By Irene Wanjugu.
He arrived earlier than expected – that doesn’t happen often.
The whole of the Moringa fraternity was present and eager. After a quick introduction he delved into what we’d all been waiting for.
Mr Bitange Ndemo is a brilliant individual. He is a technocrat by his own rights and he definitely knows what he’s talking about. The good Sir begun his talk by touching on Cyber Security. This is an area he is clearly very passionate about, having written a recent paper on this element in the Kenyan market. He explained that with the growing dependency on the internet and technology to perform our day-to-day… tasks results in a lot of data, especially personal data. And we know how powerful information can be. With this increase in commercial value for personal data, thieves surface and there emerges a hidden data economy – a market place for stolen digital information.
Kenya’s use of the internet has increased exponentially in the past few years, he said, and this has made it a primary target for these cyber criminals. It is a serious problem. He went on ahead to stress that as future Kenyan software developers, we were at exactly the right place to be able to solve this problem. He urged us to look at problems as opportunities; not tax the government with the responsibility to deal with this problem alone, but to come up with the best ideas on how to thwart this problem. This brought about a different train of thought by Mr Ndemo and he veered off his current topic to one about problems and solutions.
In the past, Africa had been known as the ‘dark’ continent; nothing good could come from this place full of backward people. But with the internet people have realized that the African market is actually a good, if not the best, market for businesses to tap into. ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’. This is because the beautiful motherland is full of a phenomena very key in creating businesses and money – PROBLEMS.
Huh? Yup, you heard me right. Problems.
A problem is usually a need that the masses have that a solution has not yet been fulfilled. Oh, how many problems we have! But as Mr Ndemo so aptly put it, “Problems are opportunities”. Conceptualize opportunities out of problems i.e. find a problem, do your research – A LOT of research, find a solution to the problem then provide this solution to the masses at a fee. This is Entrepreneurship, this is what business is.
He gave us an example of a problem rampant on our very own soil that could be turned into a lucrative opportunity. There is a shortage of meat in Nairobi. Beef to be specific. Apparently my people cannot get enough of meat and there’s not enough to round. And there’s numbers to support this! Now I had no clue about this, and this just goes to show how problems are all around and they can actually be solved to everyone’s betterment.
And this, he said, is what we should be aiming to do as students of Moringa School in specific, and Kenyan tech-savvy individuals .
Personally, I have never thought of problems that way. Problems are things that disturb your comfort and peace of mind – that is all they are. They need to be furthest away from your business as possible! Many Kenyans agree with me, and Mr Ndemo pointed this out. Many businesses in Kenya start as a result of peer pressure – what is the most common business now? Farming tomatoes, setting up a shop? Once this question is posed, an individual will create the same business without putting much thought into it.
He alluded to the phenomenon where individuals will open very many shops in one area, and sell the same thing. As a result, no one really gets enough profits to keep their business growing. This is as a result of this Kenyan understanding, or rather lack of, of business, problems and the opportunities presented by them. Very few individuals are solving real problems in their businesses. And these few ones are actually doing very well!
With this new-found perspective, I have become excited at the prospect of problem solving.When done well it gets you money! Mr. Bitange Ndemo introduced the concept of BRAINSTORMING, after you have identified a problem or need, get a bunch of people who understand this outlook on entrepreneurship and create solutions together. Tell people your ideas – they won’t steal them! Do your research. Work hand in hand with other people to come up with the best solution for that particular problem.
Finally, as an entrepreneur, you will need a team. There are a few pointers that Mr Ndemo gave concerning this is:
- Get a team only after you’ve met your customers. After your business has attracted customers, then it is a viable business. Then and only then do you bring in others to help with growing the business.
- No relatives! Your kin might be the help you need when the business is young. But after expansion, when one requires professionals to take the company to the next level, problems will rise when it comes to replacing them. So keep it professional from the beginning
- The three most important individuals in your team are: A software developer, a financial person (accountant) and a HR manager. These are who you should get first.
He concluded by letting us in on a secret. After you have done all the above, What will increase the chances of success a hundred fold? – DISCIPLINE! He pointed out that this is a virtue very much lacking in the Kenyan society, from the homes, schools to the workplace. “Without this nothing will work out in the long run.”
He also explained that, while Kenyans might have the same level of skill (if not more) as any other country (the likes of the Chinese and Koreans) who offer services, say software development, indiscipline robs us of our competitive advantage. This is the key that holds everything together and we must find a way to bring it back to our society, starting with our homes.
In summary, this is the wisdom that Mr Ndemo imparted unto us: Cyber security is important. We as software developers need to incorporate this thinking in every software we develop. Problems are opportunities, seize them and change the world!
Brainstorm. Work with others. Two heads are better than one.
Discipline, discipline, discipline. And again – discipline!!!
As he left, I felt rejuvenated, challenged and empowered. I have a set of brand new eyes and an improved perspective on how to be an entrepreneur – help people and make amazing returns while you’re at it.