By Simba Mswaka
By Simba Mswaka
SILICON Valley is the bastion of big tech and is the West Coast equivalent of Wall Street. Millionaires and ubiquitous businesses are being created in that ecosystem on an annual basis.
There are very few places as productive for innovation on God’s green earth than ‘The Valley’. The ecosystem is ripe with innovativeness, risk taking and flush with bucketloads of cash.
Silicon Valley overflows with success because failure is not frowned upon and entrepreneurs get involved in building great start-ups.
The Valley consists of an ecosystem of world class universities, companies, investors, a great climate and a fairly wealthy and large population size. Ideal components for a start-up trying to be the next Big thing.
Turning our attention to Africa
The Silicon Valley model is the blueprint for start-up success for any other country because it has proven that it works time and again. African countries are trying to replicate this model but unfortunately it can take a lot of time to put all the pieces in place.
African countries have to deal with issues such as poor internet connectivity and infrastructure issues such as electricity. These pose a hindrance to effective entrepreneurial ventures and start-ups tend to stagnate.
Silicon Valley should be used as an example of how it is done and then African countries must build on that model to create their own systems that are cognizant of the issues that they experience on a daily basis.
Silicon Valley investors focus on growth over anything else because there are so many of them competing to invest in start-ups. Investors could instead start using revenue-based financing models to fund start-ups. Whilst a revenue-based model may not be possible for some pre-seed start-ups, it allows the investor a level of safety because start-ups are still very high risk investments.
Another thing that can be changed is for start-ups to start dreaming bigger and think regional and not just within their borders. Africa has 1bn people with a lot of problems that need repair, find that Golden thread and make it work across jurisdictions. American start-ups are partly successful because they are obsessed with growth and they believe that once you make it in America you have conquered the world.
Their language consists of statements like ‘become the best start-up in the world”, “become the biggest on the planet”. It’s an intentional belief on taking over. African start-ups need to adopt this and build for their regions and then expand. West Africa and East Africa being prime examples.
There is also the way start-up communities come together and support each other. This is key for success and in Africa this can be modelled around the concept of Ubuntu.
The same energy that folks use as they congregate for weddings and funerals must now be channelled into start-up ecosystems. Out of these structures you can build collaborative ventures that build each other up. When Africans get together, they can create amazing things, they just need to do it more often.
War is written by the victors and unfortunately Africa does not document enough of what it does. Africans must begin to document these wins and losses because that is how you create a repository of knowledge for the next generation. Apple and Microsoft were built by baby boomers and they are still studied to this day and there are libraries of information about them.
The same must be done with great African startups that have developed over the years like Paystack, Flutterwave, Fawry, Yoco to mention but a few. Silicon Valley has shown the way and now it is up to African nations to tailor make the model and set the metrics within their own markets.
Israel is one of the best examples of this. The country is known as the ‘start-up nation’ and it punches way above it’s weight. They understand what they are strong at and have built a model around their strengths that allows them to flourish.
Africa must do the same because the time is now and it is possible.
Simba Mswaka is the Program and Partnerships Manager at Tech Hub Harare. Tech Hub is a Coworking Space and Incubator for Startups. You can reach him on email@example.com and +263777628936