Seven odd years ago, when I was officially starting my own entrepreneurial journey in Kenya the tech startup ecosystem was virtually nonexistent. Coming from a first-hand start up experience before taking a break for school, the trenches were a rough place and venturing out to start a technology centered business – think web and mobile, was a real gamble.
At the turn of the decade things had changed somewhat and there was buzz created by the promise of a connected continent with plans for multiple fibre optic cables sounded from East, South and West. This ushered a generation of tinkerers, building on top of API sets that were readily available; in countries like Kenya, initiatives such as open data fueled the building frenzy of what in hind sight can be called “vanity apps” that followed the naming craze of appending the prefix “M” for mobile to the resultant service or product. Good efforts but by and large useless at addressing the real needs and market opportunities present. Lest some circles bay for blood, tinkering is part of the process; learning adapting and pushing the boundaries of what we knew of thought possible, refining the models both of knowledge transfer and business.
Over the past few weeks, having flown across Africa to meet and activate the pockets of innovators, I see signs of a maturing technology ecosystems. From hope to hype to action, we are slowly but surely getting it right using a mix of approaches.
The innovation tour in Ghana, facilitated by Seed Stars was very fulfilling and confirmed that The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology was onto something. MEST as it is fondly referred to, trains, mentors, and invests in world-class tech entrepreneurs and African startups from Ghana & Nigeria with a focus on companies targeting: SaaS, Consumer Internet, eCommerce, Digital Media, and Healthcare IT.
At the Seed Stars pitching sessions, well thought out services with pan African possibilities married to solid teams with a clear passion and excellent team dynamics carried the day. The camaraderie was obvious, better underpinning the fact that teams rock and when building services, while the idea might be time barred, non-scalable or simply committed to the dead pool by force majeure, you can still bet on the jockey(s) and win in the future.
Some of the startups are angling for a piece of the incumbents while others were blazing new trails, reworking what we thought was possible; both flavors of innovation – the creators and the disruptors.
Ghana’s got game and this can only make for exciting times ahead for Africa’s technology marketplace at large.