…as a country, we need to stop innovating around the edges. — Vinod Khosla, venture capitalist and co-founder, Sun Microsystems
Step away from the Battlefield
The #TCBattlefield event has come and gone. It was groundbreaking on so many levels and almost everyone is still basking in the afterglow. However, there have been a few dissenting voices who – for the greater good – simply cannot get on board with all the euphoria. Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, one of the supremely experienced individuals who will be volunteering on our crowdfunding platform as a mentor for startup teams, shares his thoughts in this very well-written piece, 5 reasons why startups don’t have to be innovators.
People complain that a large number of startups in Lagos today are not working on solving the big, serious problems, rather they are focusing at the top of the pyramid, dreaming up incrementally convenient gimmickry for the privileged. Do these holdouts have any justification? Are we degenerating to a poorer, less imaginative Silicon Valley-like echo chamber, doomed to pay the most attention to too-specific personal itches or worse, copy-and-pasted ideas from foreign markets? Take this example below.
First of all, to say that a majority of Lagos tech startups are working on upper-income third-world problems is an unfair generalisation. In addition to the plethora of e commerce, music, and entertainment startups, there are startups working on reproductive health, real-time collaboration, security, public finance accountability, small business accounting, and education. The conversation below is from two years ago but many still believe the situation is not much improved.
Exits help new entrants
In an earlier post, I wrote about the ecosystem’s need for validation via a huge exit. To my bemusement, it did not go down so well. I am certain the problem we have is one of capital. Without the validation of a few good exits, foreign VCs lack a template for what works in Africa and so they come here with their New York or Silicon Valley based notions and try to shoehorn founders into a mould. Or is it the founders who do that to themselves? I forget.
Startups intent on survival will sway where the money blows and right now, no money is blowing towards the problems everyone claims they want to see solved. Unless it is education, which is sexy right now…
This post continues in part two