Announcing the Rollout of Ventures 2.0

We’ve been hard at work the past few weeks developing an update to the popular ventures section of the VC4Africa platform. In terms of new features and functionality, this ranks among the biggest code updates to the site since we launched in November of last year. So what’s new in ventures?

We listened to feedback from the community and learned that we could do more to streamline the process of posting a new venture online. Formulating and clearly communicating a business idea isn’t an easy task. For new entrepreneurs, the steps involved in creating a venture may be the first time they’ve been required to think critically about their pitch, revenue model, what equity stake they are willing to offer in exchange for finance and so on. To assist with this process, we’ve included two new levels of help: context sensitive tips and expert advice from business coaches.

Intelligent help & expert coaching
As you walk through the steps of creating a new venture, you’ll notice question mark icons next to the bold sections. What type/stage of financing do you require? Not sure if you need an NDA? Looking for sweat equity or an investor to be active in your business? Hover over any of these icons and you’ll find useful tips and links to additional resources to guide you through each step. If you want advice from a personal coach, choose the ‘Request Assistance’ link to send a quick private message to our business advisers.

Context sensitive help

Start, stop and resume when you want
My Draft VenturesIn the past, if you started a new venture you had to proceed through each step to the end in order to post it. We understand that it isn’t always possible to post a venture in one sitting, so we’ve developed a totally new workflow behind the scenes. In Ventures 2.0, your ventures are automatically saved in draft form. You can simply stop at any step, return to your venture later and resume where you left off. You can save drafts of multiple ventures, ask for coaching and edit, publish or delete them any time—all from your profile page. After you’ve completed your venture, our business coaches receive an alert and are on hand to provide expert advice and direction to get the most out of your business idea. From there, your new venture will appear in the ‘Latest Venture’ widget on the home page and will be associated with your profile page.

We’ve also added a cool new animated progress bar to indicate how much of your venture you’ve completed and provide some encouragement along the way. :)

Make an impact with video
If a picture has the power to communicate a thousand words, a video pitch can speak volumes. Borrowing from the Latin phrase cogito ergo sum (‘I think, therefore I am’), the entrepreneur might rightly say, ‘I pitch, therefore I am.’ Entrepreneurs are always pitching. If you’re not able to meet them face-to-face, a great video pitch is one of the best ways to capture the attention of a potential investor or partner.

Check out Cameroon’s Mambe Nanje Churchill pitching his venture Njorku:

Mambe Nanje Churchill pitches Njorku

If you’re able to upload a short video pitch (60 seconds is a good target) to a service such as YouTube, simply paste the link into the first step of creating a venture and we’ll handle the rest. Your video pitch is automatically sized and embedded on a new ‘Pitch’ tab front and center within your venture.

We think this ability to post embedded video really brings the venture section to life! There is no better way to make a powerful first impression with your audience than with video, so we encourage you to practice your pitch and add one to your venture. Again, if you need help at any stage, the ‘Request Assistance’ link is only a click away. ;)

For investors, we’ve simplified the venture layout by condensing the view into two tabs: Pitch and Summary Plan. The venture overview now shows a more dynamic ‘Top in 30 days’ list of business ideas. The end result is it’s easier than ever to browse ventures and discover business plans that match your interests.

This is what we’ve been cooking up lately. If Ventures 2.0 isn’t exciting enough, we’re proud to announce that this latest round of coding marks the first collaboration with ExtendedBITS in Somaliland and a continued partnership with Zinger Systems in Cameroon. Now we’re gearing up to begin usability testing our platform with entrepreneurs in Kampala, Uganda.

Do you have other ideas or suggestions for how to improve ventures on VC4Africa? If so, please feel free to use the comments section below.