Thursday, August 31, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Sucks....

Update: 5th Sep 06
Due to hue and cry from blog commenters I've decided to change the title of the post to Sucks from F**k Godaddy :-)

Finally the famous responds to my requests for the activation of my account, this is what I got from them:

This account has been locked due to suspected fraudulent activity. The payment method used was suspended from use in our system. All charges made to this payment method were refunded and all products were canceled.

This action was taken because the billing information provided did not match the origin of the order. That is, the purchase seemingly originated from a computer from outside of Kenya.

Please have the credit card account holder provide a viewable copy of his/her government issued photo identification -- like a driver's license or passport. A scanned image (under 100,000 Bytes in size) can be attached as a response to this message, or faxed to:

Attention: Fraud Department, Laura

We will then be able re-open the account.

There you have it, am at a loss for words and for those who know me you'd know that's not easy. I have a few questions concerning this action:

  1. If my account was suspected of fraud why did they let me purchase the first domain?
  2. The billing information as well as the order origin I provided was Kenya and continues to be Kenya, for petes sake am in Nairobi right now, how did they ascertain that I am not in Kenya?
  3. Why have they locked the two domains I wanted to purchase thus preventing me from purchasing them from other registrars?
Obviously none of this questions will be answered by the "almighty"

Friday, August 25, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Insomnia

True to my nature I have done a self-diagnosis and concluded that I now have Insomnia, why do I say this? well for the following reasons:

  • I don't get to sleep until aabout 3am despite my eagerness to embrace the bed and all its warmth and sweetness.
  • I associate the bed with lack of sleep and as such I avoid it ude to the fact that I know each time it will disappoint me.

As a web developer/coder I've always welcomed the lack of sleep especially during those times when a problem needs a solution or when you have a project that needs to be completed but what am experiencing lately borders on weird. I think "the bug" really has me this time :-)

My evening usually starts with me having my supper at around 9pm, I then head to my room at about 10pm switch on the laptop (which by the way needs a major upgrade), put on my headphones and begin assaulting the keyboard with every imaginable lines of code (PHP being my favorite then Java followed by a little Python hahahaha!! I wish!!) at some point I realise that several hours have passed and its now 1am, everybody is asleep in the house even our pet cat aptly named Peeps :-) is asleep. At about 1.45am I stand up just to get some blood moving to the legs, I glance at the bed and no desire to go in exists, by this time I have already scrolled through every number in my cellphone to see who I can call or text but I know most people are asleep with the exception of one person :-) she's always there for me and she knows herself :-)

At about 2.30am I decide to give the bed a chance, I keep telling myself this nite will be different from every other but I know better. At about 4am i begin to doze off which is really bad koz I should be awake in the next 3-4 hours to head to work, anyway I wake up at about 8.30am tired and worn out like I've been running during the night. Head to work, come back home and the cycle begins again.

I'd like to think that my renewed energy and desire to pursue some business ventures could be the key factor in my lack of sleep but I'd be wrong. I don't lie awake thinking of new ideas quite the contrary I lie in bed thinking of how I'll get more sleep :-) I'm a few days short of taking sedatives but am just afraid they'll mess up with my wonderful brain :-) and stunt my entrepreneurial spirit...that's me being a medical quack..I think I should stick to the web development side :-)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Online Payment

One of the biggest challenges my current idea is facing is the issue of enabling users to pay for the service/product online. I mentioned earlier on that credit cards still aren't the norm in Kenya and to date they are seen as a service only for the rich, even though this might not be completely true part of it is, since your income needs to be a minimum of Ksh30,000 per month equivalent to USD400 at the current exchange rate in order for you to qualify for a basic card which means its out of reach for a large percentage of the population. Fear of online fraud is also a challenge the credit card solution faces, due to lack of education or a well informed market, credit card holders in Kenya fear that all online transactions are open to fraud but so is every transaction even a barter trade (cowrie shells for a basket of fish) setup has its inherent fraud, this lack of knowledge needs to be addressed.

Integrating credit card payments onto the web app, albeit a tedious process would open the service to the percentage of the population who do have the cards and is definitely one way to go, but my biggest challenge is what about the remaining people who have no credit cards but have cash in the bank and would like access to the service/product?

