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Présentation sur le design d’expérience utilisateur en Afrique réalisée lors de la WIAD de Lyon en Février 2017. Focus sur une étude qualitative portant sur les usages numériques des marchands ambulants au Sénégal.


Pride vs existence. Vison vs survival. Impact vs. Communication

All of us, small incubator and accelerator of the world face these dilemmas every single morning.

Our job  to build real companies, help them train and retain a talented team and generate revenue on a daily basis is so much of a full time job that it is sometimes challenging to focus on a long term strategy and vision. Stuck in this operational framework, we often follow blindly the few important partners that we have signed (or rather that have us signed) and which use us to get in touch and buy legitimacy with the tech ecosystem.

However, we should not forget that we are also entrepreneurs and that we are here to build long lasting organizations – hence here are few reasons why we should not let our “beautiful big partners” dig too much into our beliefs, or dig in them at all:

1) They don’t know much about technology entrepreneurship

Ok, that’s an easy one.  Any angry kid could have said that, but it is, nonetheless, it is true. Almost none of the employees or executives in those corporations, even the so-called “technology experts”, really know what it’s like to build technology SMEs, fund them, support them, manage HR and finance for startups, etc. Whatever program, event or money they want to give you, never forget that they’re mainly in it  for corporate responsibility reasons and not really ecosystems building.

That is not necessarily a problem. The problem is when their hidden objectives are more prominent than your priorities. When it comes to building the ecosystem, never forget that you are the visionaries, the ones to make it happen. More importantly, do not forget that you have a responsibility, to yourselves and to your clients, to remain true to that vision. Take their money, help them achieve what they need, but never at the price of your vision.

2) They tend to see you as “their” incubator

Well at least if you’re successful. But when you fail, they suddenly remember that you have other partners. That really may be a problem since you want to remain independent,  objective and open with all the entrepreneurs.  And you want them to perceive you as such. Indeed, the last thing the latter want is to belong to a large company, they want that large company to be their client. Just take for instance the corporate accelerators with no other partners: no entrepreneurs want to be part of those, because they need more than one partner. They need banks, investors, technology providers, legal advice, etc. Money and communication can never buy a trustful network.

3) They may discourage your team

As most large corporations, they live and grow by putting others down. They seem not to know any other way to build business relationships. It is even more flagrant in African ecosystems where open innovation and co-creation are still obscure concepts. Thus, when you collaborate with them, they may have behaviors and words that can really break your team’s motivation. Every young team is going to make mistakes but what matters is that they work  their ass off to execute perfect events and programs. Getting criticized just because your partners need a reason to diminish your fees or justify an internal argument within their team, may hurt your more passionate team members.

4) Your core vision is to help entrepreneurs succeed, not them

At the end of the day, the main reason you should not bother too much about keeping an unbalanced, non-constructive relationship with a large corporation is that, on the long term, you should not be relying on them to be sustainable. Of course, they are important in the first years, before you’ve found your business model and generated consistent revenues from your companies. But always bear in mind that you are here for one reason:  to build entrepreneurs. Every endeavor you may undertake along the way to survive is good but, if by any chance it had to stop, well it just may be a sign that you should refocus on your own core activities.

Your goal : make them better !

Of course, there is also amazing talented and passionate people in those companies who try to change it from the inside… you should definitely be close to them in order to build fruitful relationship with corporates that could also have a huge leverage on your incubator’s activity

Good luck and have fun.

0x600This article was first published on on February 13th.

It is not easy for most people to understand the daily job of supporting tech entrepreneurs in Africa. Indeed, this fascinating mission only concerns a couple of business angels, venture capitalists, advisors of any kind and, of course, incubating teams. .

This, to me, is the most engaging job in the world: you deal with dozens of brilliant entrepreneurs and visionaries, are in touch with a lot of technologies and business models, get to know them on a personal level and sometimes become friends with some of them.

However it can also be the most ungrateful job on earth. Here are several reasons:

  • The majority of us will never get rich doing what we do! Indeed, only a very little portion of us invest their own money and have shares in the companies that we support. The rest are either volunteers, employees, mentors, etc and most of our tech hubs are non-profit organizations. The funny thing is that sometimes, when you try to have an entrepreneurial approach and make your hub sustainable, people tell you that you aren’t social enough!
  • You will be judged if your startups fail and forgotten if they succeed. No need to elaborate on this, I think you understand. Entrepreneurs all have their reasons not to show that you helped them when they were hitting rock bottom, when they were in a burnout, when they were fighting with their partners and employees, when they just needed someone to talk to. Yet, you were there for them all the time. But I understand that. Like us they evolve in a very uncertain and high pressure environment. Some of them just can’t allow to blame themselves for things that did not work out or to be grateful for something other than their own genius when they succeed.
  • You can always do better. And that’s a good thing in fact. Your job and performance will always be challenged and therefore, you’re always required to improve and rarely congratulated for your actions. And again, even though it is a highly ungrateful situation, it is a good one. You keep on getting better and better for your new entrepreneurs.

