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Startups must find problems worth solving

ELIAS PACHESO

Tech Hub is excited to see the continued growth of the startup ecosystem in Zimbabwe. This is happening even at a time when the conditions are less than ideal and require a change in mind-set by local entrepreneurs who might be sitting on the fence waiting for ideal conditions. Although we never look at the environment from that angle, a deteriorating economic environment is the best time to find problems worth solving.

Last week saw the release of inflation figures, where month on month inflation rose to nearly 40% and year on year inflation was pegged at 175%. What has this got to do with startups? Well quite a lot. I want to see more startups stepping up to solve the challenges facing the country today. A few weeks ago we were excited to see the launch of an innovative programme which involves a few local and international partners. The programme involves a bus tour across the country’s 10 provinces to identify innovative entrepreneurs.

I have been following the tour with a lot of interest because of what it is exposing. There is a lot of hidden talent in our country. Failure to expose and nurture is robbing current and future generations. As a technology hub, we feel challenged and encouraged to do more to provide a platform to help these start-ups grow. In Zimbabwe startups lack support and are never seen as important cog in Zimbabwe’s economic revival. This appears to changing as the programme involves government and private partners. Faced with a number of challenges ranging from power, transportation, rising price levels, droughts among others, opportunities for innovation and disruption are abound and the young generation is taking notice and rising to the occasion.

However taking advantage of difficult situations requires the correct frame of mind. Many opportunities often go begging because entrepreneurs are waiting for the right time to start a business that they hope will be profitable. As a startup advisor, I come across many start-up founders who are sitting on the fence and waiting for the right time. “Get up and get on with it! Start with what you have and do what you can” I keep telling them. Those who answer the call are progressing well and are running profitable businesses.

Just as I was writing this article I saw another notice of a fuel price increase and began to think about our public transport system especially for the urban commuter. In such an environment it is very easy to get distracted. As an entrepreneur you must stay focussed and continue asking the right questions and finding the answers. If you were driving to work every day should you be driving your own cars to and from work alone daily or you could benefit from the many ride sharing apps that are sprouting up. Better still why not start your ride sharing app for your area! This is one good example of how innovative entrepreneurs can solve everyday problems and create a viable business by solving local problems.

Identifying the problems that need solving is easy if you start with a positive state of mind. When you look at a problem negatively, you will never design a product or service that solves it. Have you ever wondered how foreign entrepreneurs come in and start something that catches on and you wonder how they did it or why you never thought of it. This happens a lot but you can change it by doing a lot of desk top research and through traveling to new places. There are very few new inventions now but a lot more iterations of things that have already worked elsewhere and are being re-adapted to suite local conditions.

What about the energy crisis, what are entrepreneurs doing to provide solutions? Solar power comes to mind and the government recently announced that it was considering removing duty on solar related equipment. Over the last few weeks there have been stories of investors looking to come in and establish solar related businesses. The take up of solar has increased dramatically as people try and solve their own power issues. Unbeknown to them they are helping solve future power crises. Entrepreneurs who make the process of moving to solar easy will reap the most benefits. 5 years from now we will be looking back and saying that power crisis was good for the economy.

What is my point? Clearly when one looks at the current economic situation one choose to see the opportunities or choose to see the challenges. Great entrepreneurs turn challenges into businesses and that is the point I am trying to make. Watching the youth entrepreneurship programme unfold has really been an eye opener and points to the need for more supporting structures for entrepreneurs to start and grow life changing business ventures.

As Tech Hub we are home to a dozen entrepreneurs who are tackling various challenges from access to tertiary education and energy to food and beverages processing. With limited resources the entrepreneurs are benefiting from the use of our space and resources to develop their start-ups into large business. If you would like to find out more information on how you too can become part of the movement contact us on +263718924393 or hararehub@gmail.com.

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