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

February 28th,2015

Why do a few entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, seem to have come up with all the real innovations, while the majority of business leaders seem stuck in the rut of linear thinking? I have always wondered if innovation required some rare gene mutation, or whether I might be missing a simple formula for unlocking the ability in any intelligent business person to innovate.

While searching for an answer, I was excited by a new book, “The 4 Lenses of Innovation,” from Rowan Gibson, one of the most recognized thought leaders in business innovation. According to Gibson, you don’t have to be born with magic insights to be innovative. He connects breakthrough thinking to four initiatives, which I believe every kLab tenant should practice:

• Questioning deeply-held beliefs and assumptions. The willingness to challenge accepted approaches and propose non-obvious alternatives is one of the fundamental driving forces for innovation. This is a thinking pattern and a culture which all kLab tenants need to instill and nurture in every startup team member.

• Spotting and exploiting emerging trends. Innovative entrepreneurs have to start with a mindset of welcoming change, rather than trying to resist it. They don’t have to be futurists; they just have to be in the current time, not behind the times. Then they have to look for change, and continually hone their skills to turn discontinuity into opportunity.

• Redeploying skills and assets in new ways. Innovators leverage existing skills and assets in new ways, new contexts, and new combinations, rather than assuming that new resources are needed for new opportunities. Strategic partnerships with other companies are a good way to extend the boundaries of your business and recombine resources.

• Paying attention to unmet needs and frustrations. It all starts with a customer perspective to uncover problems and frustrations, and then design solutions from the customer backward. But customers also tend to think linearly, so they don’t always know what they want. It’s up to you to match what is possible with what is needed.

The next step to breakthroughs for kLab tenants is to take advantage of the powerful competitive advantage available to foster innovation and ideas, like the co-working open space, one of the fastest internet in Rwanda and the exposure to global mentors among many others.

Finally, even with the right mindset and kLab competitive advantage, creative ideas for kLab entrepreneurs still don’t usually occur spontaneously, or come in a flash of inspiration. Every kLab tenant needs to adopt a more rigorous process, like this eight-step one developed and tested by Thomas Edison and many others to accelerate the production of big breakthrough ideas:

1. Select a specific challenge and focus on solving it.

2. Research the subject to learn from the work of others.

3. Immerse yourself in the problem, to explore possible solutions.

4. Recognize when you reach a deadlock, and capitalize on the creative frustration.

5. Back away for a while to let the problem incubate in the unconscious mind.

6. Be sensitive to any insights which might shift your perspective.

7. Extrapolate the insight into a new idea or solution.

8. Test and validate the new solution to make it work.

With the right mindset, tools, process, and a little practice, any kLab tenant can lead their startup to new levels of innovation, competitiveness, and success. So don’t wait for the next Einstein, or a magic Eureka moment, to get you into the game. You too can make business innovation look easy.

By Pacifique Hallellua