Ecosystems and start-ups!

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As tasked with “Management strategy” assignment, I was to assess the effects of an ecosystem of any given city of my choice and the challenges that start-ups face during their establishment.

Taking my home city-Kampala (Uganda), which is a highly entrepreneurial society as evidenced by huge numbers of start-ups, and as a requirement, I was to conduct a Skype interview with at least 2 most concerned parties from Kampala city to majorly discuss more of the challenges.

 

  • Interview 1.   An official from the city management (Kampala City Authority), Responsible for the city planning, policy formulation, issuing of trading and business operation licenses and ensuring a generally clean and well planned environment for day to day business operations.

  • Interview 2.  An ecosystems entrepreneur (Incubator), pointed out an issue of lack of funders and the few existing ones are never convinced that the start-up businesses may never break-even.

For start-ups, the two interviews had the following challenges in common.

  • Lack of applicable skilled personnel especially at an executive level
  • Hardships in raising the start-up capital
  • Not enough market, both domestic and foreign for some selected products.
  • The tendency of the community to desist from totally new products on the market which breaks down the start-ups
  • Inadequate skills and training. Unfortunately, many Ugandan universities have not invested enough in courses that would uphold and paved way for new starters and innovators amongst so many others

As an upcoming entrepreneur, this enlightened me of what kind of ecosystem I should prepare for and perhaps should have some mitigative measures in place if I am to successfully firmly establish myself in the Ugandan Market.

Lessons learned.

It is always a good practice to;

  • Study the ecosystem of the society one intends to set up his or his business. For example knowing the weather patterns if you are to be an Agricultural Entrepreneur.
  • Carry out market research before establishment, knowing consumers’ behaviours, testes, and preferences.
  • Know the kind of expertise that is needed at all levels of operations
  • Interact with some stakeholders and those that have enough expertise in business within the same city or society
  • Put up personal measures of raising capital as at times, funders are hard to reach.
  • Ensure that there is a well laid down business strategy to avoid business failures.

 

DCIM100GOPROG0085856.

 

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Beer testing at “Nøgne Ø”, a famous Norwegian brewery company that began it’s operations in a home garage, to Norway’s largest.

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As most of us thought of being innovative just “yesterday”, these Norwegians-Gunnar Wiig and Kjetil Jikiun saw the light as early as 2002.

Fortunately, during my Norwegian study trip, Gunnar Wiig, one of the founders of Nøgne Ø, narrated his young business story in a way that inspired me as an innovation student looking forward to my own business.

As alcohol lovers, they started making their own local beer from a home garage and small quantities. They would always share the local brewery with family, friends and neighbours, who always encouraged them to produce more as their beer really tested as one on the Norwegian market then.

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Their urge to share their passion for a good beer was amazing. They came up with a strategy to bring diversity and innovation into commercial brewing, but this time on a larger scale. A dedicated team of 6 people was selected and assigned roles, conducted market research, and there were only four breweries in Norway and most of the beer was imported from Germany and France. And therefore this gave them hope.

Putting together all their savings and some small contributions from friends and family, in 2003 they put their fast beer on the market. Despite the small sales, they began to produce for export and by 2006, 80% of their products was for export and only 20% for local consumption.

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In 2013, Honsa Borg Bryggerrier, which is the largest group of breweries in Norway, acquired majority share and this paved the way for Nøgne Ø to better reach its customers, both in Norway and outside markets.

Today after just 14 years of existence, Nude Ø;

  • Has a branch in Spain
  • They have over 200 employees in both industries
  • Has over 70 collaborations with other international breweries
  • Rank number 1 out of the 16 breweries in Norway
  • Has 13 brands on the market each brand graded based on bitterness and alcoholic percentage.
  • Export to more than 30 markets
  • Started production from garage to rent and now owns the land and buildings the factory is on.
  • One of their brands won a gold medal as the best bear in Norway.

 

Lessons learned

  • Work as a team with a common goal
  • Inspiration is a good driver
  • Think big
  • I learn to share ideas with selected friends and families
  • The start will always be small and grow later if we are committed
  •  In most cases, we (some inputs) have almost everything needed to start up new businesses, but we’re just lazy. They could easily get commodities (wheat, yeast, etc.)