The Debit Card hasn't missed my radar and I know that it can be used for transactions although most banks only support over the counter transactions thus rendering it almost useless for online transactions. The WebDOC suggested that we approach the banks with a strong proposal for the development of a local payment solution that would allow users to pay for services/products using their bank accounts, I've always confessed that am a true pessimist so I wasn't seeing this as an achievable option but am of the view that if the idea is strong enuff then it can be achieved especially with the smaller and more open banks.

One common method being used currently is the one where a user sends money from his phone to a specified number, this method works very well especially in cases where the amounts are small usually Ksh50-200 but would be difficult where the amounts are as high as Ksh1000 since one would need airtime/units on their phone that would me at least double the cost of the service, but I have considered the solution and it could be integrated at an earlier stage.

Africa as a continent must develop technologies that foster business and that make it easier to achieve ones objectives. The financial services are a key aspect of this. The current breed of banks in East Africa haven't been quick to embrace technologies that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to facilitate online payment, this must change sooner rather then later.

Comments are welcome

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Virtual Call Centers

I was just going through my favorite tech blog Tech Crunch, for those of you who wondering what techcrunch is about basically it's a tech blog written Michael Arrington it features all things web 2.0 so it's a major "have to visit" on my list of sites to look at, anyway I decided to look at an earlier entry just to see if I'd missed any major events in the Web 2.0 realm and boy was I surprised when I saw a post for a new company in the block called SKY-click which has been described as a "A 100% web based call center" and at the end of the post he describes it as a "Virtual Call Center", its developed by a company based in Switzerland. I won't go into describing/profiling this company instead I'l talk about how it can affect the call center business springing up in this region.

I think the question that comes to the mind of every Call Center enthusiast is "What does this mean for the upcoming offshore call center businesses in Africa and other regions?", I think it could present two outcomes, Potential Business or Potential Competition.
Potential Business

"When a customer surfs a company’s website he has the possibility to press a “Click to Call” button that initiates a call or video call with the company’s call centre or the relevant expert."

The keywords here are "company’s call centre", an external call center could handle the queries that come from the website without needing any special integration.More and more companies will be finding it easier to plugin the application onto their websites and all the call handling could be done by established companies such as my employer :-) Whichever way you look at it, the cost of paying people to sit down and wait for web inquiries is still cheaper in Africa then in most other continents so our call center services will still be required. I foresee a scenario where a company whose website has lots of traffic would like to have a call center application like SKY-click but doesn't want to invest in training and staffing a whole department to handle the requests, that's where we come in.

"SKY-click enables free PC to PC and cheap PC-to-Phone communication between a company and its customers."

The Skype integration (VOIP at work) means that the cost of the call is almost non-existent. Currently most call centers in Africa handle their calls through VOIP in order to minimise on the cost and because internet connection is slightly more reliable then the telephone infrastructure. Our company for example uses a VSAT link of about 3Mbps, the biggest drawback to this is the high cost of bandwidth (about USD20,000$ per month) and the latency associated with the VSAT setup, but with the advent of the underwater fiber optic cable which should be completed within the next 2 years these costs are bound to go down significantly, some say as much as 85%. This obviously presents numerous business opportunities for the existing companies as well as the upcoming ones who would obviously see the need for a "Virtual Call Center" as an integral part of their business.

Potential Competition

I think if its too easy then why would you pay an external company to handle your requests? Ignorance isalways been good for business :-) I've always said that if consumers knew the truth about the cost of the services/products they were purchasing they'd probably think twice.

SKY-Click pulls the curtain behind and reveals that it's not so hard to setup a small call center to handle the requests your customers have. If your in a continent such as Africa where the cost of labour is significantly low compared to Europe/America (a call center agent in Kenya gets paid roughly USD 200 per month exclusing commissions) a large multinational with a wide array of products wouldn't hesitate to setup one of this virtual call centers. Our company spent about USD100 million to setup the infrastructure for the call center, most of the money was spent in power backups and setup of the internet infrastructure.

At the end of the day businesses must re-engineer themselves to face off all forms of competition whether from local companies or foreign based. The internet is proving to be a major force to reckon with, so many companies leveraging the technology to achieve their objectives. Diversification into services/products that will give on a competitive advantage is key to survival.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Job Dilemma Part 2

In my last Job Dilemma post I mentioned that I was waiting for a response from my potential new employer on friday, and for sure the response came, although it wasn't what I was expecting. Let me paste the email (I've edited the parts that could incriminate me) I got from them, then you be the judge:

I will consider you when we make the next decision. I have mentioned you to our chief exec and we have a relationship with the top people in Your Current Employer that means we would have to mention your interest to them if we were going to make you an offer. We would not do this unless we were ready to employ you and I would warn you in advance. Again if this is likely to cause you any problems please let me know. Technical Director is back in the country now so we will probably review applications and try and make a decision early next week.

