Friday, September 29, 2006
Just stumbled upon Indeed.com. It does a salary search that gives you an estimate (key word) of what a salary might be for a particular job in a specific state or city.
So I tried a search for Web Developer, Nairobi and it told me Sorry no web developers work in Nairobi!!...hahahahaha!! ...:-) u try
On the mobile front, Celtel, the 2nd mobile service provider has introduced something that is bound to put MJ (Michael Joseph) on the run, one tariff for the 3 east african countries with no roaming charges, I don't know about you but that kicks arse whichever you look at it. In a nutshell everytime I go to Dar es Salaam,Tanzania to visit my dear brother I don't have to remove my SIM card and put one for one a TZ mobile provider, I'll just use my my Celtel Kenya SIM card and pay the same rate.
Word on the ground is that Celtel is drowning in debt. The numbers do give you a clearer picture, there are 6.5 million mobile subscribers in Kenya, Safaricom has 4.6 million of them leaving Celtel with a paltry 1.9 million. I'm a safaricom subscriber but I have to admit Celtel has better network coverage and a wider range of services. I'm in the process of acquiring my 2nd phone just for Celtel usage.
It seems Blue isn't the color to be this week. Bluefi5h seems to have run out of RAM resulting in a major boot sector error which culminated in a hard disk crash, in laymans terms the dude is burned out. I just hope he recovers and gets back to his normal self.
It seems that mobile phones are really penetrating in Africa, at least according to a report on ZDNET here. We now have HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) with our South African brothers. Looks like things will get better overtime, Celtel also launched their mobile internet access at Ksh20 (0.26$ cents) per mb (megabit) of data sent and received.
I had a talk with "Duke" of stockskenya.com and he tells me based on this article he'll launch a proactive group to agitate for the rights of the investor. You really need to read this article and see the underhanded approach adopted by stock brokers in a very bullish market. Looks like the birth of a vigilante group hmmmm...:-)
It seems the call center business isn't as rosey as I thought, if the action the company is taking an indication then things don't look very sunny. After a recruitment drive that so our company hire more then 100 people for one of our major clients, I was shocked to find out that the client cancelled the accounts and now we stuck with empty computers and the company has to retrench the guys they'd hired. Most had only worked for about 3 weeks so the disappointment and anger is at some crazy levels. Let's see how that goes...watch this space I might be out of a full time job sooner then I think....
It's amazing how web companies are valued look at the numbers:
MySpace-Currently 580$ million but estimated to have a value of 15$ billion in the next 10 years or so..purchased by News Corp
Youtube-1$ billion.. but Mark Cuban doesn't think so article here
And that was my week...
Saturday, September 23, 2006
- “Our projections are conservative.” An entrepreneur's projections are never conservative. If they were, they would be $0. I have never seen an entrepreneur achieve even her most conservative projections. Generally, an entrepreneur has no idea what sales will be, so she guesses: “Too little will make my deal uninteresting; too big, and I'll look hallucinogenic.” The result is that everyone's projections are $50 million in year four. As a rule of thumb, when I see a projection, I add one year to delivery time and multiply by .1.
- “(Big name research firm) says our market will be $50 billion in 2010.” Every entrepreneur has a few slides about how the market potential for his segment is tens of billions. It doesn't matter if the product is bar mitzah planning software or 802.11 chip sets. Venture capitalists don't believe this type of forecast because it's the fifth one of this magnitude that they've heard that day. Entrepreneurs would do themselves a favor by simply removing any reference to market size estimates from consulting firms.
- “(Big name company) is going to sign our purchase order next week.” This is the “I heard I have to show traction at a conference” lie of entrepreneurs. The funny thing is that next week, the purchase order still isn't signed. Nor the week after. The decision maker gets laid off, the CEO gets fired, there's a natural disaster, whatever. The only way to play this card if AFTER the purchase order is signed because no investor whose money you'd want will fall for this one.
