Where Are The Moonshots? Ep. One Of Mich Atagana’s Podcast Asks Hard Questions of African Startups



Once again, SuperGlobeMich dives in to save the day.

Even after retiring from active tech blogging journalism to work with Google, Mich Atagana is still worried that much of the conversation around the African tech startup ecosystem revolves too much around investment, and not enough around building innovative, problem solving, scalable, zero-to-one ventures. African startups ask too much for money and too little for advice. “Where are the moonshots? Where are the Hyperloops of Africa?” My analogies, not hers, but these sum up the earnest questions she asks in the first episode of her brand new fourteen-minute podcast.



  • NubiKay says:

    Q. Where are the moonshots?
    A. They are working for Google 🙂

    • David Okwii says:

      Who said Africa needs Hyperloops? Misaligned priorities shaped by our western-focused mindsets is our biggest problem. Not lack of good ideas or problem solving solutions. We are mostly wannabes not even copycats.

      I’ll give you an example. Here are 5 great enterprise applications I’ve written about changing how businesses work in Uganda http://bit.ly/1uWQj8g . These aren’t your fancy shinny mobile applications or cool web Apps running on node.js, Angular.js or whatever latest cool framework the cool kids are using. They are good old desktop applications with lots of paying clients. I personally know most of the innovators behind these innovations. They aren’t hipsters. They are passionate and serious about their stuff and they work freaking hard.

      I figure they also want to build Hyperloops. They have dreams for your so-called moonshot projects. But they know and understand Africa’s current conditions because they interface with real paying clients on a daily. They know the infrastructure in these schools, hospitals and SMEs where their applications are running. They see organizations running windows XP on Pentium IV computers. So they innovate around that not what they read on TC.

      I have always argued that we’ve lots of distractions in Africa. We carry out less on-ground research so we make lots of assumptions often based on US-centered trends rather than conditions downtown Kampala or Nairobi or Lagos.

  • Samuel-Biyi says:

    A bit cliche… Going from little to big is not any more romantic than going from big to damn big. The spreadsheets don’t care. The system is awash with advice. In fact, everyone has a golden advice for you. No one is going into a meeting asking to ‘mentorship’ and ‘advice’. It’s cheap.

    No, Africa should not invest effort in the zero-to-one myth. That’s largely a first-world ideal, but even so, you can’t name your top ten zero-to-one companies globally without being wrong about 9 of them; Africa should focus on doing better with the same basic opportunities, not despite capital starvation. It is profoundly dangerous to take the conversation away from capital right now because you cannot scale (or even start) a Nomanini (hardware) without a boat-load of cash or a clear plan towards getting it.

    0 to 1 is good, but so is 1 to n. Africans want to over-innovate when we’re still decades behind with the very basics. Name your top-ten African start-ups. They’re likely 1 to n’s. M-Pesa? Maybe but not really (see patent row).. Marketplaces were a genius after-thought, but they couldn’t have preceded the traditional hard-core e-retailing.

    Yes, Africans focus a lot on the money, but unless the market has been flooded with enough capital by Africans to create a bubble, and unless we’ve seen enough stories of African start-ups sinking despite a titanic of capital, no one has the right to criticize yet.

    Read “Fooled by Randomness” by Nassim Taleb.

  • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

    Interesting thoughts. I think there are moonshot African problems but a lot of the time even when our founder’s have them – they lack the aggressiveness and management experience to execute on them. Naturally, the funders see the paucity of ambition from a mile away and run because ultimately they are about 10x return. They have no time to waste.

    So much about building a moonshot company is not intuitive and there is no management school to learn it from. In other climes, older entrepreneurs who have learnt the lessons of scaling big business the hard way, partner with and teach the next generation how to make it happen. This is not happening in our ecosystem for a whole number of reasons. In my opinion these are the foundational issues we need to resolve before we even get to moonshot ideas. I am confident we will get there though.

  • Badmus says:

    I am more concerned about her weave and the innovation (or lack thereof) about it.
    Talk is cheap! What have you done personally? ?

    Miss me with that BS lady.

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