For some reason, almost everyone in town wants to be self-employed, employment is not a cool thing anymore, it is not something you will be coveted of unless you are a multi-million earner. This has prompted to a series of company roll outs all in search for independence.
They are called startups. Young companies in a new phase of development and in search for markets. These establishments come in different models targeting different markets altogether and recently, technology apps have become order of the day. Digitization in most of our service sectors call for tech savvy individuals to back up the systems hence the start-up pile up. However, founders in some cases go all wrong with product choice for the market which leads to a definite downfall.
On the other hand, some startups thrive against multiple challenges. It’s never a fairy tale for these organizations. Amid so many software startups in the market today, Hardware startups are also finding it hard to crack the market; meet Charles Muchene co-founder Clad light giving an outlook of a hardware startup in the Kenyan market.
What do you think about Kenyan skill market based on cladlight as a product?
I would term it as average. Access to free online courses such as edX, codacademy, Khan Academy and Udacity has offered a platform for interested individuals to learn a lot. These courses are international and anyone undertaking them has an equal competitive advantage with others in the whole world.
What skills are you looking to hire
The skills I’m in search for range from hardware gurus to sales people. The bottom line is that for you to be considered for a position in our company, you must be passionate at what we do. Skills come second. Of course anyone possessing both is the ideal candidate.
What are the Major challenges you have faced in the last 7 months
Running a hardware start-up has its challenges not encountered in a software start-up. Executing an “undo (Ctrl + Z)” in this space is both costly and time consuming. You need to get it right at the first trial and fast (which rarely happens of course).
The electronics market in Kenya is just maturing up. This, in turn, means that sourcing for required components of a particular project is a nightmare. As if not enough, the cost of the particular electronic modules is ridiculous. This acts as a barrier to entry for hardware startups or a hindrance to their growth!
There’s little seed funding for hardware startups in the region. This makes it hard to even prototype a product and also to undertake market research of the so developed concept.
The spotlight of technology in the East African region, particularly Nairobi, Kenya, is on the software industry. Multinational software companies are ever conducting training and competitions in this industry. And therefore this has attracted most young people to develop web, desktop and mobile solutions to local problems. There lacks such incentives for hardware start-ups locally interpreting to little or no support to develop the brilliant solutions conceptualized.
Many starting entrepreneurs have little or no background in running a business. I also was in the same position until The Nailab came to the rescue. The Nailab is an early stage business incubator that offers advice and skills to upcoming entrepreneurs for a period of six months. The skill set range from media, branding, risk management, market research, customer and product development, finance among others. The incubator offered me a great platform to learn these which are a major challenge while starting out in business.
Why do you think startups fail
Startups fail because of poor cashflow. This results from poorly formed or executed business models.
Another reason would be “waiting for the RIGHT time to launch.” Most startups are busy perfecting their products and fear taking them to the test market before they are ‘ready.’ My take would be, let the customer decide if its ready (solves their problem) or not.
Is tech dynamism affecting clad light
The dynamism is just making the industry better. In the hardware industry, we are talking of Internet of Things and wearable devices. All these are making our lives better and alleviating tedious undertakings existing before. So the effect of tech dynamism is positive in my own opinion.
Do think startup challenges might be caused by business model failure/change
Startups are simply defined as businesses in search of a viable business model. Therefore it is paramount for any startup to clearly define and understand their business model, test it fast and pivot where necessary. As mentioned earlier, this determines the success or the failure of the startup.
Is cladlight’s wearable device currently a market need?
Our product the Smart Jacket is a market need that should have existed immediately the government of Kenya zero rated all motorcycles rated 250cc and below. The boda boda market is thirsty for new technology and importantly one that increases their safety on the roads. The Smart Jacket is a safety vest fitted with bright lights that clearly indicates a motorcyclist’s intent to turn left, right or to brake. This ensures that the motorcyclist is always riding conspicuously every time.