Diary Of An Under 30 CEO: Building A Culture Of Innovation [Ventures Africa]
(Ventures Africa Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) VENTURES AFRICA – On reflection, the inevitable consequence of a brutal 2008; simply was the flooding of the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe. Moreover, the decline and fall of Zimbabwe left government threatened with insolvency-it had thin pockets- and hanging by the thread, nevertheless, it also ushered in a new political dispensation, and households were virtually reduced to new depths of poverty, after a bloody presidential run-off poll was ensued by turmoil of unprecedented proportions.
Not too long after the intensification of the most severe economic downturn in the history of the country, changing the face of the country's start-up landscape became an obsession of Technology Zimbabwe (TechZim).
Admittedly, Limbikani Makani, the founder of TechZim, once told Agnes Sokol that boredom from doing the same routine job, seduced him to seek satisfaction from creating a tech project that doesn't promise miracles, but is gaining industry creditability with each passing year."I started TechZim in October 2009 when I was still at CARE. I was slightly bored with my routine day job and it was the perfect time to spice up my life with a technology project. I had dropped another personal technology project a few years earlier and the choice was to rekindle that or start to work on a new venture," said Limbikani then.
Crucially, TechZim was not his first technology project, as Limbikani explained, "My first project, Zimlyrics, was basically a local music lyrics website which I started in 2001 and the plan was to have a place where music artists (both independent and those signed by labels) could share music lyrics with the world. I was fascinated by the richness in the poetry of local songs and wanted to have a space for it online. The site was online for a few years and it generated quite a following. I had to take it offline eventually because of cash flow problems."
After Zimlyrics succumbed to cash flow problems, as future cash flows raced behind the operational overheads which were racing far ahead, Limbikani still had energy to later undertake another tech project (TechZim), which is showing every sign of accelerating. "I had been talking to friends in the technology industry for a couple of months about an ICT platform for news and blog posts. The platform would provide space for Zimbabwe technology entrepreneurs to showcase their work and would also act as an enabler to fostering a start-up culture in the country. Of the two projects (reviving Zimlyrics or creating TechZim), I chose what has now become TechZim and in my spare time started blogging about ICT issues in Zimbabwe on posterous.com. I focused on connectivity in the initial days since this is a central issue for any internet and technology entrepreneur," says Limbikani.
Tellingly, Limbikani Soul Makani didn't just stumble upon the idea of becoming a technology entrepreneur who created a platform that disseminates ICT information for technology entrepreneurs by mistake, as he got his hands dirty in the ICT minefield as a local IT Manager for an international NGO with operations in Zimbabwe, Care International.
Makani is not just a tech savvy entrepreneur who is working tirelessly to build a vibrant start-up culture in Zimbabwe. Besides being the founder of the now defunct ZimLyrics and the founding editor of the TechZim website, he is a host on Dariro.com. Limbikani is also one of the convenors of Barcamp Zimbabwe, which incorporates the start up challenge.
On expectations, Makani has a big picture outlook for TechZim;"I really believe that the work I’m doing with TechZim has to be incremental. I think it can be a bigger platform. There’s a lot of energy going into that," he pointed out.
TechZim has slowly and gradually been creating a buzz, whilst becoming a widely read news blog focusing on local IT news, product reviews and internet services in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, the platform explores and reviews (critically) new technologies, ICT services provision, internet products and companies. You can also find profiles of existing technology companies and technology startups in Zimbabwe that are making an impact on connectivity and the internet.
There is much at stake when it comes to ICT information on the continent, as a lack of information crisis hits hard at the heart of Africa. The vacuum highlights another big opportunity. The TechZim website was launched, after Limbikani realized that there was a dearth of information on ICT for the local context, which has become his niche market. "Our business has indeed grown since we launched back in 2009; for example, in terms of revenue," he highlighted, as proof that his niche market is very lucrative.
With approximately 3,000 page views per day, TechZim is proving popular, and Makani states that, "We have set our sights on building a culture of start-ups and innovation in Zimbabwe. A lot of Zimbabweans see the internet as a product, not a platform," he argues. "They think they are just an audience, but they need to see how much they can do and put on the web."
Though dominant locally, TechZim hasn't yet been able to create synergies with other businesses on the continent and beyond, and he says, "There haven't been any new synergies for the business on the continent or beyond. Our target for business currently, remains the local technology business ecosystem; technology consumers, technology companies and other people seeking information products on technology in Zimbabwe etc."
TechZim's motivation is not purely opportunistic. Understandably, TechZim portrays the image of a big market-player with a client list that includes, Liquid Telecom, Telecel Zimbabwe, CABS, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe etc.
The outlook remains favourable, and the client list remains infested with some of the most cash-rich organizations locally, a survivalist mentality will not suffice for this internet media company, for as long as the cash cows are still doing business in the country. "We are an internet based media company. Our revenue streams include advertising, research and events," exclaimed Makani.
When the time is right, the organization will be scrambling to penetrate the regional ICT market, and there are concrete plans to increase the product offering, since the market in Zimbabwe is a bit stagnant in terms of growth prospects given the lack of adequate liquidity in the economy."There is nothing specific to share right now; however, we will undertake a regional expansion in future. Yes, Zimbabwe is indeed small and you tend to have a few players in key sectors that are doing well. There are plans to both expand our product offering and to explore new geographies," says Makani.
TechZim believes that it is setting the platform for start-ups to succeed because technology entrepreneurs are key economic growth and job creation stakeholders, and there is need to invest in developing the human capital. Limbikani says, "If tech start-ups are to succeed, the overall ICT climate has to be conducive to doing business. For e-commerce to become a reality, we need to be investing in skills; in research and development and working towards Universal Internet Access."
"I think that going forward; technology entrepreneurs will play a vital role in Zimbabwe. The politicians can also play a part, but in the end, the real economic advancement will come from entrepreneurs who take it upon themselves to improve their lives and those of the communities they live in. ICTs, especially at the internet and mobile device level, are unique tools for entrepreneurs because of the low entry barriers. The opportunities exist for local solutions. Technology entrepreneurs can therefore play a central role as they can export internet level services and attract foreign direct investments into start-ups."
"Another local problem is unemployment. Technology entrepreneurs will play a part in dealing with this; both in terms of giving talented individuals the chance to actively contribute to the economy, as well as in creating new employment."
Whilst tech start-ups are delighting, now that they are able to access news and information readily, TechZim has also had another unprecedented impact by helping secondary school students who are learning the ropes of using ICT as a tool for academic research. Limbikani Makani elaborates that, "We decided to take on young people from secondary schools and colleges to teach them how to use the internet and social media networks for their academic research."
Through hosting free informal training seminars during the school holidays, a few youths at a time learn about software, web designing and project management. For novices, there are sessions on basic computer skills. "We don't award certificates because we aren't a college," says Limbikani. "We are basically demystifying ICT and assisting students who would otherwise not be able to afford computer classes at all," he says.
The website was recently nominated as a finalist for the Telkom-Highway Africa New Media Awards Best ICT Blog Category. This is a prestigious award on the continent that rewards innovative use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in journalism that serves Africa and its citizens.
(c) 2013 Ventures Africa. All Rights Reserved. Provided by Syndigate.info an Albawaba.com company
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]