So there you have it, a response that just made my jaw drop!! I was left wondering why in God's name would you want to inform my current boss of my intention to leave?? While your at it why don't you just get me fired, that way I have no rom to negotiate since I'll practically be unemployed!!...I think all this company execs have some kind of buddy thingy I likened it to the days of slavery where if one slave showed interest in moving to another owner's plantation, the owners would then sit down and come to arrangement that would be mutually beneficial and that was what was happening here.

I figured let me get Pilgrim's take on the whole matter, and we discussed what kind off response I should send them. It had to be one that doesn't come out like am trying to hide something while still conveying an intention to be as open as possible, here it is:

My preference would be that the matter was handled in the most discreet manner possible. Recognising that we both have relationships to maintain with the Current Company Management, in our different capacities, I would request that, in the event that you select me to join your team, that you allow me to inform Current Company of my decision to leave prior to your organisation contacting them.

I think this response was quite fitting, and if it wasn't I don't quite give a damn!! :-) let's see how it goes...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Writing the Business Plan

I'd mentioned in an earlier post that I would start writing the business plan for the new idea I had, I figured this weekend would be a good time to start. I wanted to write the plan from home but since my Office 2007 Alpha version had come to an abrupt halt (I guess the demo period is over) my only alternative was to do it from the office until when I could get my hands on a earlier version of Ms-Office (may be I should move to Open Office and dent the sales of Microsoft hahaha!! ) .

Since I was already scheduled to be in the office for an 8am-1pm shift I figured this would be a good opportunity to get things moving. As I said earlier I was meant to be in the office by 8am but lately I've been suffering from some major sleep deprivation, I really don't know why but I figure it's nothing major, so I didn't quite get to sleep on Friday until when it was about 3am which means that when I was supposed to be waking up the sweet sleep was hitting me like a tonne of bricks and you can be sure I missed the wakeup call, but eventually I got to the office at about 10.30am two and a half hours late wuuuu!! :-) and looking like I was suffering a major hangover,luckily my boss doesn't work on weekends.

After chatting with Gisty Jeng from about anything and everything (stock market, retrenchment,paranoia), checking mail, handling an application downtime on the work floor I finally settled down to write the business plan at around 1.30pm and that is where things started going crazy, it's like I suffered a major attack of "writers block" hard to believe but the whole process of putting to words your vision and goals for a business is quite a demanding task. First of all you have this template you have to follow and there is so much to write about like Goals, Mission,Philosophy, Industry and that's just the tip of the iceberg koz there is the financial statements and projections you have to come up with but I figure you just have to do it one step at a time then you'll get it done. So I started on the Objectives of the company (by the way I haven't registered my company which is not a good thing but I'll get to it in due time) this was the easiest part, then I moved to the Mission then down to the Philosophy just at that point my Alias Season 5 torrent indicated that Episode 1 was fully downloaded and I decided to stop, all work and no play makes me a dull boy :-)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Silicon Valley Africans

Any time I see my fellow Africans making waves in the IT sector I gotta standup and give them props, so when I stumbled across the blog, which by the way is a very interesting read, of one called Dare Obasanjo you can imagine my excitement.

According to the wikipedia:

Dare Obasanjo is a Program Manager at Microsoft where he works on the Windows Live Messenger instant messenger product and related services. Obasanjo is best known for RSS Bandit, a popular .NET-based RSS reader he wrote on a whim. Obasanjo is son of the current president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo.

Work at Microsoft

Dare has spent much of his time at Microsoft defining the public-facing XML protocols for various MSN properties. Along with various members of the Microsoft Indigo team, Dare is coming to terms with the POX/SOAP tradeoffs. Prior to joining the MSN team, Dare owned the XML I/O and Schema APIs for the .NET Framework. He owned Microsoft's primary XSD implementation for a period of years in the past.

