May 08th,2015

Despite the rush in every academic institution to offer more courses on entrepreneurship, I still haven’t found it to be something you can learn in school. Of course, you can pick up the basic principles this way, but the problem is that the practical rules for success are changing so fast that no academic can keep up. The best thing you can learn in school is how to learn.

The magnate entrepreneurs I have met,interviewed and worked with over the years all seem to share that passion for learning, and they see rapid market change not as a problem, but as an opportunity for them to move ahead of the crowd in changing the world. Making big money is usually the last thing on their mind.But do not underestimate the power of money because most of the things you get,you have to have the money.

From a practical standpoint, there are many ways to learn about business change, and the opportunities that may spring up at any moment. Here are six steps that every aspiring entrepreneur should take full advantage of:

  • Communicate with peers who have “been there and done that.” The common term for this is networking, but I find that many aspiring entrepreneurs like to do all the talking about their latest new idea and fail to listen. You don’t learn anything while talking. Successful entrepreneurs love to share, but they respond better to pull rather than push.

  • Research current success stories and role models. The Internet is better than the Library of Congress or any university, since it changes daily to keep up with reality and is interactive. Reserve some time each day for your favorite blogs and influencers, follow up with social networking and expand your personal contacts offline.

  • Find a business mentor, as well as a friend. A mentor is someone who will tell you what you need to hear, while a friend might tell you what you want to hear. Actually, you need both, and the ability to tell the difference. I find that all entrepreneurs benefit from bouncing their ideas off someone else, and unique perspectives can add real value.

  • Don’t skip new “learning how to learn opportunities.” These include the classes in school that focus on case studies and team exercises, but extend beyond the academic world to professional and industry seminars. Focus on the opportunities that match your needs for today, since you never know too far ahead what you need to know next.

  • Volunteer to help organizations related to your interest. There is no better way to broaden your perspective and understand realities than to work in an environment where motivations are positive. You can get real leadership experience and real learning without long-term commitments and financial pressures.

  • Start your own small business.The cost of entry for an entrepreneur is at an all-time low, with very low incorporation fees in most countries, website creation tools for free and the ability to create and offer smartphone apps for a few thousand dollars. Learn from the challenges of a startup with a low-risk idea before you bet it all on the big dream.
  • I fully recognize that self-initiated learning is not for everyone. If you are one of those people who likes structured classes and counts on spending a couple of week in the classroom every year to catch up, I don’t recommend the entrepreneur and startup lifestyle. Starting a new and innovative business is not a highly structured process, and finding time for structured learning is unlikely.

    Finally, it is always helpful to check your motivation to be an entrepreneur. If you see it as the path to easy money or as an escape from an existing job or family pressures, it’s time to recognize that learning does n’t come easily if your heart is n’t in it.

    There is no substitute for doing what you love, and loving what you do. Once you learn to love learning, you too can be a successful entrepreneur.

    By Pacifique Hallellua

    April 05th,2015

    kLab is very pleased to host the STARTUPWAVE bootcamp in association with GIZ and Intellecap, an initiative to capture the hearts and minds of everyone interested in entrepreneurship advice, mentorship, business/startup support and access to funding.
    With 15 selected entrepreneurs, six mentors with extensive business experience from Rwanda and India, key players from the IT to the finance industry, the STARTUPWAVE bootcamp will be the most vibrant location for IT professionals in the heart of Kigali and foster true innovation.

    STARTUPWAVE is a virtual incubation platform that has been built and conceptualized by Intellecap in India in partnership with DFID on behalf of the Government of UK and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Government.
    This platform is designed in consultation with and is being used by incubators, corporates, funds and start-ups. The implementation with kLab is supported and financed by the EcoEmploi Programme of GIZ Rwanda.

    The STARTUPWAVE bootcamp is a unique event for real entrepreneurs, business people and individuals from various sectors. The young and highly motivated entrepreneurs have the chance to learn from experienced veterans of the industry with whom they have only interacted on the virtual platform before.

    Claudette Irere, the General Manager of kLab said that startupwave is a great platform for entrepreneurs to understand their businesses first and then move on with prototyping. The feedback that kLab will get from the 15 first entrepreneurs on the platform will determine the next steps of its localization.