- “Key employees are set to join us as soon as we get funded.” More often than not when a venture capitalist calls these key employees who are VPs are Microsoft, Oracle, and Sun, he gets the following response, “Who said that? I recall meeting him at a Churchill Club meeting, but I certainly didn't say I would leave my cush $250,000/year job at Adobe to join his startup.” If it's true that key employees are ready to rock and roll, have them call the venture capitalist after the meeting and testify to this effect.
- “No one is doing what we're doing.” This is a bummer of a lie because there are only two logical conclusions. First, no one else is doing this because there is no market for it. Second, the entrepreneur is so clueless that he can't even use Google to figure out he has competition. Suffice it to say that the lack of a market and cluelessness is not conducive to securing an investment. As a rule of thumb, if you have a good idea, five companies are going the same thing. If you have a great idea, fifteen companies are doing the same thing.
- “No one can do what we're doing.” If there's anything worse than the lack of a market and cluelessness, it's arrogance. No one else can do this until the first company does it, and ten others spring up in the next ninety days. Let's see, no one else ran a sub four-minute mile after Roger Bannister. (It took only a month before John Landy did). The world is a big place. There are lots of smart people in it. Entrepreneurs are kidding themselves if they think they have any kind of monopoly on knowledge. And, sure as I'm a Macintosh user, on the same day that an entrepreneur tells this lie, the venture capitalist will have met with another company that's doing the same thing.
- “Hurry because several other venture capital firms are interested.” The good news: There are maybe one hundred entrepreneurs in the world who can make this claim. The bad news: The fact that you are reading a blog about venture capital means you're not one of them. As my mother used to say, “Never play Russian roulette with an Uzi.” For the absolute cream of the crop, there is competition for a deal, and an entrepreneur can scare other investors to make a decision. For the rest of us, don't think one can create a sense of scarcity when it's not true. Re-read the previous blog about the lies of venture capitalists, to learn how entrepreneurs are hearing “maybe” when venture capitalists are saying “no.”
- “Oracle is too big/dumb/slow to be a threat.” Larry Ellison has his own jet. He can keep the San Jose Airport open for his late night landings. His boat is so big that it can barely get under the Golden Gate Bridge. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs are flying on Southwest out of Oakland and stealing the free peanuts. There's a reason why Larry is where he is, and entrepreneurs are where they are, and it's not that he's big, dumb, and slow. Competing with Oracle, Microsoft, and other large companies is a very difficult task. Entrepreneurs who utter this lie look at best naive. You think it's bravado, but venture capitalists think it's stupidity.
- “We have a proven management team.” Says who? Because the founder worked at Morgan Stanley for a summer? Or McKinsey for two years? Or he made sure that John Sculley's Macintosh could power on? Truly “proven” in a venture capitalist's eyes is founder of a company that returned billions to its investors. But if the entrepreneur were that proven, that he (a) probably wouldn't have to ask for money; (b) wouldn't be claiming that he's proven. (Do you think Wayne Gretzky went around saying, “I am a good hockey player”?) A better strategy is for the entrepreneur to state that (a) she has relevant industry experience; (b) she is going to do whatever it takes to succeed; (c) she is going to surround herself with directors and advisors who are proven; and (d) she'll step aside whenever it becomes necessary. This is good enough for a venture capitalist that believes in what the entrepreneur is doing.
- “Patents make our product defensible.” The optimal number of times to use the P word in a presentation is one. Just once, say, “We have filed patents for what we are doing.” Done. The second time you say it, venture capitalists begin to suspect that you are depending too much on patents for defensibility. The third time you say it, you are holding a sign above your head that says, “I am clueless.” Sure, you should patent what you're doing--if for no other reason than to say it once in your presentation. But at the end of the patents are mostly good for impressing your parents. You won't have the time or money to sue anyone with a pocket deep enough to be worth suing.
- “All we have to do is get 1% of the market.” (Here's a bonus since I still have battery power.) This lie is the flip side of “the market will be $50 billion.” There are two problems with this lie. First, no venture capitalist is interested in a company that is looking to get 1% or so of a market. Frankly, we want our companies to face the wrath of the anti-trust division of the Department of Justice. Second, it's also not that easy to get 1% of any market, so you look silly pretending that it is. Generally, it's much better for entrepreneurs to show a realistic appreciation of the difficulty of building a successful company.