I have never used RSS Bandit and didn't know about until when I read up Dare, I'm downloading it but judging by the screenshots It looks quite powerful. Aside from the fact that the guy is the Son of the President of Nigeria, this guy seems pretty smart I guess you'd have to be to work in Microsoft Cheers!! to the guy.

Here is an outdated Resume which his posted on his site plus a link on the Microsoft Employees Page.

If you know of any other Africans making theirmark in Silicon Valley feel free to post the link.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Job Dilemma

Yesterday I went for a Job Interview at one of the local companies in Nairobi, a friend of mine had given me a heads-up on the Job opening so I sent my CV/Resume on a long shot attempt and I was surprised when they called me in.

I need to give you some history about this particular job, in 2005 around July the same guy had told me about the opening and I managed to get an interview. For those of you who've had the nerve wracking experience of going for interviews am sure you know the tension one feels during the interview process ("they" say you get better with time, am not sure if whether "they" meant you get better at being nervous or you get better at handling the nervousness). I was unlucky enough to be thrown in one room with the Technical Director a 110kg 6+ feet man and the Technical Manager who just looked malnutritioned, I think the director had been taking the manager's lunch, anyway the two guys proceeded to attack me from two angles. The tech manager asked me very specific questions relating to technology where general answers were not acceptable whereas the Director would just "scratch the surface" and focus on general aspects of the tasks I had undertaken, needless to say the "good cop/bad cop" routine worked like a nonsense and slowly but surely they broke me down. I remember that at one point I remarked that I felt that I had stayed too long in my current job and had been coding for a long time, the tech manager took the opportunity to point out to me that he had been programming since 1985 which would make my 3 years of development look like 3 days.

I left the interview room confident that I had missed the job, my hunch was correct and two days the manager called me to tell me that he felt that I wasn't quite ready for the job and that may be in a year or two he would consider me. Well a year has passed and there I was in the same building but different boardroom, I was surprised that he could barely remember me judging by the questions he asked me. At the end of the interview he basically offered me the job but was quick to point out that he felt that it was too soon for me to leave my current position, he explained that this was a personal opinion not likely to affect his decision whether or no to hire me, he told me to go and think about it and contact him within the next few days.

So here I am with a few things going through my mind, Should I leave my current position which I have only held since April 06 in order to move to a totally new setup? I have a policy against changing jobs before staying in an organisation for less then a year, I feel that a year is usually the minimum period one should work in an organisation for you to give an objective view of whether the organisation meets your needs or is inline with your goals for growth. On one hand is increased salary, new challenges on the other hand a need for stability and an opportunity to work for an organisation that is pioneering the call center business in this region and a chance to be part of it.

I talked to Pilgrim about the matter and she helped me clear the doubts I had over the decision then I decided to head to Monster and get some advice from one of the forums they have, I found a rather interesting post which seemed to address some of my concerns. So I saw the best way to proceed was to express my interest in the job and see how it goes. I'm expecting a response from them by this friday.

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Resolution in the horizon

I've gotten one or two questions from blog fans :-) whether am going to allow Gisty Jeng to buy the domains, after much consideration I decided that this wouldn't be a wise move for the following reason:

Gisty Jeng seems overwhelmed with work at his current position. The workload seems to be drowning so the last thing I want to do is assign a task I feel he doesn't have the time to do. This decision isn't a reflection of my lack of confidence in him but as the leader of the team I need to make decisions that will be of overall benefit to the company. I have talked to Gisty Jeng and his accepted my decision on this.

So yesterday I sent godaddy my account details including the domains I wanted to purchase, am yet to receive a response from them but am confident the matter will be resolved before the end of the week which for me is tomorrow,Friday, commonly referred to as FurahiDay!! in Kenya.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Obstacles Continued

For the last couple of days I've been trying to purchase the two domains associated with the social app we want to launch, but every attempt seemd to be hitting a brick wall. Initially the domain had been purchased through a account but after Thursday's fiasco my account become inaccessible and the domains were in effect suspended. This hard never happened to me before so I wasn't sure how to proceed and I figured the best way to handle it was to give the registrar a few days to reactivate the account.

As of today, the domain and account were stil inaccesible so I decided to call support and find out what was going on. First call went something like this "Please wait for the support department to activate your account", I'd already sent an email to them in the morning to find out what was going on, so decided to follow up with a second call later on in the day which turned out to be a smart move I finally got a support rep who explained to me that my account had been suspended due to fraudulent activity and the domains in essence locked to prevent any activity on them.

