the much hailed market research and you must make room for this in your plans. Taking in outside capital too early could be the move that kills your business. The best source of capital is a paying client even if operating on zero margin. Choose your clients and let them choose you.
There are probably three hires that will make or break your enterprise. Technology is built by people and to be there for the long haul you must be fully aware of who and why you hire. Do not hire for the budget you have, hire for the skillset you need.
We are wired to keep a keen eye out for those who look like us, but competition doesn’t wear the same skin, not anymore. From traditional players to new entrants to those who offer complementary services there is no space that has zero competition or competition that can be assumed. You cannot be complacent.
Clients are averse to continuous outflows of capital when it comes to solution provision especially if it carries the tag support. Beyond the sales that make for spikes in the revenue graph, it is the residual inflows that grow the business. The challenge is how to package value to avoid pushback.
Outside access to capital and a favorable legislative landscape, what will see one grow into a descent sized technology enterprise is passion, a keen eye for opportunity, solid business model, institutional culture and good governance. Good product will get you in the door, but it is not what will keep you there.