  • Choose the right team to work with

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My visit to the “two famous start-ups” in London

 

 

My visit to London with the “Entrepreneurship and Growth-Kingston University” class didn’t leave me the same. It was such a great honour to be part of a delegation that visited the two most influential start-ups in London.

  1. “Utilidex” These have the first digital platform that combines billing, trading, and optimization all just in one place and they have transformed several businesses, driven profitability, guided real-time decision making and has opened up a whole new world of smart working. https://www.utilidex.com/your-hub/

  2. NEWCHANGEFX (Data for cost transparency)”. They deal with the management of big data and they also work as custodians, brokers, market brokers, TCA Providers and so on. https://www.newchangefx.com

The most important moment was when I shared my idea of how with the New Change Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Andrew Woolmer, asked him of what his consumer market is here in the UK, as I wanted to start on production exportation of green banana flour from Uganda and his take on the digital currency, if he would advise anyone to join, especially bitcoin.

It was such an inspiration him sharing his experience and how he started and how far he had come.

I remember him saying, “My brother” never let you’re your dreams, always work to achieve your dreams and never worry about those that judge you. However, he further advised me to always take calculated risks and never to put all “my eggs in one basket”…that it is a good practice to usually have a fall-back position.

Basing on my idea of “green banana flour production and exportation”, we exchanged contacts and we have so far had a couple of phone conversations and I am optimistic that everything will work as planned.

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Business card from NEWCHANGEFX Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Andrew Woolmer.

As a group, we thereafter took a London city tour as we assessed its ecosystem.

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Lessons learned

  • I learn never to give up and to always follow my dreams and work courageously to achieve the set goals
  • I learn not to wholly invest all my savings in one venture.
  • Always to seek advice to the most experienced people depending on the area of investment.
  • Never fear to take a risk/s.
  • Look forward to self-employment rather than being employed as Mr. Andrew Woolmer had been for a long time but after mastering the skills, he went independent and he is apparently reaping big.

“Special Thanks to my Tutor Dr Pauline Parker for this great opportunity”.

 

 

 

 

Dragon’s den Pitch and team presentation

As a requirement, we were tasked with both write a report about our team’s product development project, and further, make a presentation to a penal of judges.

As team YOBBAFIC developed a product called Flushies. Flushies is a biodegradable, water soluble, flush away, hygienic product that is used in public toilet facilities and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.

Team brainstorming

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We split tasks and roles and each of us had a significant role to play. As a team, we broke down all the tasks as;

  • Introduction, (Problem and solution)
  • Marketing and Competition
  • Finance and Pricing and
  • Product design and packaging

Flushies packaging

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The most complicated section was the finance, but with the combined effort and team work, we were able to come up with most meaningful and appropriate figures.

We had had challenges as Yobbafic especially with finding the rightful material for “Flushies” however we come up with quite a number of prototypes made from different materials, which we used on our day of the presentation.

 

Some of the prototypes

As part of my personal assignment, I was tasked to work on the marketing bit and also come up with SWOT analysis for our product as this was as illustrated below.

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Lessons learned

  • We learned how to work as a team and meet deadlines
  • To promptly manage time.
  • Self-confidence and believing in ourselves
  • How to fully take responsibility for the assignment allocated
  • We learned some marketing strategies and technics i.e B2B approach
  • Learned factors considered in product pricing e.g factors of production.
  • How to assess the existing competitor without their knowledge
  • Market research
  • Identifying the most appropriate media platform for our product put into consideration the targeted market among others

Material choice for designers

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Designers especially those that are into fashion and textile ought to always look out for unique and rightful materials in order to come up with totally different and unique products. With intentions of outcompeting other competitors, some designers no matter the factor of production will always look out for particular ways of branding their company name and products, different from the ones on the market.

As a design thinker, I was blessed when my class recently had a workshop on innovative materials where we were privileged to receive a material expert, Mr.James Burchill.