I'd read Bob Parsons (Bob Parsons happens to be the founder of post on his blog about "domain kiting" and I highly suspected that had flagged my account on suspicion of the activity. By the way you should read up on the whole domain kiting scheme, it's amazing the lengths people will go to make money. Anyway I can't be sure if that was the reason they suspended my account but it seemed to be the most logical explanation, to make a long story short has instructed me to provide them with some relevant information so us to unlock the account and unlock the domains we had attempted to purchase.

Gisty Jeng has again offered his services on the credit card front, I'm skeptical having already learnt a hard lesson but I just might entrust him with the task again, we'll see how it goes.

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Business Incubators

Business Incubators seems to be the buzz word for every entrepreneur in Kenya right now mainly because the atmosphere is ripe with ideas but the pockets aren't filled with the money to bring those ideas into reality. Basically an incubator give you access to financing,markets, office resources which are really what you need when you starting out.

A fellow Afro-preneur who has an interesting blog here, mentioned one business incubator being run by the world bank. I've been toying with the idea of getting into one but I've never really felt that any of the ideas were financially viable in the short and long run until today when I stumbled upon a concept I had seen working very well in South Africa. I can't go into details right now except say that it could just catch on here. I decided to share the idea with Pilgrim whom I just love to death and she posed serious questions to me which I tried my best to answer and she was kinda satisfied with the direction I was going with this idea. Unlike most of my ideas that involved very little capital outlay, this one requires the resources of El Banco Mundial :-) Spanish for The World Bank.

I've been going through one of the Business plans submitted by a current Incubatee (Company or Individual being incubated) and they're pretty detailed, in fact the one am looking at is a total of 62 pages not to mention the Ms-Excel files they've done to show the financial stuff. No easy task but a dream is not usually an easy thing to pursue. So I've purposed to go through it comprehensively and pick out what I can from it before embarking on writing mine.

I love the energy you feel when you embark on a journey of this magnitude, the uncertainity that lies pales in comparison to the confidence you have in the business concept.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Obstacles

Pissed us hell but still living :-) Pilgrim told me to relax lest I pop a vessel, I told her that a vision/dream/idea is worth popping one or two vessels :-) not to worry Pilgrim I pretend to ignore but I listen. Pilgrim always manages to see past the problem am more of a "dwell on the problem" kindoff dude.

I mentioned yesterday's post that we had gone a step closer in realising the vision by purchasing the first domain name, well in a weird turn of events Gisty Jeng managed to cancel the domain purchase instead of purchasing the second one :-( . I managed to talk to Bluefi5h and he was more positive then me, he offered to purchase both domains which is a very good thing.

But today's twist of events has made me really think about teams and tasks. I delegate a lot especially if I feel that your more then competent, but I realised today that delegation can really mess you up and at the end of the day you'll have yourself to blame since as the leader the buck stops with you.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Meebome Widget

For those you who visited the blog and noticed a rather interesting window on the right hand corner it's a meebome widget that allows me to chat with anybody who visits the blog :-)

Next time you around, just give me a buzz if am online you can be sure I'll respond as fast as I can

Big Thanks to for providing this widget free of charge to everybody out there. I urge all of you out there to put it on your website or blog.

Journey of an Afro-preneur: One Step Closer

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was considering taking a "Two Pronged" (two social webapps each with it's unque identity and targetting a different aspect) approach well yesterday that idea came closer to becoming a reality when I finally managed to register the first domain name (sorry I can't reveal it for now but be sure I will in time) big thanks to Bluefi5h for going the extra mile and getting this done.

All this happened after quite a lot of stumbling blocks which included a declined credit and debit card, and the pick of the day where I picked a hosting package which included free domain but racked up a bill of 168$ :-) don't ask me how this happened but it did and on my "fire budget" it wasn't something I was ready to accept so I rectified it. Not to worry people am getting a credit card (you really have to live in Kenya to understand why we don't apply for them but it has something to do with paranoia which could be traced back to the water hmmm :-) ) sooner rather then later.

