UPDATED: Some Knowledge Hacks for African Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs[i]
My post on knowledge hacks turned out to be very popular. So I decided to update it with information that I should have remembered to include in the original post in the first place. My excuse? Well, that was a minimum viable product. Consider this an iteration.
1. 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.”
- Academic Earth – offers video of actual class lectures for courses offered at some of the best universities in the United States.
- Codecademy is focused on teaching programming.
- The Open University of West Africa – this non-profit partners with some of the organizations I have already listed above. It offers certificate programs in computer science and entrepreneurship. It runs internet cafes for its students. The first café is in Accra, but others will be opened soon according to its website. It also runs a contest that results in seed funding a student-founded startup.
2. Startup Tools
- Steve Blank’s Startup Tools – a convenient list of almost everything you might need to get your startup off the ground.
- Open Source Entrepreneurship – Steve Blank shares a plethora of material aimed at making it easier for any one to become an entrepreneur.
3. 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. If the website does not load for you as well the free preview of the book is also available on slideshare and scribd.
- Lean Canvas – The business model canvas adapted for lean startups. There’s a free plan. Take advantage of it.
- 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. While you are doing that you should read Not Every Startup Should be a Lean Startup or Embrace the Pivot by Marc Andreessen.
- Collective Action and Social Change – Frog Design’s Collective Action Toolkit is targeted at non-profits and social change organizations. I suspect there are ideas within its pages that African entrepreneurs can use. Specifically, it should come in handy for social entrepreneurs trying to solve some of the continent’s pressing problems. The toolkit is free.
4. 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 community connecting entrepreneurs and investors. This link will take you to their blog. Ben White is based in Douala, Cameroon.
- Afrinnovator – Mbwana Alliy and his counterparts at Afrinnovator blog about African startups and innovation. Mbwana is also the founder and managing partner of Savannah Fund, an Africa focused technology venture capital fund. You can find Savannah’s list of resources here.
- 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.
- Paul Graham’s Blog – If you read only one article on Paul Graham’s blog read How To Get Startup Ideas. Paul runs Y Combinator.
- Both Sides of The Table – This is Mark Suster’s blog. Begin with Start-up Advice. You might find “In The Beginning” and “Do You Still Need A Business Plan To Start A Company?” especially interesting.
- Ben’s Blog – is penned by Ben Horowitz, co-founder and partner of Andreessen Horowitz.
- Chris Dixon – is the eponymous blog of its author. He lives in New York City.
- 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.
- The Startup Toolkit is a blog maintained by Rob Fitzpatrick. He’s based in London.
- Entrepreneurial Resources – From Khosla Ventures, a US venture capital fund.
- Venture Capital Resources – From Enterprise Partners Venture Capital, a US venture capital fund. I used the intellectual property guidelines booklet for an assignment at work, and I have posted a link to a video lecture by the author at the Facebook page mentioned at the end of this article.
- 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 where he is a managing director at the Foundry Group.
- Wall Street Journal Blogs – The Accelerators – the WSJ gathers commentary from startup gurus about various topics.
5. Accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces
- AfriLabs – this is a partnership that connects technology incubators in Kampala, Nairobi, Douala, Accra, Lagos and other cities in Africa. 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.
- Hubs in Africa is a crowdmap of African technology hubs, innovation hubs, hackerspaces, and co-working spaces by BongoHive using Ushahidi. If you know about some that they have not captured yet please let them know.
6. Pitch Like Your Startup Depends On It
- The Best Startup Pitches (2012 Edition) – this article from Business Insider includes video and briefly explains why the author thinks the pitch qualifies for the list.
- Pitch Envy – This is a gallery of startup pitch decks. The pitch deck for Square and Foursquare can be found here.
7. The Startup Genome Project
- The Startup Genome Project – This is a huge project designed to collect and analyze data about startups, entrepreneurship and innovation around the world. Its founders say they want to crack the code of innovation. They publish their research findings in reports that you can download. One report analyzes why many startups die prematurely and another discusses and ranks startup ecosystems around the world.
8. Intellectual Property on A Budget
- If you are designing and inventing hardware you now do not need to spend tens of thousands of dollars in order to protect your invention with a patent. The same is true for trademarks you wish to protect. Companies like Invntree are making IP legal services more attainable for startups that do not have the budget for IP work that could potentially add up to $15,000 or more in attorneys’ fees plus the fees charged by the USPTO. Think a mere fraction of that, at most – hundreds of dollars. I know. That’s still expensive for the average African entrepreneur, but you never know when you might need to protect your IP. Please do your own homework, and do some due diligence. I am not making a public recommendation of Invntree, just citing them as an example of what’s available. There are probably other firms that offer similar services at similar rates. Do some research to discover what else is out there.
Let’s talk again in two weeks.
[i] Any mistakes in quoting from my sources are entirely mine.