Some materials were said to be products of;

  • Wood:     Bendy wood, Plato wood, Tricoya, kraftplex, 3D veneers, Accoya etc
  • Concrete: Hempcrete, self-healing concrete, Light transmitting concrete, Photo engraved concrete, CO2 absorbing concrete, etc
  • Metal: shape memory alloys, Aluminium Honey Comb, Metall FX, 3D sheet metal forming, Photo printed aluminum etc
  • Plastics: Radiant light film, Teflon, Orimetric, Hydrospan, sharp memory foam etc
  • Textile: 3D textiles, Synthetic leather etc

Diffirent material display

Material showcasing

These materials have different products of totally different “touch and feel” and their physical appearance is as an Innovation Management student, I highly found this workshop as helpful as I managed to interact with the “unique material expert”.

Given the nature of my future project where I am to come up with a “toilet paper” material to use in the production of a modified and unique toilet seat flushable covers called Flushies, I greatly appreciate the opportunity for I have managed to identify the rightful material to use.

Lessons learned.

  • There are number different materials that a designer can opt for.
  • Can take a market lead by using different unique designs to come up with totally different products.
  • There are lots of unknown material/fabrics but designers need to invest more time in searching for them.

 

Having “Plan B” for a timely project delivery.

Learning of how to come up with a successful well planned project or a desirable product of your choice within a specified period of time.

It was an amazing lesson to be lectured about having an alternative to whatever idea or plan in design thinking and in product development in particular. My lecturer, Alice taught me to always have a backup plan (Plan B) to “lean on” just in case of failures of the already opted one.She further gave tips stating that at times things never move on as planned or anticipated and this may end up totally frustrating the whole project despite inputs and efforts.

Some Technological measures such as the use of Gantt charts by setting different tasks along with their scheduled duration of completion, and also setting timelines and deadlines for the different progress processes are vital in any product development if a timely product is to be attained. The Gantt chart

However, it is a good idea to always considerably consider the different pros and cons of each alternative considering the following factors.

  • Recourses (financial & human)
  • Expertise
  • Technologies involved
  • Emerging of competitors
  • Targeted Audience, etc

I am now certainly sure that relying on one option is not the best way achieve intended results and in cases of failure, a huge setback is realized and to my surprise, there is tool/ application called Smart sheet that one can download on their smart phones and use at no cost.

It is therefore always a good practice for companies and individuals especially at startup stage, to have alternative options for their projects to avoid last minute disappointments.

 

 

 

THE MASTER of NEW IDEAS, “what a Legacy”!

The below process of solving problems has greatly built up my mind with ideas with few or no limits on breadth during “brainstorming”.

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It has been a couple of weeks since I launched into “BLOGGING” as a Masters student of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at Kingston University. At one time, I didn’t know much about Design thinking and Innovation but understanding Design thinking as a process, coupled with several group exercises and assignments, have tuned me to the right Channel, setting me as not only a blogger but also as an Innovator and a great design thinker.

Some of the prototypes and sketches that we (as a team) have managed to come up with.

 

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Today, in my numerous individual group discussions, I often bring the design thinking concept to the forefront aiming at the quality of results it can bring about, an aspect that has made me stand out.

With this design thinking framework as shown, lots of different ideas have always come up inform of prototypes, in which our group project emerged.

I have realized that today, I have so many ideas that I think I would have never discovered if it wasn’t for this course. For example, I learned how to “make it rain” and perhaps by the end of my course, I will have learned how to “make it snow”.

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I must appreciate that working in groups is the masterpiece of well thought off unique ideas that can cause totally/ a new look/idea of any business or in any venture…………….what’s your assessment!??

 

2. Market penetration and prompt decision making for New International Ventures.

As far as international entrepreneurship is concerned, consideration of interdisciplinary areas based on international business and new venture start-ups is highly a key note. International road map of entrepreneual businesses attracts attention to any company’s decision to penetrate any international platforms, and majorly it considers small firms that are involved in cross-border business practices.

Cross-border business engagements in international start-up business is mainly concerned with the flow of goods and services and both macro and micro capital levels.