Gisty Jeng eagerly volunteered to register the other domain, I have mucho confidence in him but he seems to be drowning in "co-operate garbage" I take it "the light he saw" was most likely an approaching bus and not the heavenly one he was expecting :-)

All in all a very positive week, looking forward to this weekend to see what Bluefi5h will come up with.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Branding

Today I've spent the better part of the evening trying to go through some of the logo concepts Bluefi5h came up with. It really is exciting stuff, the back-and-forth communciation we have via IM (Instant Messenger, thank you :-) ) discussing colours,fonts, really makes you realise that the idea is really coming to life. IM really comes in handy during times like this koz it allows me to relay my ideas back to bluefi5h who just saves the chat logs and uses them as quick notes.

I have to admit I do have a bias towards blue as a logo colour and Imade this bias known :-). Ny the way I suck at design so my criticism is very constructive :-)

The logo is such an important part of a web app that I can't overstate it enough. Look at the most famous logos in the world such as ebay,yahoo,google and you'll get what am talking about. Currently there is a trend in current Web 2.0 companies with regards to their logos, check out this post, the most striking feature is the reflective images and the striking fonts.

On the web design front when you hear Web 2.0 the first thing that comes to your mind is AJAX,Rich User Interfaces,Tabs,Gradients,Large fonts :-) that seems to be the most common thing in all of them.I've taken the time to list a few of my most favorite Web 2.0 sites, the list ins't exhaustive:

  1. :-) powered by wordpress
  2. web based IM in the world.
  3. kid on the block

Back to the drawing board on the logo concepts but based on the direction Bluefi5h was taking am sure he'll come up with something really awesome.<

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Dream Team

Choosing your venture/idea partners:

Think of Lord of the Rings (fellowship of the ring)

We all want to have the best people on our team, just check out the way soccer clubs keep buying new players even when they have more then enough (Stupid Real Madrid), so a couple of weeks back when I was picking who I'd want in my development team one of the first people who came to my mind was Pilgrim :-) (I use aliases a lot just koz it sounds so cool)

I think I'd need a whole blog just to describe Haj :-) but in a nutshell I'd summarise her in an equation:

Adrenaline+Estrogen+Bill Cosby+Animaniacs+Afro-New Jack Swing loving+dynamite=Haj

But even this equation doesn't do justice to her character.

Humour and brains a lethal combination when you coming up with an idea that needs nurturing and she fits the bill down to a tee let's not forget the humour factor which we all need occasionally :-). I think every business idea needs that one person who'll see it from the consumers view and approach also from the business side (coders suck at this, look at the Google UI and you'll see what am talking about)..

Duncan aka Dunwan also joins the team, I've mentioned him before on a previous post so I won't go into so much details. Lets's just say he complements the technical aspect of the whole venture.

I also picked Ken aka Gisty Jeng :-) to partner up with Haj on the Business aspect of the venture. I used to school with Ken in Nairobi School (PATCH!! Rocks) and up until a few months ago we used to work together before he "saw the light", am not sure if the light blinded him but it eventually landed him in Kampala, Uganda (way across the border). Enthusiasm for the idea is what made me pick Ken and his business acumen.

On the creative end I picked Bluefi5h, a former workmate and a fellow blogger. This guy has more creative juice in his body then anybody I know, plus he has some very nice entertainment devices (Sony PSP, Satellite TV) that I know will come in handy when we having one of those long brainstorming meetings :-) Immediately I mentioned the idea to him on Gtalk his mind went into overdrive and he starting talking about all this ideas he has with regards to branding,merchandising etc, now you tell me who wouldn't want such a guy in his team?? He keeps me on my feet when I slack off..

yesterday I talked to another friend of mine Nellz and she showed an interest although ma yet to follow up on her...

A lot of other people have been involved in the conceptualisation phase but might not eventually make up the whole team, one major reason for this is that commitment is what's required not an exciting attitude that lasts for 5 minutes.

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Two Prongs

After my first melting pot meeting I was supposed to send the list to one of my designers to start getting a creative picture but I've been running around like a lunatic handling some personal issues so you can imagine how pissed of my designer is!! :-)

I finally got round to doing it today morning :-) two weeks late, but I've been running around trying to purchase the domain name. It's hard to believe but i have no credit card so it's been a mess just trying to get my fellow paranoid Afros to let me use their over the net, I think a seminar should be run in Nairobi just to educate people on credit card usage over the internet.

