Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Third World Networkers guide to 'startups'

Everyone In Kenya tends to be involved in one form of business or another. Whether you know it or not, all those 'trials' are startups. Most never make it. Sad.

I have no illusions. A startup is not yet really a business. it's more like checking out the market, getting customers, working towards structures trying to figure out a repeatable business model that when finally found should be able to replicate and keep growing ideally without much of the founders day to day baby sitting.

Since I work for a tech. company and really didnt feel like muddling the 'disclosure' waters, our first startup was a farm:-), because I love being in one. We've done some really crazy experiments, figured out how the local vs export market works for passion fruits, tomatoes and green beans (michiri:-)).

I know what a charcoal cooler is, I know how irrigation works, we have customers. Things look good over there. But how do you start transitioning this to a 'business'. It's two years down the line, the structures and processes are in place and you'll be surprised at how much a farming business is alot like umm a tech business (those lessons are coming in handy at another forum right now).

So anyway, we 'the founders/shareholders' had to come up with roles for each of us, remember this is a farm so one of us had to pretty much 'live there', I did the financials and other tech stuff - like arranging for irrigation, automating it where possible, we had one other partner dealing with our 'partners' and labor. It's worked well. We tried to 'follow a typical business' cycle - heck we even filled a business model canvas - more on this later ( and I'll never do any business again without fully going through the process).
Business model canvas - work with it!
Why this, why now - well, there's alot of hooha on startups and entrepreneurship in Kenya today. It's really awesome. Alot of it is noise and people hoping to make things work. Since there's a really high chance I'll be going 'that' way this time for a tech company, It is interesting to try and co-relate the tech and farm.

This will also form a guide on what I finally settle and decide to do academically! - don't ask....:-)The basics are the same.

They are both businesses, they both call on leadership skills - so the leaders ability to articulate the vision,The right kind of ambition and an ability to achieve the said vision. I'm still putting together a proper story (I like stories and believe if I cant tell a nice clear story about my plans, agenda then my vision and strategy are blurred and there's probably going to be a misunderstanding).

I just love the idea of creating a culture, setting clear objectives, manage expectations - all things I have been learning but can't really exercise where I work .... and Im also scared and worried - the usual....

Oh well...i guess just a filler post today....and not quite a guide now is it:-)

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