Tips on how to start unique ventures

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Is it not challenging and at times embarrassing when “kids” start really obvious ideas that make them millions? Listen to this news:

“Alex Mativo,19, and  a student at the University of Nairobi in Kenya pursuing a bachelors degree in Computer Science has founded E-Lab, a startup founded that aims at eradicating electronic waste in Nairobi Kenya, then expand to cities in Africa” Read the entire story at TechMoran.

There are two things about the venture. 1. E-waste is an obvious problem 2. Using E-waste to make Jewelry and other artifacts is a brilliant idea, so brilliant that it got E-Lab to feature among the 50 most brilliant startups for the Global Entrepreneurship Week by Istart and Kauffman Foundation and on Startup Open. But isn’t transforming E-waste into artifacts and jewelry so simple an idea that, well, can’t be a money making venture?

I thought to myself and said there must be so many such simple ideas that if ventured into might make me millions so I decided to do a little search on how I can make myself capable of identifying ideas from day to day problems, and I don’t want to be selfish so let’s share them. Here are the simple things to do in order to start unique ventures.

1. Identify a common problem

Every day we are faced with so many problems that piss us off. Is it lack of an effective cleaning tool for your floor? Is it a problem with usability of a product like a diaper? Is it the long queues at bus station on your way back back home from work? Is it people being rained on when waiting for the matatus? Is it college registration menace during opening days? Could cooking githeri be made any easier? Is it some of the ideas I don’t want to share with you? To start unique ventures, you need to really get pissed off by any day to day problems. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Did you know that some people make money simply by calling customer care of various organizations of behalf of others?

2. Determine and evaluate existing solutions to the problems

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Some of the problems have existing solutions yet the problems still pisses you off. It then means either the solutions are out of your reach or are just ineffective. How can you improve on this solution. For example the problem of guys being rained on at bus terminus has been solved by hawkers hawking umbrellas on a rainy day, but how many have the cash for impulse buying? What would be a better solution? Can you be involved in offering this solution?

4. Think outside the box

How many times do we here about this? Everyday like today? It is quite easy to think outside the box. I was amazed the other day that some simple solutions that exist for multi-billion industries like m-money, transport, and property are not being thought of by anyone. I was afraid that these solutions are too simple that someone out there must have tried them and failed that’s why no one is making money from them, until I realized that actually no one is thinking outside the box.

To effectively think outside the box you need to do a number of things:

i. Be diverse. If you are in tech don’t confine yourself in the world of smart gadgets. Read a little about humour, fashion, manufacturing, hospitality, sports, catering, music, economics (a key subject that helps in critical thinking), etc, etc, etc. You will be surprised on the number of practical solutions you can come up with a simple day to day problem that will help you start unique ventures.

ii. Be diverse. If you are a Christian, try to be a Muslim or Hindu or Atheist. What I mean is that try to understand how people in those different religions think, conceptualize the world, rationalize ideas, and relate to each other. These diversities together with your own concept of how the world works will expand your scope of thoughts and only imagination will limit the number of practical solutions you can offer to typical problems.

iii. Be diverse. You love soccer? You know every single rule governing how the game is played? You know each player in Arsenal or Man U? Or Gor or AFC Leopards? But you know nothing about Ajua (any app on Ajua out there?) or Golf? Diversify your interests and hobbies; not that you acquire new interests or hobbies, but try to learn as much as possible about other people’s interests and hobbies so that you can easily gather ideas from them. This also applies to the novels that you read, the magazines that you prefer, and the TV programmes that you like. On TV programmes, watch Shark Tank and related programmes, Brain Games on NatGeo, The Numbers Game same channel just after Brain Game, and any other enlightening programmes from NatGeo, Discoery, Discovery World, BBC Knowledge, History, and related channels.

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By the way a unique venture in the field of golf that will be of practical use can make you millions in months as golf participants are they that control the millions.

iv. Write your thoughts down. There is power in writing. Have some sort of a diary, journal or notebook where you write your thoughts down. Jot down the problems that pisses you off, be it a simple problem like tracing a lost needle to problems you may consider complicated but you feel you might one day come up with a practical solution. Also, just write. Is it a poem, a song? A narrative? Write, write, write. I suggest, use the centuries old technology of pen on paper to do your writing. After you have written, draw. Draw the box that you wan’t think outside of. Draw the problems in the box, draw the solutions. The solution might just be the cat that passed by you while you were drawing the problem. Well, a cat can help you start unique ventures, right? I don’t like cats, I prefer dogs and the solutions dogs have offered over the centuries.

v. Upside down-Backward thinking. Sometimes you just need to pick the physical object that is the problem and turn it upside down. Backward thinking means you start from the “utopia world” where you have implemented your solution and everyone is happy. Now start thinking of what is the final step you had to make to reach this utopia. Then what was the step just before the final step…backward think until you arrive at the problem. Again, write them down.

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vi. Finally. Ask for second and third opinions. The best person to ask opinion from is a child aged 5 to 14 years. There was this game on last week’s episode of Brain Game (NatGeo on Dstv every Wednesday at 10PM EAT or 9PM CAT) that asked us to determine which direction a bus that had the same look either side would go if it were to move forward. None of the adults got the answer right but amazingly most children go the answer at first attempt. In another game, same programme, people were asked to relate a pattern to any object or event. Adults were only able to relate the pattern to one to two objects/events but children were able to relate the pattern to over five objects/events. Basically, children think better outside the box.

Don’t forget to take a shower after a hard day’s work of thinking.

5. Plan and execute

You have identified your problem, you have evaluated existing and potentially better solutions by thinking outside the box, and now it is time to plan. Basically here you need to formalize your problem and solutions. Maybe you want to develop a proposal that you can pitch to a potential investor? Or you want to develop a prototype fast? You need partnership for applying for the Uwezo Fund to implement your solution? Make all your options formal.

6. Have a company/business

It is important that you enter into a venture as a company. To register one is very simple and can be as quick as a walk in a park or for 25K or you may take two weeks and spend 5K less. If you need assistance you can DM through the link provided below.

Any other ideas?

Think outside the box sub-topic has been adapted from Lifehack. If you need a second/third opinion on your ideas or further help on how to start unique ventures you can DM me here or here.

What is your opinion on the topic?
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