I've been thinking of having to kindoff social apps, the first one is more of a community app whereas the second one will be more of a personal app. Its a "Two Pronged" approach which could mean disaster but on the other hand it could also mean success. I feel that users would like to interact in a social setting and also would like their own personal app that they could use to express themselves in a private way.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: LOL

LOL: Labour Of Love :-)

A term I coined when I was asked about revenue generation on my social app :-) I had assessed the revenue models for most of the social apps and they all bordered on the numbers game i.e. large active numbers equals to potential advertising revenue.

So after getting too many questions from one or two people i decided to define my social app as a Labour Of Love :-)

I'm gonna be using it a lot throughout this blog so please make sure you keep it in your head.

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Brainstorming

I don't think there's anything as exciting us a brainstorm over a boiling idea. Itr truly is an adrenaline rush that can't be compared to anything else.

So about a week ago after I had formally classified my social app as an LOL I setup a meeting with my fellow Afro-preneurs at one of the local coffee shops in Nairobi called Nairobi Java House. If you ever get to come Kenya this one of those places you really want to go and sip on some sweet and fresh kenyan coffee.

Adrenaline + Crazy Ideas + Kenyan Coffee=Innovative Afro-preneur :-)

The meeting was meant to be used as a starting point where we basically come up with a wishlist, it becomes like a melting pot of ideas where you just go on and on about what we wanted in the app. I picked a former workmate of mine Duncan to assist on the technical end, Duncan is one of those really smart dudes you need around when you thinking of setting up any techsavvy gig, excellent web developer and has a sharp eye for detail so it was easy for me to pick him plus earlier on he had expressed an interest in setting up a similar app. I mentioned in an earlier post that you need people around you who will help you nurture the vision/idea, duncan is one of those guys.

So I kick off the meeting with a brief description with what I have in mind with regards to functionality and we start writing up what the wish list. So many questions which I hadn't asked myself pop up and we make sure that we write up every answer.

Duncan asked me a question which I liked "Where do you see this app in the next 5 years?", I had to take a moment and think about it koz where you see your business idea in 5 years will strongly determine the decisions you make right now, whether it's the database design,financing,hardware,programming language,design,scalability etc. I answered his question by telling him that I wanted this app top become the number one african social networking portal ( a thing-a-majig) :-) You ask "Couldn't you have come up with a more detailed answer to the question?" the answer is yes :-)

Two hours later and a cup of coffee down we finally concluded the wishlist, it was really beneficial koz it exposed flaws in the original concept and helped enhance the idea to a level we felt would be workable.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: Sharing The Vision

So "the bug" has my mind, body and soul, it's actually a great feeling koz your so pumped up and every creative juice in your body is flowing. I picture Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they came up with google.

Almost forgot to mention that a last year I got bit by "the bug" and had a desire to setup a web directory service for east african businesses. The idea had already been implemented quite well by one or two companies ( but I figured I could do it better and incorporate other features that would make it the primary business portal for the region. I'm sure you wanna know how that went, may be I'll start a blog to talk about dead ideas :-)

I'm thinking to myself "what should I do next?" the logical thing was to share the vision with my fellow Afro-preneurs but there is this paranoia that would-be entrepreneurs concerning the ideas they have. We all fear that the next dude will steal the ide out pace us and implement our idea but I figure competition is healthy and so is paranoia :-).I had a meeting with a fellow Afro-preneur yesterday and he brought up the same thing.

I can't overstate the importance of picking the right people/person to share your idea with, so many times we pick the wrong people who tear into your idea and before you get started you've already seen failure. Constructive criticism is what your looking for as an entrepreneur, comments that will help you refine your idea and may be even take it a step further.

So first thing when I got to the office after my epiphany was to send a mail to a friend of mine where I basically outlined my vision for the whole web app. His comments were positive which was good but he asked the question that every budding entrepreneur asks "How do you intend to make money?". My answer to the question is "I don't know how and I'm not concerned how, I just want to do this" :-) Adrenaline had obviously overtaken business reasoning :-)

Social Apps and Revenue

Most social web apps generate their revenue through banner advertising or through the provision of premium services. In order to go the advertising route you need the numbers in terms of users and the traffic to back it up. My best example in the numbers category is, check the statistics here, the numbers can't be rivalled by any other social web app out there but the weird thing is that it's yet to make any money. In the premium services category I would have to pick (one of the most impressive social networking apps I've ever used, a must use) through their InMail service.But what you offer must really appeal to the masses and make them want to spend money so you really need to define your niche'.

