January 29th,2015

kLab is currently looking for the first 15 startups to join the new StartupWave platform pilot before rolling out the system on a larger scale in Rwanda. StartupWave is a NEW kLab online educational platform that will link startups to mentors and prepare them to meet investors. It will help validate your startup ideas, learn business modeling, get mentored and develop your business plan. With its 7 stage process, it allows you to join in with your startup or idea at whatever stage it is – by providing advice, mentorship, business support and the chance for the access to funding if you make it through.

The StartupWave provides both pre-incubation and incubation services with online and offline support, and there is no need to travel, relocate, or follow a fixed schedule. The pre-incubation services are designed for idea to pilot stage startups (anyone with a business idea can access these services for free). The incubation services however are designed to help startups raise investment.

Requirements:

  • A filled application form that you can find here
  • Once accepted into the Startupwave program, pay 30,000Rwf prior to joining the program to the account number 4401141326 of the PSF ICT Chamber (at the Kenya Commercial Bank) and show proof of payment slip. Upon completion, 15,000Rwf will be returned to you.
  • Submission Deadline: 7 February 2015

For more information:

  • Please visit startupwave
  • Do not hesitate to contact any kLab core team member for more clarification.
  • Attend the kLab monthly meeting on Friday 6/2/2015 at 6pm for an info session about Startupwave.

About Startupwave:

StartupWave is a virtual incubation platform that has been built and conceptualized by Intellecap in partnership with Government of UK’s DFID in India and GIZ on behalf of the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). 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.
December 30th,2014

I was recently talking to a CEO of a business I was trying to pitch our services to and he told me a story that was an important lesson to my company’s direction.

The CEO in question is an educated and seasoned businessman who also knows what they want from every endeavor they take part in. The story concerned their dealing with a software startup. The startup that was working on a custom application for the client refused to adhere to the specifications and the final product looked nothing like the expected product.

The moral of this story is that this behavior exists everywhere geographically and in all sorts of software related companies, small or big. Most of the time, we assume that we know what is best for customers instead of listening to customers. Customers wants and needs could be determined through their user experience stories and can be unearthed by asking clear questions or by testing your prototypes on (potential) customers.

This behavior is giving a bad reputation to the software industry as a whole. It feels like the customer care does not apply to the Software Industry since we can compensate with the technical know-how. With the competition high as ever within the industry, a good customer service and professionalism through the dealings with clients is paramount.

Think as if you were working in a clothes shop: would you ask a customer to buy the wrong size? The common sense answer is no. However, for one second, let’s assume that you do ask them and they take it. This would surely solve some of their problems but not all. For example they will be clothed but they will not be as comfortable as if they were in the right size piece of outfit.
It is the same with asking a software client to take a solution that does not solve the entirety of their problem. It might solve some of their problems but not all. And that’s poor customer service.

December 09th,2014
Failure as a startup owner

I pioneered into joining the now overwhelmingly many Tech Hubs on the African Continent. In May 2012, I pitched Tech Start-up idea to a panel of kLab founders. My business idea was to digitize booking,purchasing of bus tickets and offering of Geo locations of public buses to passengers.

The problem that I was solving is; passenger have to travel 10 to 20 km to Kigali's main Bus Park to book a bus ticket and return to their premises. Other passengers are forced to wait for 30 minutes to 2 hours between the time of purchasing a ticket and the departure time.Thus Nyabugogo Park is ever crowded,with passengers waiting for maturity of their travel schedules.

Perfect, with mobile money API, sms application and a server, I was ready to solve the problem. Passengers would buy tickets after crosschecking the different available schedules through our sms platform and buy a ticket of their choice. A passenger would then move to the bus park a few minutes to the boarding time. Paper use would be reduced as well, since passengers with sms tickets would only be required to show their sms recipients to board the bus. The system was environmentally free as well.

With a thorough market research that gave me projections of over 50,000 daily passengers and close to 1000$ daily profit margin. I spent some sleepless nights and energy on the streets, pushing every door at Telecom companies,banks and Transport companies to get the startup off the ground. With a team of 3, one strong tech guy, one strong Marketer and a strong business and market maven, there is no way, our business was not going to hit the ground running.

Prior to kLab's opening, our startup was operating from my apartment/Ghetto in Nyamirambo. An internet modem and Cash powered electricity are the worst resources to run anything with. (When 10 smartphone users suddenly get into your neighborhood on to your cell tower, your internet speed drops by half.)

When kLab granted our startup space, a few resources were catered for,thus we no longer cared about Internet and Electricity. 12 Months down the road things were not moving past certain points. Issues ranged from the market not being ready to hesitance of partnering companies. Plus the usual balancing-act of supporting living costs and the start-up costs, I put a pose on the Start-up and began searching for a salaried job. In other-words, I failed to kick start the start-up.

Beginning as an amateur Tech Journalist,then a Sub-Sub Contractor with Ericsson and later PSF-ICT Chamber. I found myself doing 3 temporary jobs simultaneously. (It is a long story on its own, since I got fired at one of the jobs, and got cheated 4 months' worth of payments from another.)

