Blog Post: Theories On Unlocking The African Tech Ecosystem
One of the things the CanGo team believes is that the African technology and startup ecosystem is still in its infancy with best practices still being pioneered.
While as a company CanGo seeks to be a model in following business best practices, we also believe that making use of our existing experience via lessons learned by our practical experience in Kinshasa, Kigali and Nairobi markets can be catalysts in unlocking the maximum economic and impact opportunity for the company.
The following are sets of concepts CanGo brings in our business approach that we feel others working on business success in the region may find helpful. If you have any disagreement or pushback we’d love to hear from you, feel free to drop a line to [email protected]
In no particular order:
- Whichever company listens / builds closest to users will build better products
- Jumia has their tech team in Portugal. Most technology approaches execute on design languages pioneered for the Californian middle class. CanGo believes a tight feedback loop between user experience research and in market software engineers who bring their own awareness of local realities will make technology friendlier to use, minimize funnel loss and make the office an an engine of innovation. CanGo is practicing what we preach as we’ve transferred from an Indian / European tech back office to a Nairobi based team.
- The company with the best culture wins
- Talent is challenging to find anywhere in the world, but this is doubly hard in Africa with braindrain to the West and cities that are often expensive with a low ranking on international livability indexes. We believe that a mission driven culture can flip these realities on its head: by having a culture that empowers employees by prioritizing mission alignment between personal goals and business goals, employees will be happy, the company will be able to hire top notch talent and a company can rise above rivals in employee innovation and retention.
- For business opportunity to be unlocked the economic pie in Africa needs to get bigger
- CanGo seeks to be a part of building a greater economic business opportunity in Africa by building value rather than extracting value. Right now, the economic pie is very small in Africa. The economy of Seattle has a larger GDP than the DRC with almost 90 million people: it’s hard for businesses to decide to focus on Sub Saharan Africa when its opportunity is still so nascent. However, this is an opportunity as well, since it means that there is so much scope for longterm growth while the competitive playing field is still open. CanGo believes that businesses instead of focusing on winning the economic pie of today should focus on bringing / scaling new products to market so that they win the larger economic pie of tomorrow.
- Instead of ten companies providing ten services, one company should provide ten services
- Lean startup methodology focuses on narrow products that fit a market opening and scale quickly. However, in Africa where the services ecosystem is still by and large in its infancy, this is not an option. CanGo believes that this is not a challenge but an opportunity, as shown by our current strategy. We believe that controlling multiple logically connected services (IE anything that can move on a bike, digital payments, etc) ascan create efficiencies, create a more defensible market positioning and bring more value to customers who benefit from a one stop shop.
- Individual cities if won absolutely can be long term defensible monopolies
- While tech companies like the myth of genius, it’s quite accepted that the real secret to the sky high valuations of technology companies is discovering natural monopolies. CanGo believes that interconnected services scaled together quickly within a single city will be a defensible natural monopoly over the longterm.
- Continuous improvement needs to be in the DNA of every process
- CanGo believes that a company does not stay the same: it either becomes better or worse. Therefore, continuous improvement needs to be built into every process of the company.
- Technology is just one of many tools
- CanGo believes that technology is a disruptive tool that is unique in its capacity to scale products rapidly. However, CanGo is flexible to use other approaches if technology is not the right tool for a task at hand.
- The best startup teams right now are founded by a mixture of local
- Obviously we’re a bit partial here as CanGo is founded by a Canadian and a Kenyan, and we’re certainly not saying this is a rule written in stone. What we’ve experienced is that a local founder, who understand the market, brings connections and can place themselves in the minds of users, paired with an international founder who has seen other markets and doesn’t take entrenched consumer habit as inviolable means that when addressing the challenges of growing a business you’ve got multiple lenses to see the problem through.
- Business is war and it’s either win or be beaten
- The technology startup ecosystem in Africa can sometimes feel just a bit too cozy. If it’s the endless ‘pitch competitions’ or the fact that grants fund a disproportionate amount of startup it seems like often the animal spirits the drive the worlds greatest companys are missing from the DNA. This is a concern, since one of the biggest challenges for a startup is to validate a market or product then have a more primal company enter the market and eat that startups lunch. It’s time for companies to feel second place to no one and focus on winning as a binary challenge, with either win or be beaten.
- We believe that Africa’s most successful company will be the one which uses technology to make African bottom of the pyramid users make more money
- The bottom of the pyramid is defined by having low purchasing power and low discretionary income, which makes them not well suited to the consumer products that thrive in America / Europe. However, this segment of the population is enormously hungry for economic opportunity and whichever company unlocks this will be positioned to become Africa’s most successful company. The killer app for Africa is going to be the app that can open up the economic ladder.
For the team team at CanGo we believe that right now is the most exciting time to be running a startup in Sub Saharan Africa. The demographic future of the world is going to be centered on the continent and we believe that there is a unique opportunity to develop a culture of business that is an evolution rather than a dependency of global business best practices. We’ll be happy to see how many of the above hypotheses are validated, wrong or evolve as we seek to unlock success for CanGo.