Pivot East 2012 – Views from the Back of the Pitching Hall..

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Pivot East Came…they competed, there were winners and there were losers.. After long reflection, it is time to give some thoughts on what took place and the lessons learned.   Pivot East gave the budding entrepreneurs and developers a platform to expose their innovations, ideas and startups to the whole world. Due that , there are  a number of issues which came up…

Time to define clearly what Innovation is

Anytime you get to go to any of these tech forums you feel like there is always a need to redefine everything and  no word requires the act of redefining more than “innovation”. I think at the moment tech sector is in a cross road and almost everything needs to redefined or given a new name.

According to Bob Collymore  the CEO of Safaricom , Innovation is about identifying a need, working through the Customer’s insights and meeting the particular need. Bob think that simply doing something clever with technology is not innovation..not all

According to some definition which at the moment I cant remember where I got it from:

Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a new idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself. Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different (Lat. innovare: “to change”) rather than doing the same thing better

Ok..now it is clear and I dare say that 99 % of the pitches made on the  Pivot East can not be called innovative…The better terms would be  improvement, Copy pasting, Copy Cut, Repetition, stolen, grabbed, hijacked.. On the same note idea is just an idea and what matters is the execution.. We better wait for their execution or lack of…

 

Broken  Ecosystem

What we have is an ecosystem which is close to a man eat man society.. The big guns want to remain a head and looking on how  to keep the small fish down at all cost. The small fish think their ideas will be stolen with the big guns and the middle men are going crazy on how to take advantage of the situation. Yes, this is a fact that even Safaricom, which is in the Kenyan context is among the biggest of them all acknowledged . Bob Collymore “The players on the tech industry in Kenya still don’t think like an ecosystem” How do we fix this broken relationship?

It is important that each player within the ecosystem understand their roles. There are  Device manufacturers, there are  mobile network operators, there are the coders/developers, there are the Entrepreneurs , there are the Investors and there are Publishers. You can make  perfect combination  and seamless working formula out of all these guys but first they have to understand that each group  need to play their roles. According to some within the industry, the broken relationship within the ecosystem  is the reason why there are no great successful stories to tell apart from Ushahidi and Mpesa.

Show me the Money…I just want to win

In every competition, there are  a number of apps which enter the competition with the aim of winning. And with the nature of any competition, there will always be those who win and those who lose. Unfortunately, some of the apps are made for competitions and after the competition the majority of the losers take the easy route..death. In some cases even the winners head to the same direction. Big  lesson here, people should  not make applications for competition, build a business case for application from day one. Technology is the easy part, business is the hardest part of it all .

 

Smartphone or the Dumb phone…which is the way.

The discussion about  which direction the developers should take started during Nokia Open Innovation Africa Summit. After that I wrote this post telling developers to start developing for smartphones and forget about the dumb  phones. The discussion escalated during Pivot East but at the end the main consensus has been that it depends with the initial market target or the objective of the developer.  The following Comment by James BonTempofrom on the follow up post by Wynam Vota sum it up

if you’re talking about making money. In that case, build for those who can/will pay. But if you’re talking about ICT4D, trying to reach the underserved, then targeting smartphones is a recipe for failure. It all depends on what you’re trying to do: context matters.

 

My view still stand, there are enough NGOs out there. As a developer go out there and work towards making the money. Once you made enough money , then you can come back and save the world… We have seen the people like Bill Gates do it, and even locally we have seen many of these rich people go the same route… It always sound to me like “be mean at first..make money, then become the most generous person in the world using  0.000001 percent of your wealth”.

 

I completely Disagree with this statement :

If it works here (Kenya local market) it will work elsewhere! – comment from the audience #pivoteast

Yes, I know people continue to say this  in most  tech forums as a way of encouraging people to innovate but I don’t think it is entirely true. Take for example of Mpesa, it works perfectly in Kenya but  replicating it in other countries has been a problem. I think the best way to say it would be if it works in Kenya then it may as well work everywhere in the world. Look at my take on “Mobile payment and Banking system- The case of “Kenyan success ” vs Disappointment in Haiti

 

Know what you want before going on stage to pitch to the Investors

Some finalists gave great presentation but somehow people could not understand why they exist and why they ware presenting. I kept on asking myself  the question “What do they want, why, when and for what?”  My guess was money, but without including financial outlay on their presentations, I do not think anybody would want to invest on their startups or apps.   Without business case, without attachment  and without direction, most start-ups can not show why they exist and what they want. Somebody commented that it is  painful to watch people  with great ideas but with the crappy pitch.

Leadership Crisis

The integrity issue is dodging many startups in Kenya. But as per the current debate going on around the country, the Leadership problem is a big problem in every sector.

 

Thoughts on the winners

For the Financial Services category winner School Bursar

My personal view is that these guys should have won the overall prize and I am not taking away anything from Ma3Racer. In terms of the business potential, I think School Bursar had a strong case than Ma3Racer. Yes, the gaming apps are some of the most popular apps you will find around but if the starting market is Kenya, then School Bursar would be my choice. SchoolBursar streamlines the process of receiving and managing payments through M-Pesa. It performs real-time analysis and generation of reports for each student, sends reminders to parents and guardians who have fee deficits and alerts the administrator and principals of the same.

Mobile Society category winner  mPrep

Part of the description of mPrep is it is a Khan Academy for the bottom of the pyramid.I hate this phrase “the bottom of the pyramid”..I wish someone will one of these days come up with a better way to describe the lower end of the market. That aside, mPrep gives students access to quality study materials aligned to local content using ubiquitous mobile devices.  I am not sure how they are going to do this using the dumb phones. The target here is easily the people using feature phones  and the method is clearly Sms. I mean when you talk about quality data, I would imagine, comprehensive learning materials. How that will fit into the  feature phones is still beyond me. I think you can  clearly get it when you look at the approach eLimu is taking. eLimu is using tablet route to distribute the learning materials to the students. At least with tablets, students will be able to get everything and the size of the screen is good enough for both reading and the general use….  As have said earlier, execution is everything.

 

Utilities  category winner MafutaGo!

Great Idea when you consider Kenyan situation which I think is close to what is in Uganda. It helps users find the nearest fuel stations with the prices and Services that best suit their needs. But I had to take a little laugh at my friend @Mwirigi who did Ushahidi kind of platform Find Fuel in Kenya sometime back. Well, as the moderator of the Pivot East event , I guess Bobby  was looking at MfutaGo!  app  and going mental about the missed opportunity. Yes, the execution matters.

Business and resource category winner Easy Order

I have always tried to understand the way supply chain systems work but I have never succeeded on it.  For example I tried to understand how Virtual City system which won the US$.1Million from Nokia works and I could not, until I gave up. From outside it seems everyone could be a client to such a system but let me just say I am not sure how.

And … Easy Order is an SMS based ordering and supply chain management application that simplifies the way customers order for goods from manufacturers and distributors.

 

Entertainment category winner Ma3Racer (overall winner of Pivot East 2012)

once again congratulations for Ma3Race for winning Pivot East 2012 competition. I think they have a great team and they will do well. The only part I can not predict is whether they will be able to get Kenyans to get addicted to the busy Nairobi street racing game. I think for gaming app, it as to be addictive else, no future. The other route will be to go global, and I hope they can get a way to capture the global market. If they do, that would be fantastic

 

 

 

What is your opinion on the topic?
Kennedy Kachwanya
Lead Blogger at Kachwanya.com
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Kennedy Kachwanya is a technology blogger interested in mobile phones both smart and dumb, mobile apps, mobile money, social media, startups ecosystem and digital Savannah. New media must not forget the strength of old tech.
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