With International new ventures start-up/entrepreneurship, decision making is highly influenced by a number of key factors;

  • Price- How much will your intended product cost on a given market. Will it be affordable? Is it appealing in front of the customers, Will it solve a given problem that perhaps, your intended customers have suffered for some time?
  • Place or Location. It is always ideal to bling your services/product closer to the intended clients or in a relative reachable area of operation.
  • Promotion; It’s a good practice for any business to throw promotions, incentives and after sale services to the clients as a way of attracting them to your product.
  • Marketing program. Always have an appropriate marketing strategy for your service or product. Know the type of clients your targeting depending on the product or service offered.
  • Product type. Different products attract different customers. Therefore, for any start-up venture business to realise good results, the entrepreneur should be in position to produce a certain product that will properly fit perhaps the standards, of good quality, acceptable in a given society, etc.

 

However, the above number of factors are predominantly determined by some environmental forces.

These include;

  • Technological forces- basically concerned with the levels of technology involved. The better the technology the better the product.
  • Regulatory forces. This is majorly concerned with the government policies. It should be noted that there are business ventures that entrepreneurs are allowed to engage themselves in. For example manufacturing and supply of fire arms. Therefore, whatever business entrepreneurs seek to venture into, should be compliant with the government rules and regulations.
  • Social forces. Products should be socially acceptable in a given environment. For example, it is a bad ideas to set up a sausage packaging plant in an Islamic community.
  • Competitive forces. Any entrepreneur should have a unique technique of how they intend to penetrate and out compete the existing firms that may be dealing in the same product.
  • Economic forces. The current economic trends of in a given state where an entrepreneur intends to venture.
  • It should be noted that it is very key to notably be aware of the economic situation of a particular state of interest.
  • Therefore, we ascertain that decision making to venture into internationalization of businesses by firms needs a strategic approach as these businesses go beyond their domestic markets.

3. Innovation lessons focus.

With great concern, I have learnt that there is an urgent need for both individuals and public institutions to be ahead of the game in championing innovation and its processes and be fully aware of innovation technology and its potential towards economic development of any state.

Institutions must focus more on vocational training rather than simply preparing students for office jobs.

Over the last few years, it has become evident that without innovation/innovative entrepreneurs, states would be economically crippling and perhaps at the verge of being called “failed states”.

Otherwise in the next decade, understanding what innovation technology does, how to use it and where its limitations lie will prove critical for those running businesses, working in firms and providing public services.

As a result, government policy-makers at all levels would do well to appreciate its implications.

As one way of catching up with technological trends as well as globalization, the East African countries held a summit held in Kampala-Uganda http://www.asenti.org

The Summit aimed goals were to create a platform which enhances idea sharing and interaction amongst sectors in order for entrepreneurs to be a catalyst for innovation and economic growth in Africa and the world at large.

In conclusion, a point was reached that the future of any economy especially in Africa setting, lies on greatly on entrepreneurial and innovation mind-set.

It is therefore a great idea that Entrepreneurs or producers, of course empowered by their respective Governments, should spare some ample time with the potential clients and gain an understanding of what they exactly desire and their actual expectations to give a clear direction on perhaps motivation for new inventions and innovation that would probably be relevant in a particular Economy though some businesses often don’t see a clear link between innovation management and profitable growth.

Probably in such cases, it is often worth using appropriate case studies of similar companies or industrial sectors to help put ‘innovation’ into context.

We therefore ought to know that;

  • Innovation drives the productivity and performance of business, and can help you grow and improve your business.
  • Normally, Innovation calls for a flesh design thinking (re-design), improving or replacing business processes to increase efficiency and productivity which creates avenues for production of unique products.
  • Consumers or Customers are so significant in determining levels of innovation in a particular Economy and therefore consulting and engaging them for great ideas especially on their testes and preferences is very fundamental especially an infant stage.