Friday, September 22, 2006
I haven't had the opportunity to meet on a business level any potential venture capitalists in this region, but lately its been the buzz word on everybody's lips. I know of two people who made their money developing an application that in a nutshell gave you access to the laws of the land with a single click, needless to say it proved to be a hit with several big companies,right now they've decided to take on the "venture capitalist" tag, I think I need to have a serious talk with them and ask them how that's going.
Just this week the Villager informed me that he was in the process of acquiring funding from an investor over an idea him and I had, you have to give the guy marks for going out of his way to get things moving. My skepticism went into full throttle when he told me that this money would be a loan at a certain amount of interest yet to be decided, I kept getting visions of an overseer standing over my shoulder witha whip screamin and shouting Profits!!Profits!! makes me think of Amistad (excellent movie starring Djimon Honsou)..I doubt if that's dramatic but when it comes tomoney you can't really be sure the extremes people will go to ensure that they get back their investment and a profit on top of it.
I'm meeting the Villager this weekend on "Kahawa (coffee) Sunday" :-) seems we've coined a name for those brainstorming sessions we have on sunday's..let me see what he'll tell me about our venture capitalist and whether wil have to sign away our souls.
Let me close this post with the top 9 lies of venture capitalists :-) as told by Guy Kawasaki, am sure there is number ten out there, be good and post it as a comment :-)..
- “I liked your company, but my partners didn't.” In other words, “no.” What the sponsor is trying to get the entrepreneur to believe is that he's the good guy, the smart guy, the guy who gets it; the “others” didn't, so don't blame him. This is a cop out; it's not the other partners didn't like the deal as much as the sponsor wasn't a true believer. A true believer would get it done.
- “If you get a lead, we will follow.” In other words, “no.” As the old Japanese say, “If your aunt had balls, she'd be your uncle.” Well, she doesn't have balls, so it doesn't matter. The venture capitalist is saying, “ We don't really believe, but if you can get Sequoia to lead, we'll jump on the pile.” In other words, once the entrepreneur doesn't need the money, the venture capitalist would be happy to give him some more--this is like saying, “Once you've stopped Larry Csonka cold, we'll help you tackle him.” What entrepreneurs want to hear is, “If you can't get a lead, we will.” That's a believer.
- “Show us some traction, and we'll invest.” In other words, “no.” This lie translates to “I don't believe your story, but if you can prove it by achieving significant revenue, then you might convince me. However, I don't want to tell you 'no' because I might be wrong and by golly you may sign up a Fortune 500 customer and then I'd look like a total orifice.”
- “We love to co-invest with other venture capitalists.” Like the sun rising and Canadians playing hockey, you can depend on the greed of venture capitalists. Greed in this business translates to “If this is a good deal, I want it all.” What entrepreneurs want to hear is, “We want the whole round. We don't want any other investors.” Then it's the entrepreneur's job to convince them why other investors can make the pie bigger as opposed to re-configuring the slices.
- “We're investing in your team.” This is an incomplete statement. While it's true that they are investing in the team, entrepreneurs are hearing, “We won't fire you--why would we fire you if we invested because of you?” That's not what the venture capitalist is saying at all. What she is saying is, “We're investing in your team as long as things are going well, but if they go bad we will fire your ass because no one is indispensable.”
- “I have lots of bandwidth to dedicate to your company.” Maybe the venture capitalist is talking about the T3 line into his office, but he's not talking about his personal calendar because he's already on ten boards. Counting board meetings, an entrepreneur should assume that a venture capitalist will spend between five to ten hours a month on a company. That's it. Deal with it. And make board meetings short!
- “This is a vanilla term sheet.” There is no such thing as a vanilla term sheet. Do you think corporate finance attorneys are paid $400/hour to push out vanilla term sheets? If entrepreneurs insist on using a flavor of ice cream to describe term sheets, the only flavor that works is Rocky Road. This is why they need their own $400/hour attorney too--as opposed to Uncle Joe the divorce lawyer.