But these are personal feelings that have to be managed at a personal level by each individual. The real question that I want to ask is:

Should we support entrepreneurs – or couldn’t the real entrepreneurs get off the ground by themselves?

  • We all should advize, put pressure, open doors and boost their business, but not run the business for them. Or at least that is the theory. Doing our job you’ll quickly understand that if, at some point, you don’t get your hands dirty and do what has to be done along with your entrepreneurs, you will never have them work on something strategic or gain their respect. In the meantime, however, you have to make sure that you only provide assistance to the ones who are ready to die for their business, at least as much as you’re ready to die for your incubator. Moreover, sometimes, exceptional events make your entrepreneur or his team completely out of operations (burnouts and key employee departures are the most current cases). In those situations, either you watch the business die and tell everybody that is was not your fault, or you go ahead and manage the business during the crisis. Fortunately, we only had to do this once at CTIC in three years of activity. The startup that was in a critical situation at the time is now one of the most successful startups in Senegal.
  • Even the greatest entrepreneurs need assistance at some point.

Some people, mostly in the US, will tell you that an entrepreneur who needs support from an incubator will not succeed anyway. Maybe it’s true – at least over there in North America where incubators, in fact, can be replaced by many other parts of the ecosystem that have been involved for a long time: mentors, family, business angels, teachers, classmates – all play a huge role in building the success stories that we all know.

In Senegal however, and probably in many other countries: we don’t have many of those types of support for startups. Therefore, your incubator can play a tremendous role. But it is also a danger to centralize “entrepreneurs support” in one or two spots in a country. This is why I believe that it is clearly our role to help build this ecosystem and support other organizations, even if, at some point, they may become your competitors. But don’t worry, the work to undertake is gigantic, and the more the merrier right!

  • We should support entrepreneurs like if we had invested a million dollar in them

With passion, dedication and empathy. We have to do this very difficult mental task to put ourselves in the life and brain of our entrepreneurs everytime we meet and work with them. For us at CTIC, it has naturally been much easier to build this “symbiotic” relation with entrepreneurs located in the hub versus with “virtual incubatees”, which have office spaces outside of the incubator.

  • Finally, we should never claim the success of any company.

I heard one time that good incubators and accelerators never speak about themselves more than they speak about their companies. I could not agree more – this is true. I also think that whatever amazing services you provide to your startups, you are not responsible for their success! Great people succeed anyway – you just helped them accelerate their growth and get beyond the tough times.

In a nutshell, this fascinating job is a very difficult one in countries where ecosystems still have to be built. But do it with passion and humility. See the big picture and never discourage yourself. You’re on the good track!

Senegal’s location and infrastructure an opportunity for startups – CTIC

note : article by Tom Jackson originally published on HumanIPO

Senegal’s position as an entry into Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa as well as the level of technological development mean the country’s startups have great potential, according to accelerator programme CTIC Dakar.

HumanIPO reported yesterday on CTIC Dakar, the first accelerator and incubator for IT entrepreneurs in Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, which has secured US$150,000 in investments for its startups so far this year.

Yann Le Beux, catalyst at CTIC Dakar, told HumanIPO that though the market in Senegal was small – the country has only 13 million inhabitants – it had great potential for firms as an entry into the rest of the region, with Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa having a population of more than 350 million.

“Senegal has for us a tremendous potential,” said Le Beux. “For historic and administrative reasons, it is pretty easy for a company based in Senegal to access this regional market. Furthermore, a large number of international corporations or NGOs are headquartered in Senegal for west and central Africa.”

He also said Senegal has a good higher education system, with more than 200 institutions and several international campuses which attracts students from other countries and creates a large talent pool.

“Finally, the IT infrastructure and connectivity is good and the mobile penetration rate is close to 90 per cent now,” Le Beux said. “3G is well used and 4G is in its pilot phase.”

HumanIPO reported yesterday the latest Ookla Net Index, reporting average broadband speeds based on individual IP tests, placed Senegal in 14th place.

Le Beux said all these factors mean Senegal has an opportunity to make a global impact through ICT.