References:

1. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN-hso_voeI, n.d.) 2.<http://www.docshare.com/doc/103365/Exploring-Corporate-Strategy-in-Marks-and-Spe&gt; (n.d) [16 June 2011]

3. (http://www.asenti.org/, 2017)

4. Chetty, S., & Campbell, H.C. (2003). Paths to Internationalization among Small and Medium-sized Firms – A Global versus Regional Approach. European Journal of Marketing, 37, 796-820.

The understanding and use of “Lean canvas” in the creation of new knowledge for Innovation.

A Lean canvas refers to the adaptation of business modal that promises an actionable and entrepreneur-focused business plan.

http://www.ashmaurya.com/2012/02/why-lean-canvas/

With its various segments, namely; Problem (issue at hand that needs a solution)

  • Solution (Mitigation measures to solve the existing problem)
  • Customer segments (What category/group of clients is one targeting)
  • Channels (Ways in which one tends to deliver specific goods to the clients)
  • Cost structure (what costs are involved in the process)
  • Key metrics etc, in my group exercise, we discussed and brainstormed of our 2 products (starters /project products-details withheld) by the use of “Lean canvas” and below were our findings.

lean canvas

I should be observed that in order for innovators to take the right courses of action for their business, there is a number of distinct processes which are complementary pieces of a large “canvas” that have to be considered in order to come up with the most desirable and competitive product.

The information behaviors that “canvas” holds, is analyzed in each approach and is linked into a richer explanation of information used in businesses or organizations.

Through knowledge creation and use of this “canvas”, I learned that the insights of individuals especially customers/clients should be converted into knowledge that can be used to design new products or improve performance.

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A guiding sample of a business model Canvas

The effects of culture on innovation and design thinking

As I dug deep in search for more knowledge into various books and journals of Innovation and Design thinking, I “landed” on a statement by one consultant by the names of Peter Drucker who once said that “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

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This means that we can come up with all the strategies that we wish but it’s our corporate culture that ultimately drives the success of any business or idea.

Therefore, it is always wise for us to keep a close observation of our corporate cultures otherwise, our teams might possess brilliant ideas but unless we have a reliable process to grow and sustain a creative culture, these ideas may never see the light of day.

To this above, there are various ways of instilling a corporate culture that any Innovator/Inventor must put to use or practice.

  • The management style. For example, if the manager uses the controlling style, the company is perceived to want immediate results whereas, if the manager uses the leadership style, the company is perceived to rank employees high on the priority list.
  • Word of mouth. This could involve telling your employees about your company’s founder.
  • Managerial climate. Together with the management style, the actions of a manager are essential in establishing a corporate culture. For example, the actions and reactions of the manager pertaining employees’ discipline, support, rewards, and concerns have a great effect.
  • Company policies and standards. These can be a great impact on the reputation of the company. For example, the practice of the company to emphasize the aspect of taking a customer as “number one” priority portrays the fact that the companies care about its customers

blog6.It is, therefore, a good practice for teams to learn and apply the aspect of culture into innovation and design thinking, a reliable process that supports ongoing ideation and helps build creative cultures.

Talking about how to innovatively save the cycling society

Time and again, some cyclists are troubled with how to show the drivers, fellow cyclists, and pedestrians on how to alert them by indicating their next branch off point/s.

In my group, in a given time frame, we tasked ourselves to find a solution to the above problem so we could help our society.

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As we discussed and carried out our group field and physical study, we found out that a good number of cyclists actually do not have indicators on their bikes and therefore resort to using their hands to show other road users their next direction which may result into loss of control by the cyclist, and may result into accidents hence loss of life.

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 Cyclists trying to alert other road users about their next turn points

To avoid would be remedied, we suggested and came up with the idea of designing reflective indicators. These indicators would be powered by a dynamo, with a complete circuit connection that would be triggered by the power button placed to adjacent to the handlebars, upon the cyclist, a particular button would be pressed at a time.  Cyclists would buy these indicators as extra spares at an extra but affordable cost, all aimed at safeguarding their lives.

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A Sketch drawing of the proposed reflective indicators (In red colour)

This would be more applicable especially to late night cyclists and on quite busy roads to avoid speeding vehicles from accidentally “sweeping” them off the road.                                Cycling in the Dark