- “We can open up doors for you at our client companies.” This is a double whammy of lie. First, a venture capitalist can't always open up doors at client companies. Frankly, he might be hated by the client company. The worst thing in the world may be a referral from him. Second, even if the venture capitalist can open the door, entrepreneurs can't seriously expect the company to commit to your product--that is, something that isn't much more than a slick (10/20/30) PowerPoint presentation.
- “We like early-stage investing.” Venture capitalists fantasize about putting $1 million into a $2 million pre-money company and end up owning 33% of the next Google. That's early stage investing. Do you know why we all know about Google's amazing return on investment? The same reason we all know about Michael Jordan: Googles and Michael Jordans hardly ever happen. If they were common, no one would write about them. If you scratch beneath the surface, venture capitalists want to invest in proven teams (eg., the founders of Cisco) with proven technology (eg., the basis of a Nobel Prize) in a proven market (eg., ecommerce). We are remarkably risk averse considering it's not even our money.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
So I was thinking back to a few years ago when the leading mobile service provider, Safaricom, had network congestion issues especially on Friday's when it seems everybody was calling somebody to organise a hookup somewhere. The CEO, Michael Joseph, when contacted for an explanation as to why the network had problems had the gall to say that "...Kenyans have peculiar calling habits..." :-) a comment that did not go down well with his customers as well as the general public, so he quickly apologised for that comment and explained it off with some english wizardry that I have no desire to pursue, by the way Sir Michael as I've aptly named him is white so people didn't take it lightly that an expatriate had the nerve to describe the people who gave him his job as "Peculiar". So I decided to look up the meaning of the word Peculiar and I had a grin all over my face when I saw the meaning:
- Unusual or eccentric; odd.
- Distinct from all others;strange
Anyway, yesterday was chaotic for me but it was also a good day since I was gifted with a laptop,Inspiron E1505 Series, which is making its way to Nairobi by November 4th (No i haven't put it on a ship..). Despite the exploding battery saga with the Dell Laptops I decided to go ahead and trust that they have fixed the problem, may be my faith in human beings needs to be questioned!! a laptop exploded yesterday at the Yahoo HQ and hundreds had to be evacuated according to engadget, the story goes on to say that this was a personal laptop :-). I come from the land where product recalls are just impossible so am thinking if mine does explode who do I run to?? Dell please open a country/region office here in Nairobi.
Last thursday we had the pleasure of hosting two google directors at our office, apparently our "Sweatshop" is getting more coverage then a political event, and if you know Kenya you know politics takes center stage. So that was exciting, the trip was pretty low key and no local daily mentioned that they were in the country, as always we "kissed arse" when we saw them :-) who wouldn't?? Google is to the internet what the Nile is to Egyptians, the source of life :-) By the way we went to the google directors page and we couldn't figure out the ones who were in our office (Yes the CEO didn't tell us their names!! how could he)..go figure!!..seems they also passed by a "common friend" whom I criticised..hmm..fill that in for yourself..
Seems Firefox 2.0 RC1 is available for download yippee!! here is the download link..
On tuesday I was chatting to Al Kags about the IFC Business Incubator and he was very skeptical about it. I figure he has more experience in the matter since he is a convenor at the ictvillage, to quote him this is what he had to say"its not for start ups, its unrealistically stringent and they get to own 75% of the biz" food for thought..hmmm...on the other hand he also pointed out that if the business plan is solid it will stand on its own..time will tell..
Gisty Jeng was in town on sunday and we had a chance to sit down and chat about everything, he was particularly interested in Online Payment dilemma and he was of the view that it was worth looking at. It seems he'll be leaving his Kampala haven, having been disillusioned by the organisation's direction as well as its vision, seems the grass isn't truly greener on the other side...
That's a wrap..my week in summary...
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Let's slim down Microsoft into a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine! Mini-Microsoft, Mini-Microsoft, lean-and-mean!
The underlying message in his blog is MSFT (The Nasdaq name for Microsoft) is that it should be broken down into smaller but more efficient units. He knows not afraid to point out the inadequacies of Steve Ballmer and even goes ahead to criticise the products MSFT releases to the public.
