Techpreneurs are doing a good job, fund their ideas


MobiLab co-founder Samuel Kamau (right) with his counterpart Patrick during last week’s Demo Africa conference in Nairobi. Billy Mutai

I had the honour of moderating a number of sage panels, composed of thought leaders, opinion shapers and individuals who are investing in the technology and entrepreneurship space in Kenya.

Each panel was hosted after a number of presenters put up a case for the business they were launching.
Of note is that while the format of Demo conferences is skewed more to service or product showcase, this issue of business models always found a place in each and every panel, with the explanation that capital and other resources will follow a good business and not just a good idea.
This should change one’s thinking, when you realise that it is indeed in the business that the focus should be and not idea.

Unfortunately, we are wired to think that novelty, and “newness” are what really matters, hence the unspoken struggle by technology entrepreneurs to create the next Facebook instead of looking at perhaps a differentiated business model to a problem or issues that while yet addressed could use some refreshed thinking.

This calls for the activation of two key components that have been missing at many of the events organised to distill the essence of what will hopefully be the source of many globally acclaimed services.

These two components are legal and finance innovation. On the legal front, I am not alluding to protecting of intellectual property, but the creation of instruments output by well thought out wording and structure that will allow for businesses to engage in “business unusual”.

On finance, I take a side step from the angel investors, venture capitalists and other equity vehicles and land on the turf of our traditional institutions — banks.

We can rework the project financing models that our banks have been using to support entrepreneurs who have won a tender or such other big contracts and have them work for new business environments borne from technological developments and changing rules of engagement.

Melting pots

A start-up would, for example, identify a government cost centre whose impact it will reduce by deploying its innovation.
The model used by the start-up would be one where the government pays a percentage of the accrued savings.

A properly structured contract would then be presented to the bank to finance the deployment to the said solution.

I may have overly simplified this, but the gist is that we need more legal and banking sector representation at the many melting pots of tech interaction to allow us come full circle in creating new and differentiated business models.

Mr Njihia is CEO of Symbiotic. Twitter - @mbuguanjihia.