This post is continued from the first part here.
Y U No Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is?
The startup above could only garner $91 for their idea which is going to “Save lives in Africa.” $91? I am in no position to condemn anyone as I too did not contribute but this speaks volumes. Unfortunately, the real challenges we face as Nigerians and Africans do not lend themselves to neat and easily monetisable solutions. They do not have an ecosystem of pre-existing tools to speed development. They cannot rely solely on app stores to render their services.
In Nigeria, we suffer from a dearth of data. This makes many ideas unimplementable or simply not worth the bother. In the case of the unfunded crowdfunding project above, they may have to find ways to strongly incentivise dieticians in order to get the data required. Contrast this to their original plan to use a crowdsourced data-gathering process. It is looking likely that their [unmet] funding target was misspecified from the very start.
So is it a planning problem we have? Do the budding entrepreneurs simply lack the domain expertise to execute on the bigger ideas? Would they do better if they had high value mentors with deep domain knowledge in such areas? Probably.
Let us not forget that smart people work on problems they can realistically expect to solve with their skill sets, and which they understand, usually from first-hand experience. Inasmuch as “healthcare” or “governance” might feel like big opportunities, if you don’t understand or have a deep interest in the category you are tackling, your odds of building a really successful business are closer to nil than you might be comfortable with. Look at a lot of the founding teams for many of the successful enterprise-focussed startups in Nigeria. Many of them put in real time at leading companies similar to the ones they are either currently serving or competing against today.
Could the real investors please stand up?
I hear people say we should keep doing what we are doing and someday soon, local investors will develop an interest and support the effort. They better speed up their interest-development drive because VCs almost certainly have no interest in backing long tail ideas. The VC world has gone from being populated largely by growth investors to being populated by momentum investors. They are not interested in investing in ideas, they are interested in investing in traction. That is the definition of a momentum investor.
Those meaty challenges may be all bone and no flesh
Conventional wisdom suggests that return on investment (ROI) can be achieved quicker with incremental ideas that do not necessarily solve a problem because those ideas are usually within markets where the circumstances are ideal for rapid growth. As Ayodele Marcus of Adugbo further explained to me, the situation is not helped by the fact that innovative ideas are more difficult to explain.
We must also remember that healthcare, education and most of the other domains where these meaty challenges reside are the preserve of governments. If you have ever had the [not] good fortune of trying to sell to government, you know how broken the system can be in places. Have you heard the one about the startup team who were proposing a solution to a government parastatal? They were prepared to execute with their own money and all they needed was government sanction to go ahead with the plan. The head of the panel they presented to wanted a 70/30 revenue share. 70% for him, 30% for the startup and their foreign partners. Now, that is gangsta! He might as well ask for a board seat while he’s at it.
These are the sorts of challenges entrepreneurs face when they attempt to solve real problems. With that in mind, I am looking for gifted Nigerian devs to help me create an Africa first website with solutions to all Africa’s upper-income third-world problems. I even have an exemplar from Silicon Valley no less. See an image below:
What am I [actually] doing?
There are no easy solutions. However I am reminded of the commenter in the post from facebook above. “. . . YOU are the change you seek”. It is frustrations like these which led us to create PushandStart in the hope that our efforts will help bring some of these worthwhile solutions to market. In addition to helping founders attract funding, we will also pair them with experienced mentors and domain experts who can serve as a sounding board.
Of course, we will also accept ideas like music apps, African games, and whatever fluff (I use this endearingly, rather than perjoratively) African founders can dream up so long as the market case is strong. All work and no play puts Jack in a bad way.