You seriously need to read his blog, and so it is with much pleasure that I give you.....drum roll..moment of silence.......
A couple of months back a friend of mine, I call him "Duke" partnered up with a few like minded fellows and developed a Stocks website (www.stockskenya.com), the bullish market being experienced by our stock exchange is the hottest thing after sliced bread and young people are investing their money in equities in order to cash in on this market. I'm not sure what their budget was but I bet it was less then the $2000 dollars that Digg.com was developed with.
StocksKenya.com was developed using Microsoft's ASP.NET with a slight influence of AJAX, the site isn't the most eye catching and this is understandable bearing in mind that Duke isn't the most creative person this side of the Sahara :-) it could do with a lot of work in terms of the creative aspects and Duke assures me that this is in the pipeline but in terms of a source of current information it fits the bill. I had a chat with a fellow Afropreneur studying at the University of Texas-Austin and he was really impressed by the website, one of the features he pointed out was the stock tracker which allows you to track the prices of the companies you are interested in. Quick access to information seems to be a key objective of the website hence the tabular format (the influence of a pure coder can be seen here) of all the information as well as upfront display of the most relevant pricing information, to access the full features of the site a user needs to be
Only yesterday the site was featured in one of local dailies, The Standard, I didn't get a chance to read up on what they had to say about it about it but it resulted in an increased number of signups, a source informed me that it was more then 500 people no small feat especially in a country where the number of internet users is primarily limited to office users. I guess the publicity went along way. Duke informs me that they have plans to put up Advertising banners and other features which he didn't feel he could share with me :-)
There are other websites that aim to achieve the objectives that stockskenya.com is aiming for which should provide for healthy competition they include Stock-detective.co.ke (available in both english and Swahili) as well as the websites run by the various brokerage firms.
I promised Duke that I wouldn't bash the site but I'd offer constructive criticism which I have channeled directlt to him, but some of the features I'd like would be:
- A more graphical analysis of the pattern of a particular stock with dynamic graphs. Currently the graphs are images which honestly doesn't do much for me in terms of tracking.
- Integration with mobile alerts. I'd like to be informed of the clsoing price of the stocks I have interest in once trading closes, this would really be useful to those guys who don't have access to a computer through out the day.
- Comparisons of several companies dealing in the same industry so that I can be able to make an informed decision based upon histories.
Having taken a break from writing the business plan for almost 4 weeks I finally managed to get a decent Word editor onto my aging laptop, most of you are thinking Ms-Word..well that would be the logical software to put in but after having lost One-eyed-bandit's "copy" of Office XP I decided to go the Open direction :-) and so I installed OpenOffice. I would have to say that it has one of the smallest installation files (70MB to be precise, Office XP comes in at a whopping 350+MB install file) considering the amount of software it comes bundled with. A couple of months back I'd read that OpenOffice was the memory hog and as such its adoption was proving to be a problem, I don't have any performance metrics to compare it with but I would have to say that in terms of memory consumption it proved to be much better then Ms-Office (You need to see the ageing laptop I'm using to understand where I'm coming from).
I'm not an Anti-Microsoft Crusader but I figure that if you can't afford to buy their products and piracy isn't you cup of cake why not take what's being offered out there as an alternative, I'm sure Bill (Gates and I are on a first name basis :-) ...hahahaha!!...) would agree. There are obviously some things that Ms-Office has that could probably put OpenOffice to shame but I figure that they are all cosmetic and in time Sun Microsystems will include them in the next release (currently we are on version 2.0.3).
Try it out, believe me you it worth the second look at..
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Read on..read on..
Monday, September 11, 2006
I was in church yesterday making peace with my creator, doing my best to confess my iniquities and renegotiate my contract which should see me beyond the pearly gates rather then in fiery walls of hades while all this was happening when I realised that I shared a common interest with every other person, we were all searching for silence, a place where we could shut down the noise of the world and just focus on ourselves. Whichever way you look at it, we are all running away from the noise.
