It was around 5 pm; when Gladys Warindi a social media strategist at Brand2D and an AIESEC UoN member mentions that she’s going to the AIESEC’s innovation café. Apparently I had seen the event on one of my internet voyages on social media but I just didn’t take much notice. Since I had the company, we decided to head to Serena. It’s around 5:30 pm now and with all the traffic on Waiyaki way 6pm found still found us in Westlands! We were so determined to get there on time but we just didn’t make it! Fast forward to the event; the panel discussion had already started by the time we checked in, the moderator was Mutembei Kariuki, a brilliant eloquent young man from The Acumen Fund.
The invited panelists were Biju Mohandas from the Acumen Fund , there was Daniel Pfaffenholz from Taka Taka solutions, Ghalib Hafiz from Juhudi Kilimo and Patricia Jumi the MD of Growth Africa/ Hub. After they introduced themselves the moderator invited questions from the audience and thus kicked of a general discussion. It was nothing short of phenomenal, amazing, great…YOU MISSED a great deal!
There was also presentation from Edge by Manuela Muller which culminated to the launch of the partnership between the organization and AIESEC Kenya. She also talked about a Business design competition that supports applicants to develop a business plan for new products/services that address the challenges found among low income communities in emerging markets. In this competition, edge seeks out models that have the greatest chance of both generating profit and measurably improving an increasing number of low income people's lives. It's #WorthCheckingOut!
There was another presentation by Allan from Trademark East Africa on what they do. TMEA partners with the EAC secretariat, EAC partner state governments, business and civil society organizations to spur trade in East Africa.Some of their donors are DFID, Swedish and danish governments, the world bank and the IMF who have invested to a tune of half a billion dollars in TMEA! That’s a B right there! What caught my attention was their challenge- The Trade Market East Africa challenge which invests in innovative business ideas that can increase trade in East Africa. They also seek ventures that catalyze innovation in the EA region.
Finally there was a presentation by Mutembei on the Acumen Fund on how they’ve transformed lives in East Africa. Since they are a social fund, they invest in projects on Energy, Education, Housing and Health.
On the same point they have the Acumen Fund fellowship programme that takes successful applicants who are entrepreneurs through an intensive one year Executive MBA programme. The good news is, from 21stGrowth Africa. I will also give it a shot by the way!! On the same note there's also an Innovation conference coming up on 21st June of 2012 and submit your applications to join the fellowship. The people who’ve gone through the fellowship are doing amazing things today; case in point Patricia Leila of Growth Africa.
So here’s what I picked at the event
1. Innovation isn’t all about buildings apps!
When most people think about something innovative they only get to think of building apps and cool E-commerce sites. Well its certainly not. Safaricom’s Mpesa is one innovative product that had a massive social impact in the country. Maybe just to clarify something innovative-
1.Should tackle a specific need- it’s got to solve certain problems, fill in a gap in the market or make life easier for the world.
2.Target a certain market (Rural, Urban, 18-30 or 10 to 17 etc)- As a marketer I can talk about this the whole day- the point is if you’ve got to do it big know who your customer is! Simple!
3.It has to have a social impact- Safaricom’s Mpesa has had a massive impact on our lives. You can pay bills, school fees, bribes etc etc. It has made life so convenient!
4.It has to be economically viable- This is the final and most important thing. A lot of big ideas don’t have a revenue/ business model. They are great and cool ideas but they aren’t businesses. A lot of creative minds do awesome stuff without the customer focus which is the business- someone has to pay for what you do!
2. It’s not all about the money-
Many people go to business thinking that all a business needs to operate is money. Another bigger group fail to go business citing lack of capital as the largest impediment to their dreams. In as much as funding is a huge problem there’s always money chasing great business ideas. If you have a great talented team, with the right mix of skills, management expertise and operational capacity. The business also has to be scalable-with a huge potential for growth. If you come up with an economically viable business people will invest in your idea! Start, build something then seek help, do not sit there waiting for someone to do it all for you!
3. 3.There’s always support for you.
If you are informed and you know a few right people then there will always be of help. You don’t need the 7 billion people in the world to support and endorse your idea or product, seek the right partners, leverage on their capacity, shouldn’t be cash only, could be their experience, connections, goodwill and influence. Walk into these people with a clear “What’s in it for them” how does what you are doing help them achieve their objectives? There are so many events, conferences, networking forums and organizations whose sole aim is to mentor, coach, train and nurture the skills entrepreneurs amongst the youths.
4. The world is full of opportunities
There’s so much in the world for everyone. Don’t go into business just to make money, do not also do it to change the world; set up a model that fulfills both! Change the world and make money in the right way! That’s where the issue of morals comes in, one good turn deserves another- In a world where 5 billion people live on less than $10 a day the potential for social businesses is huge. Think- from the exercise we did at the innovation cafe I realized just how huge this can be- look at Equity Bank, when James Mwangi (DR) came up with a bank for the 'poor', the un bankable didn’t he do great? he had a target market, tackled a specific need, the idea had a huge social impact and yet economically viable! Think of what you can do to solve the problems we face, scan around for these gaps! Making loads of money is possible; you don't need an Ivy league education to do it BIG!
5. Learning never stops.
If you want to be a change agent like AIESECER'S; then never stop learning! One thing that was very clear from the audience was, we were all there to pick up something from the invited panelists. We never came to just chill out at Serena, we all wanted to LEARN. Never ever think you are too good at something, you could be for sometime however if your desire to learn dies your effectiveness also goes away. Attend forums that challenge you, hang out at places where you meet brilliant people. Keep the company of the great guys and keep learning. When you spend time and rub shoulders with the great people, you leave inspired, that alone helps you develop the iCan do it attitude, you now start believing in your abilities, with the self confidence in you then you can change the world. It all depends on YOU. If you believe in your ideas, keep talking about them, someone else will buy your vision! Keep learning-refresh your mind daily, upgrade!
That was it dear readers, please make sure you join AIESEC, check out Edge Talents business design competition, participate and lets change the WORLD.
After this we had refreshments and I headed home, ooh did I say the event looked like a Strathmore affair? There were a few faces from The University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University- where was the class of 2012 school of business? A few internships were up for grabs by the way-this is where you get opportunities and jobs! Get Social- follow me on twitter @KenyanMarketer and be a #SocialPro!