mHub First Startup Camp

“Have you established clear business and personal goals? Are they written down? Do you read them everyday? Will they wow the people in this room if they were read out loud?” Those were some of the questions that opened the Startup Camp help last weekend held for mHub members. mHub is a tech and innovation hub based in Lilongwe, Malawi

Three facilitators, including myself, took over 20 participants through a two day course on how to analyse a business idea, how to develop a business, marketing and communication plan, how to identify sources of capital and what technologies to use to enhance their businesses.

The main facilitator, Jones Ntaukira of Flame Tree International, advised the young entrepreneurs to develop a robust business plan as one way of ensuring that their startups are on track. He emphasised on the need to involve professionals when developing partnership contracts and drawing up a cash flow as examples. He took the participants through a number of different business planning case studies.

Daniel Dunga, a motivational speaker and an organiser of Blantyre Entrepreneurial Pitch Night, looked at the various sources of capital. He advised the participants on sourcing cheap capital first — personal savings, love money, grants — before opting for other sources that attract interest. He also pointed out that there are lawyers, accountants and other professional who are willing to provide pro-bono services for startups. He challenged the entrepreneurs to think big. If they were not willing to think big, they had better get a job.

The Startup Camp was sponsored by Unicef and the participants are members of mHub from Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre. They comprised students, recent college graduates and early stage startups. The startups included

– Horizon, a partnership of two architecture graduates;
– Mlimi wa Lero, a mobile app to provide agriculture information for farmers;
– Ufulu Tab, an Android tab designed in Malawi and manufactured in China;
– Bho!, a social media app;
– GTech, a partnership of web designers.

I presented on the need for these young entreprenuers to plan, be focused and be organised and the tools that can help them do that. I also took the participants through the process of developing a marketing and communication plan and emphasised on the need to carefully built a brand for themselves and their startups.

My key takeaways from the Startup Camp.

– We need to deliberately involve more and more young women in tech. There are not enough girls taking up tech and the poor attendance at the Startup camp was very clear.

– We need to think big, very big! Our ideas need to be applicable beyond our borders because the Malawi market is not big enough.

– We need more Startup Camps to ensure young entrepreneurs have the skills to build successful businesses. Ideas need to be shared and cross pollinated and synergies formed.