It has been a very busy year for the young Kaveto Tjatjara, founder of Worldview Technologies a social enterprise that is working on providing innovative solutions for sanitation problems in Namibia. Having just recently returned from the US where Kaveto was one of the recipients of the Mandela Washington Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Fellowships, we catch up with him to see what’s cooking.
What stage was Worldview at before winning the pitching competition and where is it going now?
Before the pitching competition, Worldview Technology had just received equity free investment from a sponsor in Namibia through a business competition which was searching for the top 5 most viable business plans in the country. We were selected as one of them! After the pitching competition we experienced a lot of growth. The growth was catalysed by connecting us to an entrepreneurial community, workshops and a support system for early stage ventures. Especially when it comes to selling your idea to an audience in a very limited amount of time, my public speaking skills improved as I received training through the SAIS Programme. Currently, our company is spending a lot of time on research & development of the NEST (Namibia Eco-Sustainable Toilet) and running a lot of tests to validate our business model. In early August, we begun a freemium model pilot with a family of four that was sharing a toilet with 1,000 people. The test is running well and we are receiving feedback directly from the people we are trying to help on how we can improve our product
That’s very encouraging that your innovation is already impacting people. So what do you believe are challenges that early stage entrepreneurs face, which you have also experienced?
I believe one of the biggest challenges that early stage entrepreneurs face is working on fancy solutions that nobody really cares about. We did that mistake by first building a product without validating if a problem really exists that people are willing to pay you money to fix. There are a lot of great ideas and technologies out there but these products die on the shelf because they did not spend time asking if people really need that service or product. The other challenges such as lack of access to funding, access to information, training and mentorship are some of the well-documented obstacles faced by startups in Namibia.
So how has the exposure gained from attending Slush changed your approach to entrepreneurship?
Attending one of the largest startup festivals in Europe was a turning point in my entrepreneurial journey. It gave me insight into where technology is going in the next 5 years and how my company can best position itself to benefit from the disruption that is coming. At Slush, I also saw the differences in what entrepreneurs in Europe are doing. For example they are solving problems like how to get pizza faster to their homes or faster delivery of packages. In contrast, the entrepreneurs from Africa were solving completely different problems such as access to affordable housing and electricity or even adequate sanitation. But that's what entrepreneurs do, they solve problems in innovative ways and are rewarded for that.
What opportunities do you believe are available for African entrepreneurs? How would you advice them to take their startups to the next level?
As an entrepreneur you should rejoice to live in a place where there are a lot of problems. Which means there are a lot of opportunities for you to use your skills and solve these problems. In general Africa still has a lot of problems for both entrepreneurs and the state to fix. There are great opportunities in Fintech and Agritech. As I mentioned earlier, you need to validate if you are solving a real problem, talk to the people, build your prototype, give it to them to test, receive feedback, improve and repeat the process.
But be willing to pivot, that's how we can take our companies to the next level .
Worldview Technologies handing over newly installed toilets for residents at a informal settlement in Windhoek, Namibia