Where the Chini ya Majis @?

Well, let me tell you….

Following the recent Chini ya Maji post I thought it would make sense to shed some light on what some of these intrepid “deep sea” entrepreneurs are working on. So strap on!

The Real Tenderpreneurs

There is this team that is quietly and elegantly solving corruption. They are building a tender publishing and procurement management system. Procurement is clearly a massive horizontal market in an important operational segment for companies of all sizes across the continent. Any well ran company of meaningful size has procurement as one of their internal functions.

Particularly in light of the recent anti corruption crackdown procurement is an area crying out for innovative solutions that increase transparency, visibility, and control for organizational leaders. The heartwarming part is how these guys have gone about tackling the opportunity.

First, they established a tender publishers subscription business which provides a steady revenue stream allowing them to turn their focus towards the more complex aspects of developing a platform to solve the workflow, collaboration, and reporting associated with internal procurement practices. They have already completed version 1.0 of the platform and are taking sales meetings.

By virtue of Impact Africa Network’s ecosystem catalytic accelerator I have had the privilege of working with this team helping them apply a strategic lens to their business; interrogate their business model, define a focus, and develop clarity around a go-to-market strategy. Fifteen years selling software helps a ton with this type of stuff.

I am excited about what this team can accomplish. They have a genuine opportunity to build a massive company attacking a ubiquitous, pernicious problem that is a massive drain on African economies. If they are successful tendering and procurement could receive a massive transparency boost the positive effects of which would reverberate across economies. This is an example of a technology solution tackling a massive structural problem. Love!

These guys are smart, gritty, high energy, and eager to learn. I can’t wait for our next strategy session with them. Get em boys!

Mr. Akili Mingi

There is the gentleman I affectionately nick named Akili Mingi (I tend to do that). Dude has been in the tech game since IBM main frames days, and, by his own admission is getting tired and wants an exit strategy. Akili has been at the helm of his startup for over 7 years. His company was referred to me by a repeat customer who, having taken a role at a new company had made it part of her condition of employment that the company replace the existing HR solution with Akilis platform. Customer loyalty is the most reliable sign of awesomeness.

When Akili and I sat down for the first time to dialogue about potential growth capital he confessed right away that he needed a new approach to running the company. The bear-hug-bootstrap model was becoming increasingly unsustainable and at the same time offered no clear exit path.

As a company they have done quite well in my view. They have close to 80 customers across the region, including Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and just last week he was in Addis completing a deployment at the oldest winery in Ethiopia. Did you know they do wineries up there? I didn’t. How did he get into this deal? A South African ERP company had recommended him. Apparently, the winery is undergoing a full scale tech modernization project. Mark my words friends, this is that canary in a coal mine portending a continent wide tech adoption cycle by businesses over the next 10 years which will drive massive opportunity for startups that are prepared.

Historically, Akili and co. had won a couple of key Enterprise deals against a big UK based competitor that has an aggressive local sales operations going after the HR software market. By all accounts this English company appears to be the big gorilla in that space. But Akili had nary an insight into why or how they had won those deals. Maybe its because during the meeting he had proceeded to showcase at least two other products/startups he was pursuing, one was a school management system, another a payments solution chasing the revenue collection opportunity associated with devolution. Homie has side hustles on his side hustles.

With such frame of mind market data and related insights are not something one traffics much in. You chase opportunity as it presents itself and the only data of note is sale or no sale. Unfortunately, without the insights that come from evaluating ones operational data it is impossible to understand your business let alone craft a reliable plan for growth. But goodness me does this business have potential!

Another impressive thing about Akili is his level of self awareness. It is off the charts. He readily acknowledges both his and his company’s weaknesses. I enjoy sending him meaningful startup related educational content which he gobbles up and appreciates. I do this with all the founders I am in contact with which is a growing list of 30+. I believe part of an investors job is to curate knowledge, information, and contacts for busy entrepreneurs.

One idea Akili and I are considering is to acquire a majority stake in the company, bring on a whip smart young team, empowering him to take a higher level role such as chairman to offer guidance to the new team. There is a great deal of local talent hungry to be immersed in exciting projects related to building the new African economy. Akili’s company could very well be one of them. It would provide a win-win-win outcome across the board.

Watch this space, more anecdotes from the trenches to come…..