“We work night and day at CTIC to achieve this,” he said. “Senegal is already taking advantage of its very high level diaspora to boost global Senegalese companies. They start businesses back home and bring a lot a business and technology practices and then use their international connections to scale globally.”

He said with the rapidly growing internet penetration rate, Senegal is an ideal place to test business models and products for the francophone and global market. He said what was needed now was for the country to attract more international private investments.

“We need more private investment at the seed stage,” Le Beux said. “We now have several VCs based in Senegal or looking closely at it, but we need a few more business angels to really help the startups get off the ground. A public innovation fund could be a good tool to trigger the angel industry, by a match-making grants system for instance.

“Also, like many other countries in Africa, Senegal lacks good graphic designers who can work with engineers – this is really holding back the mobile apps industry. The cost of electricity is also still a break for young companies.”


Note : this article is the original version of an interview given to the great site Human IPO and first published under the title :  Senegalese accelerator secures $150k for startups this year –   Thanks @ Tom Jackson

– What is the idea behind CTIC, and how does it work?

CTIC is the first accelerator and incubator for IT entrepreneurs in Francophone sub-saharan Africa. Created 2 years ago as a public-private non-profit organization, CTIC’s vision is to support the best IT entrepreneurs based in Senegal but having a global or at least regional reach. We have been supported from the start by great partners like the World Bank Infodev program, the German cooperation GIZ, the European Union, the Senegalese Government, the operator Orange and other smaller local private partners. The big idea is to have the government involve to provide facilities, electricity and also to facilitate access to public markets for our SME, but it doesn’t interfere with CTIC’s the business-oriented management style. Our business model is based on a percentage of the revenue growth of the companies we support – if they don’t grow, we don’t get paid. We have two programs: the incubation for existing companies already generating revenues which goes up to 3 years, and the accelerator for innovative startups teams which last 6 months. We don’t take equity so far in the accelerated companies, the accelerator being more for us a way to increase the pipeline of venture and to select the best for our incubation program. We have a team of 8 full time employees.

– Do you provide incubation?

Yes – we provide private office spaces to our companies (but also support larger companies having external offices), business development and contract negotiation, financial and fiscal management, media partnerships, community management, dedicated events if you want to showcase your product and of course access to finance. We now have few local partners directly seed funding our companies and startups.

– How are you funded?

We started with grants from the WorldBank / IFC, Orange, EU and the Government. After 2 years of activity only, we are now able to cover 45% of our annual budget with the revenue we generate from our companies and few business development services like consulting and events. We hope to be fully sustainable by 2016.

– What potential is there in the Senegalese tech space?

Senegal has for us a tremendous potential. Of course the market is small (13 million inhabitant) but Senegal has been traditionally the entry door to Francophone sub-Saharan Africa, which represents a +350 million people market. For historic and administrative reasons, is pretty easy for a company based in Senegal to access this regional market. Furthermore, a large number of international corporations or NGOs are headquartered in Senegal for west and central Africa. Third, Senegal has a very good higher education system, with more than 200 institutions and several international campus. The country attracts a lot of students from other francophone places which created a large talent pool to tap in if you are starting your business. Finally, the IT infrastructure and connectivity is good and the mobile penetration rate is close to 90% now. 3G is well used and 4G is in its pilot phase. Last but not least, the quality of life and security is one of the best on the continent – and that also is important for a tech ecosystem!

– What is holding it back currently?

We need more private investment at the seed stage. We now have several VC based in Senegal or looking closely at it, but we need few more business angels to really help the startups get off the ground. A public innovation fund could be a good tool to trigger the angel industry by a match-making grants system for instance. Also, like many other countries in Africa, Senegal lacks of good graphic designers who can work with engineers – this is really holding back the mobile apps industry. The cost of electricity is also still a break for young companies (but not for CTIC’s ones!)

– Does Senegal have the potential to compete on a global scale through ICT?

Surely. At least we work night and day at CTIC to achieve this! Senegal is already taking advantage of its very high level diaspora to boost global Senegalese companies. They start businesses back home and bring a lot a business and technology practices and then use their international connections to scale globally. We also believe that with the internet penetration rate growing rapidly, Senegal starts to be an ideal place to test business models and products for the francophone and global market. We now need to attract more international private investments (and not only from France!), but we are sure that with the political stability and the recent visit of Barack Obama, US investors are closely searching for a way to enter this region.

– What achievements can CTIC point to so far? Any high points?