Which way do I go?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Journey of an Afro-preneur: The Bug

A couple of weeks back, actually around June. I had the idea to set up a web application that would bring communities,enthusiasts and basically everybody. I guess the "social networking bug" had bitten me and "the fever" was acting fast activating every nerve ending in my body, ideas came rushing in, brand names scribbled on papers, design concepts, AJAX interactions it became too much that I had to finally share it with the world.

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be detailing the chronicle of events that hopefully will lead to the birth of an Afro-social networking webapp.

Who knows!! it might actually inspire one or two people from my beloved continent Africa to reach out and pursue a dream.

Hiatus of an african tech-entrepreneur

For the last couple of months I've been closely following the blog of a guy called Nicholas Ochiel, I can't quite remember how I stumbled upon it (you might want to check out but I do know that had something to do with it.

Nicholas vision was to start a web app which he aptly called Cheeseforge :-) (i think my next blog will be on choosing a brand name), I think it has something to do with the fact that we all trying to "get the cheddar" :-), he describes cheeseforge us:

"Cheeseforge, therefore, has been built to allow individuals and small groups of the same ( e.g in very small companies ) to manage, analyse and share data about their expenses and income. Think of it as an easier, lighter, friendlier, simpler version of Quickbooks that you use within your browser ( think Gmail for finances )."

In a continent where very few people go tech-savvy you can imagine my excitement of hearing a fellow African (Kenyan) actually venturing into developing a web 2.0 business app that would help people keep track of their financial info.

Having read his blog I decided to go to the cheeseforge site which until recently was on, I use the words until recently because from what I can tell it seems to be no more. For those of you who didn't get a chance to see it, there was nothing much to it except a very snazzy looking form giving you the chance to signup so that you could get notified once the app went live. Being a developer I had to view the source of the page and see if I could get a sneak peek of what was under the hood. The source file didn't give me much except one piece of infotmation that I found quite interesting :-) a Javascript source file called Mochikit.js which is a clean and powerful javascript library available in the Turbogears framework which is a Python based development framework.

I'm no Python fan, may be because I've never really bothered to learn the language, but I do respect any person who develops in the language. Rumour is that it's the language that drives Gmail. Anyway back to my story, I figured let me ask good ol Nick whether he was developing the app using Turbogears but i got no response. I guess he had to hide what was under the hood :-)

So today I decide to head over to his blog to track the progess of the app, and to my dissapointment his posted a rather long and dreary post (the guy does have quite a flare with words) explaining that he will be going on a "Hiatus" apparently his mind needs a major reboot. He also mentions that public work on Cheesforge would be coming to an end :-( a very sad turn of events.

But not to worry Nick, the entrepreneur fire still burns and will continue to burn. I think I can speak for may budding afro-preneurs when I say that we know you'll get back on the work horse and blaze the way for so many of us who can't see the path.

Python curious gatos (spanish for cats) :-) check out Turbogears and Django I think I seriously need to check out this stuff :-)

Riya- A web wide visual search engine.

Riya- A web wide visual search engine.

That's what the CEO Munjal Shah describes it us. I stumbled upon it a couple of months back when reading the Techcrunch blog. I checked it out but wasn't really that interested until today when I decided to go back and see what it had to offer. By the way his blog offers quite a detailed description of how the whole Riya idea came about and the adrenaline rush they got pre and post launch, a must-read for anyone interested in setting up a webapp.

I won't go into describing in detail what it's about but what I got from it is that it allows you to tag and describe each section of a photo which can then be recognised and searched. I didn't quite get the gist of it until when I searched for Machu Picchu and it gave me a list of photos tagged and described, I was then able to select a part of the photo and describe it as a face and who it was.

With all that excitement, I decided to setup an account so that I could show off my photos of Mt.Kenya, can you imagine my dissapointment when I got an error message ERROR: Your registration process could not be completed, please try again after some time.

I have tried more then two times to register but i Keep getting the same messsage, I suggest the guys at check this out before the blogosphere slams you into the ground and buries you.

Update (later on today):

I headed back to a couple of minutes after an anonymous user had posted a comment on my blog (yippe!!my first comment) Seems the first time I tried to register and got the error message my account had already been setup.I wonder why this happened? anyway am just glad it works.