“Building a company is like sailing. You can try and navigate the best you can, but ultimately you are venturing boldly to the unknown.” With these words Moaffak Ahmed, a serial entrepreneur and the Chairman of the Board at The Shortcut introduced the 2-day workshop for impact-driven start-ups in Windhoek, Namibia as School of Startups wrapped up its African tour with Slush GIA in Namibia with the help of Fablab Namibia.
Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS 2) facilitated the participation of SAIS Connected Hubs scouted startups who are part of the Slush Global Impact Accelerator (Slush GIA). Two startup representatives from SomaApp from Tanzania and AgriPredict from Zambia joined Namibian startups invited by Fablab to seek guidance from top experts from Finland in both business and design, Moaffak Ahmed and Michihito Mizutani, a lead service and UX designer from Siili Solutions.
Moaffak took the early-stage start-ups on a journey on a variety of topics in business. Referring to Paul Graham, the founder of the one of the worlds leading startup incubators, Y Combinator, Moaffak provided the definition to a startup as “a company designed to grow fast.” In his conversational style, Moaffak discussed important topics such as team-building and management, customer identification and business models, which he reflected on using his own entrepreneurship experience. Wrapping up, he shared with the group the perspective of investors. Most importantly what investors look for is that the start-up is solving an important problem in a unique way. For an investor to be interested, the market size needs to be big enough for the startup to be attractive.
Moaffak Ahmed giving an overview of what risk taking in entrepreneurship is all about
On the second day Michihito Mizutani introduced design thinking methods and customer centered design in an interactive workshop. Using various exercises ranging from the empathy map or creating tomorrow’s headlines to clarify the vision for the company, the entrepreneurs delved into understanding their customers and how to better service them.
Michihito Mizutani discussing design thinking with startups
“These methods are completely new to us, and we are learning a lot about the mindset of an entrepreneur focusing on the customers’ needs”, stated Isaya Yunge, CEO and co-founder of SomaApp. The participants’ creativity was awakened by various exercises, for example one where they needed to come up with the most eccentric ways to deliver a banana. The main message of the day was summed up in the famous quote by Don Norman, “Build something on day one. Learn early, learn often.” Slush GIA will continue with online coaching modules leading up to the Slush GIA Bootcamp week in Helsinki, Finland on 27 November to 3 December 2018, and the main tech conference Slush on 4-5 December. “This coaching completely exceeded my expectations”, Mwila Kangwa, founder of AgriPredict said. “It is so valuable to hear from real entrepreneurs about their personal journey.”