Failure as a Tech Hub manager

Luck shows up, and I was assigned to manage kLab. An institution where I failed from and carried lots of complaints. I felt I knew a lot that kLab would have done better to help me succeed when I had earlier joined with a business. There is nothing good in life like being on both sides, one as a receiver and the other as a Giver. In 2012, I was a kLab Tenant, receiving mentor-ship and support, now September 2013, I am the kLab's General Manager.

When I was assigned the job, I smuggled my tooth brush and blanket into kLab office. I loved kLab and still do, thus I was prepared to read,work inside-out and solve all the challenges that I had noticed as a former tenant. For a couple of nights, I would sleep in my office to win time of to&fro my apartment. Yes, some of my sleepless nights were fruitful, for example in a bid to raise kLab's VC community network, I remember having a video call at 2:00 am with Brad Feld -the multi million dollar VC with over 20years of Tech Business experience.

I read a couple of books on Innovation (Malcom Gladwell's 4Books, Startup Nation, The Learn Startup, Innovation and the State and more), made Techcrunch.com my Bible and quickly integrated into the Government's several ICT task forces.(If you love reading, feel free to inbox/comment and I will share some digital versions with you.)

With a background of Startup hustling culture.When I got assigned the task of managing kLab, I made an elevator pitch to kLab community regarding which ideas I was bringing on board. My pitch was dubbed "kLab as a startup" where I put across ideas on how to build the community, increase from just 110 members, to how we would attract funding and establish a world class entrepreneurship ecosystem. Like all ambitious Entrepreneurs, my dream/vision was that one day a Startup that originated from kLab would grow,flourish and list on NASDAQ. I will never forget the round of applause and glittering faces of hope that the kLab community gave me when, I projected that "slide"(above) illustrating kLab and an arrow pointing to NASDAQ. It is that same energy, that still haunts me and make me feel that I owe something to the kLab community.

With an experienced Think Tank at my back, the kLab board and a dynamic community of Entrepreneurs. I had/still have all reasons to dream of NASDAQ. kLab board is made of former Senior Managers at IBM, former Developers at Amazon and Traders on London Stock Exchange, to mention but a few.


Part of my then pitch: A proposed weekly schedule that would develop world class entrepreneurs With one year managing kLab, I did not meet my set targets and my heart itched and I looked for an exit. One year is indeed short to jump out, but today's world moves fast, since I could not easily achieve my short targets. Transferring management to another person with new thinking, was the best idea. And it is, kLab members continue to tell me,of several new initiatives happening and its awesome to hear.

Like, I had promised most of the kLab members, my Targets included seeing more and more kLab members flood cars at our parking lots. I badly wanted to see money enter into their pockets. With inspirations from the works of people like Paul Graham of Y-Combinator, I was determined to not copy-paste but learn a lot from them and do an ounce of what they have done.

As, I prepared my exit speech, I could only get the below items.

    1.kLab members have received 1/4 Million USD investments.(Those on our records).
    2.kLab community has grown,(over 600 members are part of the community)
    2. kLab's media visibility is excellent (Google kLab -You will see.
    3. kLab has a strong,committed and high profiled board of trustees plus a strong backing of Government of Rwanda, PSF and JICA.

Why did I share this story:

    1.If you are involved into a Tech Hub business either as new Hub Manager or New Startup owner,learn from my story. Call it whatever, failure or success, but don't repeat any of my mistakes nor should you not utilize any hints that I portrayed. At the time, I did both the startup and management of the hub, there was little to learn from, since the two concepts were new in Africa
    2. Two main advises for any Person initiating a startup or managing a Tech Hub in Africa
    (i) Reading Culture: Tech Entrepreneurship is a knowledge based business, thus a reading culture is paramount. Only about 2 out of 10 Tech Entrepreneurs that I met, be it in Rwanda or other African Tech Hubs had read a few books, the rest had not read any book outside the university curriculum. Shockingly even when I checked stats of my previous article's on Fundamentals of a TechHub that got a total of over 1000 readers. Less than 180 Readers were from Africa, whereas over 250 were from USA, and over 600 from Europe and Asia. In talks that I heard with investors be it from Tel Aviv, USA, India, Japan,UK, they were all interested in co-founders who have a broad knowledge of the business world. All investors echoed the same words."We invest in people not their ideas"."We think kLab members need to read what other Startups' experiences have been." were the popular remarks I got from Investors. Senior Programmers also read books, I remember getting interesting books like "Starup Chile" from Eric Newcomer.(A Guy I would rank among the best Programmers I have ever seen -Click to see his CV to see why!).
    (ii) Malcom Gladwell's 10,000 Hour rule: There are no short cuts. Just like the sequential iterations of a computer program, Entrepreneurship is about consistence and extreme hard-work. When, we introduced Friday trans-night live coding at kLab, only 5 to 10 Entrepreneurs attended. Guess what? all those who attended the trans-night coding are the most successful now, of the 600 member community.

I only wish that the above 2 ingredients get into African Tech Hub communities. I still believe in kLab attaining its destination(in future seeing kLab founded startups grow to list on NASDAQ). These dreams are neither biblical nor just random, it will take time but will. I am an aspiring Data Scientist, basing on Data like Hans Rosling, Co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, or Report to Obama on BigData and the Government of Rwanda's visions, I smell enough evidence that the African continent can/will turn a new economic chapter.

Read more about Jovani's work here