    The STARTUPWAVE bootcamp was held on the 02 April 2015 at kLab, 6th floor, Telecom House.
    For pictures, please visit our flickr page.

    April 03rd,2015

    Every entrepreneur I know has their favorite excuse for a previous failure – an investor backed out,the banks are not giving loans to entrepreneurs,there is no money in the country. These things outside your control do happen, but based on my years of experience as a serial entrepreneur who failed with 17 startups, I still see too many common failure causes,i did myself that are inside the entrepreneur decision realm.

    I certainly agree that starting a business is fraught with risk, and none of us get it all right the first time. It’s important to learn from your own mistakes, but it’s even smarter to learn from someone else’s mistakes, without paying their high price in time lost, cost, and pain. Why would you repeat same mistakes i did and that were also done by others?In that spirit, I offer my perspective on most common origins startup failure that rarely get admitted by entrepreneurs:

    1.Choose to skip the written business plan.I believe the old adage that you don’t know what you don’t know until you try to write it down. A business plan is for you first, not investors. The discipline of writing down your plan is the best way to make sure you understand how to transform your idea into a business, and how to communicate it.Have you heard of ''verba volant,scripta manent'' the latin proverb tha literally means '' spoken words fly away,written words remain''?What if you meet an interested investor and badly asks you a business plan that you do not have?

    2.Offer free solutions to bring in more customers. Don’t get caught in the myth that you should not worry about monetization until after you have a large customer base. Viral marketing costs real money, and your support staff and hosting systems cost even more. Even non-profits need a profitable business model to offset staff and operating costs.

    3.Assume passion level defines business opportunity. There is no substitute for market research to confirm that your passion matches a real need in the market. Not every great idea is a viable business. Social causes are great, but your ability to sustain your value contribution is directly linked to your ability to find paying customers.

    4.Practice dreaming more than doing. Dreamers come up with ideas, and do-ers come up with businesses. Building a successful business is all about execution. Don’t try to build a business unless you are comfortable with risk, uncertainty, responsibility, and hard decisions. Dreams may motivate your team, but customers expect real solutions.If you are only a dreamer,then there is something wrong with you.

    5.Convinced that many existing players means room for ‘me-too.’ Jumping into a crowded space is a great way to get lost quickly. Your chances of success are much greater if you target an under-served niche, or bring a new quantum leap in value over existing competitors. ‘Easier-to-use’ and other fuzzy terms won’t get any attention.

    6.Thinks boundless energy is equal to experience. The real secrets of any business domain are not intuitively obvious, nor available in books. Many entrepreneurs tackle a completely unknown business domain, because the solution looks obvious, and they plan to work very hard. Usually it pays to work in an industry for a while, before you try to fix it.

    7.Willing to start today and find resources later. Cash is always hard to find, but in many cases it’s even harder to find access to needed distribution channels, government contract expertise, or the special skills required to deliver your solution. Entrepreneurs need to spend time working on the business, as well as in the business.

    8.Finish the product before marketing begins. It’s never too early to start marketing, since it usually takes as long to build marketing momentum as it does to build a product. No startup can afford to do these serially. In today’s information age, it takes time and money to make your solution visible. Marketing should start before product development.

    9.Just give up and walk away when tired and frustrated. In my experience, most startup success back-stories include an entrepreneur that simply would not give up, despite seemingly impossible odds. Most great entrepreneurs, including Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, overcame multiple setbacks before they built their legacy of success.

    10.Keep complaining of what is not working. The worst thing an entrepreneur can do is to complain.An entrepreneur is responsible and accountable for whatever result(output) of the business.There is no place in the world where you will not find "challenges of some sort." But the beauty of life and business at large is when you solve them.Complaining is like dancing around and expect magic to happen.

    None of these issues involve rocket science or MBAs. The best entrepreneurs just temper their passion with reality checks and street smarts, derived from their advisors(mentors) and learning from their peers. It’s good to avoid making the same mistake twice, but it’s even more important to avoid making the same mistake as others before you, and expecting a better outcome. Even the best excuses don’t lead to success.

    In my next blog article,i will be highlighting how you can avoid the above mentioned mistakes that lead to startup failure

    Written by Pacifique Hallellua