Why 2019 Proved To Be A Mixed Year For Zimbabwean Start-ups
By Elias Pacheso
2019 proved to be a mixed year for Zimbabwean start-ups. A number of start-ups failed while others emerged from the shadows. There is a tendency to think that start-ups are started by individuals only, especially in Zimbabwe, a nation that has a fair share of challenges that need solving. Most observers have watched Zimbabwe from a distance waiting for the environment to get better and are missing opportunities as a result.
Tech Hub, an emerging home grown innovation hub that is home to a number of freelancers and some start-ups witnessed first-hand, how unfunded start-ups struggle to build their prototypes and scale. 2019 was a year for experimentation and lessons for the hub. What we learnt was both exciting and disheartening. We were excited to see the desire to collaborate on ideas through hackathons and meetups. Disheartened that once the issue of who owns what was brought up people tended to go their separate ways in pursuit of their own value. This remains a big let-down in the Zimbabwean context. Tech Hub is encouraging open source software development in the hope that this will encourage collaboration amongst people with talent. Founders want to go it alone and don’t reliase the importance of teams.
Although the ecosystem is growing, there are still massive challenges being faced by the country. On the other hand the biggest challenge is the rush to be first by organisations that are supporting or trying to build the next big thing. Some corporates would rather start their own start-ups and ignore work done already in building successful start-ups. A look on the google play store will reveal a number of successful ride sharing service start-ups that went about building their prototypes and even gaining users. None have been acquired to date even though some corporates have launched their own from scratch. It seems idea execution is tough. We wrote about this here.
If Zimbabwe is to successfully motivate entrepreneurs to innovate, corporates and well-heeled investors must start acquiring upcoming start-ups and scale them. Let us believe in our innovators and empower them to dream big. 2019 proved to be a bitter year for many founders who felt a break was coming. Not that anyone is entitled to being acquired, founders need to be recognised and encouraged in order to innovate more. When the Minister of Finance announced the National Venture fund I felt some relief, why this fund could very well feel the void left by corporates or investors who are feel that they can start their own start-ups and not acquire start-ups that have already done the home work and ready to scale.
There is a saying which goes, “You must crawl before you can walk”. As a start-up advisor I have seen how there is a rush to create shortcuts to success at start-up and even at support services level. There is no template to ecosystem building but the basics are all the same. Successful start-up ecosystems encourage innovation, collaboration and from these many ideas that scale are born.
I am really hoping to see a better year next year where innovators will encouraged to compete through pitch nights, innovation drives, start-up acquisitions and so on. Innovators are working hard to bring impact and the more we recognise their efforts the more innovation we will see. Ecosystems are not built overnight I am confident that 2020 will see an explosion of corporate led investment in start-ups. I am also hoping that many founders will soften their stance on asking for too much for a stake in their venture. It’s a give and take game. So much money has been wasted in the past by some corporates who try and short cut the ideation development phase. Every idea needs to be tested before it is built into a viable product or service. There is a tendency by corporate innovators to through money at ideas that fail and this must stop in 2020! Tech Hub has registered many start-ups and would like to connect to corporates or investors who want to invest or need help building one from an idea. Through our innovation teams we are ready to work on ideas and build successful problem start-ups. Contact us using our email [email protected] or visit our website www.cowork.co.zw. You can also follow some of the start-up we follow here.
- Posted on 5 December, 2019
- by Administrator