The workaholic is running away from the home where he finds no peace. I've met people who say that they are more relaxed in the office then they are at home, I think they are commonly referred to as Married Men :-). The office provides an "island of exclusivity" where every other thing does not matter, the crying baby, the nagging wife, all that comes to an end in the office.
The faithful believer (no bias against any religion) is running from the problems of the world and a relationship with a heavenly being provides that, the church,mosque, synagogue you name it all provide a sense of seclusion that comforts the soul.
The drug addict uses the drugs to silence the noises of the world, and for those few minutes or hours they are intoxicated the world is the most silent place for them.
So what do you do to get to the silence?
Friday, September 08, 2006
I wanted to do a complete critic of the said company but I've realised that events are overtaking me, I've decided that this post will be specifically dedicated to chronicling the events that have occured since my post went live, I'll only mention the key ones. I don't inspire to be great in what I write just to tell it like it is, if I didn't do that I'd be denying who I am.
September 6th 06:
The Villager puts his two cents on the matter. Short but straight to the point.
September 8th 06:
Digital evengelist posted a rather detailed comment on the matter which in all honesty gave me the desire to continue doing what am doing.
September 8th 06:
One eyed bandit commented..big ups for his words..
September 9th 06:
Pilgrim..oh lovely pilgrim..straight talker..I feel you on that post...
This represents the written comments I got from people out there. I must say I was surprised by the response, negative as well as positive, this blog was never meant elicit reaction or be the "voice of insanity" :-) believe me I've been branded many things during this past weekend from "An ungrateful fool" to a "Neo-crusader" and some others I can't mention, at the end of the day we do what we must do..
Thursday, September 07, 2006
I don't have the luxury of explaining of my lack of sleep as excitement due to one or two things, somebody even suggested that I change diets which currently consists of:
- No Breakfast
- Lunch-Usually white rice and some animal or vegetable protein and a glass of fresh fruit juice
- Supper-Rice/maize meal and some veggies or meat
So for the last couple of weeks I have been leaving the office at about 9pm, heading home, having dinner and sitting behind laptop trying to finish a project THE VILLAGER contracted me to do. I would be lying if I said that by the time I get home I'm not tired, am drained but it never translates into sleep. I get a lot done by 2.30am and plus I get paid :-)...
Some people have expressed concern that I'll burn out in pursuit of the almight dollar, the wrong assumption is that I never get any sleep, I do, just not at the common time that regular folks do and that I believe silences the critics :-)
Do I ever wish I could fall asleep immediately my head hits the pillow?Offcourse, but since that isn't happening why not harness its power :-) I see myself like one of the Marvel comic characters from The X-MEN :-) just without the tights and the weird costumes. In the X-MEN Professor Xavier teaches the mutants to accept their mutation and not see it as a flaw, so here I am...
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
A fellow blogger Al Kags, just sent me a free (don't you just love that word!! :-) ) poetry ebook titled Grey Spots which his taken the time to write. I've always appreciated people who are able to express themselves by putting their thoughts and emotions on paper (kudos to all visual artists also) and so I took the time to read through some of Al Kags words, if I comment I just might spoil it for you :-) so I won't I'll let you read it and see which one speaks to you (personally like Senses of Me :-) oops !! did I just make a comment??? hahahaha!!)..
Head over to his blog Kenyan Tenses and post a comment..If you want me to send you the poetry ebook just post a comment/request with your email address and I'll be sure to send it you..
Friday, September 01, 2006
You may have succeeded at life if...
If you do something no one ever accomplished before.
If you give more to the human race than you take away.
If you are ever a world champion.
If you spend more time happy than sad.
If you practice refined taste.
If you spend less time thinking about other people than they spend thinking about you.
If you have two or more surviving children.
If you have sex with more people than your partners.
If you die with more money than your parents.
If when the time comes you don't fear death.
If someone remembers you 100 years after you're gone.
If you make a difference in just one person's life.
If you ever get someone to truly love you.
If you accomplish everything which was expected of you and more.
If you never purposefully harm anyone.
...But the truth is, there is no official score.
by Bram Cohen September, 2000
Bram Cohen is the author of the peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing program and protocol BitTorrent.