Some Knowledge Hacks for African Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs[i]
I know, I know. I have missed a few installments of my column lately. My wife just reminded me of that. I travelled to Singapore on a weeklong due diligence assignment last month. I came back scrambling to catch up with work. Then Sandy hit Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. That has thrown a lot of things of course as the region recovers.
Since this column tries to be useful to African startups and the founders of those startups, I think we might as well use this break to discuss the numerous resources out there that are removing the barriers to entry that use to impede the process of starting and successfully building a technology enabled startup.
The rest of this article will offer a non-exhaustive list of resources that I hope you will find useful in your effort to increase the odds that your startup succeeds and graduates from being a startup to becoming a company. You’ll need to bring your own cocktail of motivation and perseverance, but this information is free. Also, this is just a start. I am sure there’s a lot more out there that I do not know about.
- Teach Yourself – resources for learning computer science and other subjects for free.
- Udacity – Steve Blank will teach you how to build a startup for free.
- Coursera – Take classes from some of the world’s best universities for free.
- Udemy – Offers a mix of paid and free classes. Marissa Mayer’s New Product Development Process is free right now, so hurry.
- edX – This non-profit enterprise was founded by MIT and Harvard. It offers courses from leading universities in the United States “for anyone, anywhere, anytime.” There are courses from MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and The University of Texas System.
- Steve Blank’s Startup Tools – an extremely helpful and convenient list of almost everything you might need to get your startup off the ground.
- Know and Understand Your Business Model
- Yours truly has written about this at substantial length. You can get all my posts on the subject in one convenient package here: Tekedia – What Is Your Business Model? (Series Compilation).
- Business Model Generation – the best book on developing and understanding business models that I have come across. You can get a free preview. I use the business model canvas to understand every startup I decide to research in any amount of detail. I also use the business model canvas as a first step in seeking areas of business model risk. Note: The website did not load when I tried it while writing this article. The free preview of the book is available on slideshare and scribd.
- Running A Lean Startup – The Lean Startup is transforming how startups are built and run. There may be a #leanstartup movement in a city near you. If not, start one.
- Resources suggested by US Venture Capitalists, and some blogs you might find useful. The US blogs below offer content that is general enough to benefit an African startup founder.
- Venture Capital for Africa – Ben White and the VC4Africa crew have built a communit connecting entrepreneurs and investors. This link will take you to their blog. Ben White is based in Douala.
- Afrinnovator – Mbwana Alliy and his counterparts at Afrinnovator blog about African startups and innovation. Mbwana is also the founder and managing partner Savannah Fund, an Africa focused technology venture capital fund.
- Above the Crowd – if you read only one article on Bill Gurley’s blog read All Revenue Is Not Created Equal: The Keys To The 10X Revenue Club.
- This is Going to be BIG – Charlie O’Donnell’s blog. Charlie just launched Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, a seed stage venture capital fund. Full disclosure: my employer is a limited partner in BBV. Charlie is based in Brooklyn, NY.
- Entrepreneurial Resources – from Khosla Ventures, a US venture capital fund.
- Startup Revolution: Startup Communities – Brad Feld’s book on startup communities is worth reading, and this is a good way to keep abreast with developments in the startup ecosystem around the world. Brad also blogs at FeldThoughts and Ask the VC. Brad is based in Denver, Colorado.
- Accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces
- AfriLabs – this is a partnership that connects technology incubators in Kamapala, Nairobi, Douala, Accra, Lagos. The goal is to bring technologists, hackers, investors and startups together. Full disclosure: I am connected to almost every member of the board of directors in some way, though I have only ever met one of them in person.
Let’s talk again in two weeks. On deck? The first phase of the Customer Discovery Process – Business Model Hypotheses, Chapter 4 of The Startup Owner’s Manual Vol. 1: The Step –by-step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
[i] Any mistakes in quoting from my sources are entirely mine.