Insights from Pivot East 2013… “Techies in Africa: work with other disciplines”

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Yesterday we profiled the VC4Africa members who came out as winners at Pivot East 2013: Ma3RouteKytabuKola Studios & SleepOut! Today we catch up with Michael Niyitegeka, inspiring Ugandan consultant, university lecturer and tech expert who was one of the judges at this year’s Pivot East.

What did you think of the Pivot East event?

“Overall it was a great event, well organized, and with a great Apps Competition Challenge. I hope those organizing events in Kampala or Uganda learnt one or two lessons about putting up competitions like this.

About the entrepreneurs: it was a mixed grill or mixed bag. A couple of the apps presented kept us excited, all through others the audience struggled to appreciate what was being presented. There were some that should not have been on that stage, but I guess that is why it is a competition.

Tech people need to invest in telling the stories about their applications. A lot of effort is spent on describing the app from a technical point and showing abstract financial projections, rather than showing what value the app is bringing to the consumer.

I guess it gets better by the day and challenge. Actually, it was easy to tell the guys who have been presenting at different challenges: there was a level of confidence that some clearly lacked.”

What was the most heated debate, and why? And what are some of the key insights from the event?

“Not sure which one was the most heated debate but one was around investability of apps. There is frustration around developers not finding VC’s to invest in their projects. On the other hand the VC’s do not find interesting projects to invest in. This mismatch is something that must be addressed.

Another insight from the event is the need to have the techies work with other disciplines. We are seeing most of the teams are largely techie and this limits their ability to innovate, but most important, develop solutions that are relevant to users. The Innovation Hubs need to open up and have other disciplines or professions engage with techies.”

What are your favorite ventures from this year’s Pivot East? Which Ugandan or other entrepreneurs should we be watching?

Kola Studios from Uganda, into the gaming area, are up to something. It’s a team that has been cohesive and they get better by the day. They are developing games with a local touch very specific to the different countries. They have been doing this for the last 3 years and every other year they get better. My bet is one them they have what it takes do great stuff!”

How does the Kampala tech scene compete regionally, and what does it mean to have Pivot East in Kampala?

“The Kampala tech scene is definitely growing and improving by the day. We are seeing more interesting applications being presented with deeper thought into relevance. Kenya is definitely doing much better in the region. They have been at this for a while, that not withstanding we all have work to do in order to up our game.

Pivot East is a great opportunity to learn, I am sure there are a number of Ugandans who have learnt a lot by attending the event. It has provided an exposure opportunity as well as a networking opportunity. We need more of these events in Kampala to have more participate and learn.”

You are someone who has seen the Uganda space develop from the beginning. What has gone well and what is still a challenge?

“It’s been an organic growth definitely. We now have more co-working spaces & hubs and that gives the budding entrepreneurs more opportunities to put their skills to work. The quality of talent is definitely improving by the day and that is critical. So we have done very well in training, but we still need to seriously nurture our talent beyond the semantics of education. Access to infrastructure, especially reliable connectivity, is something all the hubs are struggling with. Without reliable funding the hubs are struggling to keep afloat. It is important the governments come in to support the survival of these spaces, for they are channels for employment creation.”

What role do you see VC4Africa and other actors play?

“There is a lot to be done and definitely entities like VC4Africa have a clean sheet to write their story. VC’s and other actors need to be part of the process, being at the end of the chain ready to invest may not enable them to fully appreciate the challenges on hand. I think working with the tech-preneurs in their nascent stages would be a great idea, much as this is not within their mandate. We need to nurture these developers. Strategic engagements with the hubs would be a great idea.”

What are your tips to entrepreneurs and investors, both in and outside the VC4Africa community?

“Know what you want and be very specific. Tell your story, no one is going to tell it better than you! Both investors and entrepreneurs need to have a meeting point, a point of convergence, which is not happening now.

Entrepreneurs should focus on solving problems that simplify life and not on self-gratification. Know your money making model, it is very important, this must be very clear to you! And focus: many entrepreneurs are scattered, they start many initiatives and in the end none is functional.

Many look at entrepreneurship as pass time, and that cannot get you the desired results. Entrepreneurship is like any other profession: only those that are passionate and committed to it realize the benefits.”

For more information about Pivot East see their website. Want to launch your product in front of a global audience? Apply to be a part of DEMO Africa 2013!