We have graduated our first company, People Input, which is now the largest digital agency in Francophone Africa with around 30 employees and a presence in 3 countries. They of course have a great team but we did a great job together structuring their business development, getting access to public commands and gaining international partnerships and visibility. We have so far incubated 16 companies which are all still in business and 30 startups teams. The average revenue growth of our companies was 85% in 2012, up from 33% in 2011. In 2013, we have been able to secure around $150,000 in innovation investments for our startups and one of our incubatees received a series A funding from an international VC.

– What does the future hold for CTIC?

We are glad to have reached an interesting level of national and international recognition in only two years of time. CTIC is now involved in all major discussions at the top level in Senegal regarding ICT and entrepreneurship which helps us lobby for our entrepreneurs. The demand being high, we hope to move into a bigger building soon and thus we now need to better structure our team and internal processes to be able to scale rapidly. We want to develop better our soft landing program to facilitate entry in West Africa to foreign tech companies. We are also working with our original partners to replicate CTIC’s model to other regions of Senegal and to other countries. Niger incubators is already launched and Mali and Gabon are on the way. We will also keep on structuring the IT angels community and hopefully once we will have enough of them we could try to develop an equity based model for our accelerator program. Indeed, still a lot to do, but thanks to Human IPO, we’ll keep you posted!


Note : This article has been written By Dinfin Mulupi and first published on How We Made It in Africa.

French-speaking Africa has often been approached cautiously by investors and companies from English-speaking countries within and outside the continent. However, the region is being viewed as an exciting region to do business as more local and international companies enter the market.

The Francophone Africa region  has a total population of more than 300 million people which some of the big economies being Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, GuineaRepublic of the Congo, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Technology, according to Yann Le Beux, Catalyst at CTIC Dakar, the regions first incubator and accelerator based in Senegal, is one of the sectors expected to thrive in the region in coming years.  While some of the countries in the Francophone African region are politically insecure, Senegal is quite stable making it a good entry point into the region.

“Senegal is a very good base to start a business because people are well educated, very talented, there is good infrastructure and a lot of companies are headquartered in Dakar making partnerships easy and accessible. It is a good entry point into the rest of Francophone West Africa,”

Le Beux said Senegal’s market is mature adding that the country has a good technology infrastructure network with three mobile operators and about 98% mobile penetration.

“The technology market there is actually mature. It is not a very large market in Senegal but, what is interesting is that a lot of companies are headquartered in Senegal and target the entire Francophone regions and its 300million inhabitants. So, there is a lot of opportunities,”

In 2 years of activity, CTIC Dakar has incubated 15 companies generating revenue and has supported more than 30 startups drawn from Francophone West Africa.

“Generally, a lot of Senegal companies do well when they go to Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso or Cameroon. That is an advantage. The companies that we support at CTIC Dakar may have between 5 and 30 employees but already half of their revenue is made outside of Senegal”

CTIC Dakar is currently focused on supporting high-growth tech companies and start-ups because ‘there is not enough of them’ in the region by linking youthful tech enthusiasts with more experienced entrepreneurs. The incubator for IT and mobile services entrepreneurs offers training, business development, financing and linkages with industry players and public decision makers.

“There is opportunity to use technology to create linkages in other sector such as agriculture, tourism or education which are big in Senegal. We still have basic needs on this continent that have not been addressed using technology yet. We see a lot of opportunity for enterprise products,”

Companies that choose to venture into the region through Senegal have to contend with the challenge of accessing well trained and experienced manpower.

“We need more training in this area in Senegal. Generally, all over the continent these skills are lacking.  Financing is also a challenge because we don’t have enough early-stage private sector investment in Senegal. We need more business angels to bring seed capital to startups but we know that few venture capital funds like I&P (“Investisseurs et Partenaires”) are already based or looking at Senegal.

Local entrepreneurs in the country also have to battle with cultural expectations which stifle their business endeavors.

“The family is something very important in Senegal so, as soon as you get your diploma you are expected to start giving back to your family. Starting a business means you have to borrow a lot,”  says  Le Beux “This makes it difficult for one to start a business because they are expected to give, when what they need is other people to lend to them money to support their start-up. For some young entrepreneurs who start being profitable, it is not easy to find the right balance between helping the family or investing back in their growing businesses.”

He advised companies interested in investing in Senegal to hire the right people and form partnerships with local companies.

“As an investor you need to find a good person that will support the structure that you have. You need to have a reliable local team that you trust,”

English speakers, Le Beux added, should not shy away from Francophone Africa since they can ‘easily get around without speaking a word in French’ if they get help from local partners… like CTIC Dakar !