Well, I rarely respond to humans when it comes to intellectual matters, especially in IT.
When you live in a country where just being able to register a domain and installing a WordPress instance makes you a TECH authority, it is useless to engage in real intellectual arguments and discussions.
What makes it worse is being in a space where you cannot correct someone and everything is always seen as a personal attack. Especially if on twitter, where everyone with more than 22 followers is a celeb.
So, I was reading an article from the star written by a certain Andrea Bohnstedt, today, after it appeared on my TL (a few more hits won’t hurt their servers, I hope). She had a few obvious valid points e.g. water is colorless etc, and ofcourse, in addition to the bourgeois acrimony and predictable poignancy in her writing, you could see that she really was disconnected from the IT sector in Kenya.
First, she calls iHub an Incubator. I guess to her, Kenchic is a car-wash, and Uganda is Spain. Then, after, she started going on about how Facebook is every developer’s wildest dreams. Unless by developer, we mean notepad programmers and MS-word SysAdmins, I was lost here. Wait, are we back to the “everyone wants to make a facebook” cliche already?
Ofcourse, there was a hashtag called #biashara that my very respected pal, @roomthinker had started and it was quite informative to the virgin minds. The content were as a result of a meetup that was at the iHub between @afrowave and @kachwanya, who were not mentioned in the tweets, I think because of the 140-xter twitter limit. I think.
So, why does the loan problem happen? Also, am I (Idd Salim, the one) going to be all Andreaesque and bleat from my high-chair about problems without offering solutions?
We have so much talent in Kenya, it is scary. I cannot think of a skillset you cannot find at iHub. But the weak at heart get demoralized by these prophets of doom, before they even start. They do things as unholy as getting employed. Yikes!!
Problem 1 – Bahati na Sibu mTuvitu Hackathons
First of all, let me make one thing clear. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with developing for Mobile Phones or calling your app mSomething. As long it as it is :
- Self-sustaining in terms of a solid revenue stream.
- Professionally designed AND coded. Not Kindergarten LWUIT/J2mePolish hacks.
- Usable daily and consistently to become a part of the user’s life.
- Able to reach at least 50, 000 people that will conform to 3, above.
The rest is noise. And a waste of time and elec. Afadhali u-watch ngwati.
We live in a society where most rich people cannot pin-point their wealth. Success is measured by where you are. No one cares how you got there. There, subsequently, is a barrage of Hackathons and subsequently, a culture of ‘acha tujaribu’, because someone MUST win the USD 5k or KSHS 1M price set there.
No matter how crappy your app is, if it is the best among the mediocre, you win. Simple as!
Problem 2 – Hubris
The comes step 2. You win some developer contest with your m-Atako app the head explodes! Kumbe I am the best in East Africa bana! Suddenly, instead of focusing on the APP, you become a news anchor. TV daily. App dies. Safaricom, Banks, Andrea and everyone else who would have funded you loses confidence in the sector. If the best are not sustainable, why bother?
I cannot overemphasize the beauty and power of being able to stop yourself from celebrating PROGRESS and focusing on the END-GAME. To most people, the warmth and wetness of progress is so overwhelming that they break their waters before they can get in deep and enjoy the sweetness of the REAL meat.
Problem 3 - Cocoon thinking
This app of mine will change the way people drink milk. Once installed on the phone, a user can now imbibe milk through the elbows.
At iHub, we call it solving “imagined problems”. Problems that people don’t have.
The m-Sumeno app will enable carpenters differentiate a hammer from Saw. It will increase a carpenter’s productivity by 60% since they will no longer waste time wondering which is which.
Julian of Buni said it on Sunday at the #CreativezMeetup, stuff I will blog about soon; “Don’t create an app that will give people symptoms of a disease. It looks good on paper, but REALISTICALLY, if I am sick, as a Kenyan, I will ask my friends what they did the last time they had the same symptoms. Not use an app”
Problem 4 – Lack of focus
Ofcourse, we all suffer from this. Partial focus means partial and delayed/eroded success. if it is not allowed to play women, WHY should one even think of playing Apps/Systems. Do one at a time and be faithful. The banks will listen once:
- You have a fully working app. Not a demo. Not skeletons.
- You show growth and a ‘reason to invest’.
- Show income and potential income to guarantee RoI.
All brought about by focus. Just like any other business.
Focus also dictates focused effort and specialization.
Give your app the BEST code you can, then hire/partner with the BEST marketers and business people out there.
Give out shares. Don’t hoard the company. Better to have a small piece of a Pizza, than own a whole Big-G.
It is Kenyan to talk about why people are failing etc and talk about things people know about superficially, with self-given authority.
In my life, I have heard a bouncer criticize the Linux Kernel. I have heard of a hair-dresser who has written a FreeBSD firewall using CSS. I have heard of a journalist who looks like Scholes who thinks She can lecture IT gurus about success and failures in code. Also, I have been told about the Ngbaka.
But we still remain strong.
Back to code.