The topless host, potjiekos and the resistance

So a friend, Philén Naidu (aka. The topless host) and his wife Kim Naidu, hosted a group of friends (and me) for potjiekos. Among the many thrilling stories shared, were the undertones of resistance.

For our non-South African readers: Potjiekos –  is a stew prepared outdoors in a traditional round, cast iron, three-legged pot (the potjie). From Wikipedia.

One soccer ball, some dirt and 14 boys Philén Naidu started a soccer club in Zandspruit, where he trains teenagers life lessons through soccer. This passion of his began just over2 years ago with a soccer ball, 14 kids at the time and a vision to help broken communities.

It was a grand social entrepreneurial vision. Well, for any number of guys with just one soccer ball that is.Fast forward from 2009 to 2011, the topless potjiekos cooking Philén Naidu (not to be mistaken with the naked chef) is still at it. Now 101 boys and more soccer balls.
Last week he received an email, which led to a meeting with large corporate – then potential sponsors and partners.

The potjiekosLike most interesting stories, this one happened over a meal. The potjiekos, our esteemed topless host (chef), had prepared.

“You see those small bubbles, you have to cook it with small bubbles” he explained to 4 year old Josh. Unlike such gatherings, there weren’t copious (bordering on illegal) amounts of wine. In fact, there wasn’t any wine at all.

The resistance

As it turns out, over the past 2 years, Philén Naidu expected meetings with his sponsors to be fruitless. Afterall, he had been to such meetings before. In the past, he had to bring proposals and paperwork. Sound familiar?

When you’ve built a project, even a business, over time you expect meetings to be similar. This was different, it lasted 10 minutes without paperwork. (A 5-minute introduction, and 5 minutes about his project.)

The time you spend creating a model, in this case a community project, reduces resistance. It may be surprising when it happens, but it does.

The small bubbles, like slow but gradual movement, cook perfectly and it could take 5 minutes for drastic change to happen. Keep at it.

That Elusive Dream Client

So, you wake up one morning with an idea to start your business and having high profile clients call you up all the time. Days become weeks, they turn to months and you haven’t had access to that dream client.

What now? You’ve tried everything you know how and exhausted your network calling everyone who knows someone. And still. Nothing!

Being the enterprising mind that makes things happen, of course, you are nowhere near giving in. That first morning with that ‘great idea’ starts to fade.

One of many things can happen, and 2 of them are:

a. Offer some pro bono work to the dream client

What I relearned again this morning was – Free work means you put your branding next to it. This is instant access to the client for more work at a later stage. It also associates you with them, in which case your credibility is built and they add to your references.

b. Compete for the client as everyone else with references

Well……this is actually a no brainer, especially if your business is highly conceptual and aims to compete against established market equivalents. Without a “credible” background, seeing that you are still a startup, it is difficult convince clients that you are worth working with. Make that damn near impossible.

Most companies that we target have a template according which they measure service providers. And if there is one thing that frustrates me more than people working from templates, it’s people who discredit your work without thorough understanding. Then rejecting you, because you don’t their template requirements.

Proving you are confident about your concept and breaking through the red tape of template workers, may mean doing free work. At least where I am now.

What are your ideas around breaking into the market and getting that dream client? Better yet, how did you get through to that client?

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Image by: annais on Flickr

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NetwebTV Tech4Africa Special

I recently wrote about the Tech4Africa Conference, which actually turned out to be amazing. More awesome than the conference itself were the organizers, who gave me an all-access blogger pass. Emerging Media and the Tech4Africa team are rockstars.

We interviewed some of the speakers, delegates and Seedcamp participants.

The Tech4Africa Special

In this NetwebTV special, we spoke to:

  • Gareth Knight, the founder of Tech4Africa, about how it was received and whether the change he foresaw ago when we spoke was achieved.
  • Gareth Ochse – the founder of iSigned and one of the competitors in Seedcamp Africa. I heard they are also one of the companies who qualified to attend Seedcamp Week in London

Speakers and delegates

We also caught up with some of the speakers and delegates who gave us their views on development in Africa as a whole.

Erik Hersman, the co-founder of Ushahidi spoke their development and how it’s changing lives. It is also one of the most talked about projects on the web.

Mark Kaigwa, a Creative Director and Entrepreneur shares his views about the conference and what it means for Africa. Kenya is 4 to 5 countries away from where conference was, so Mark came a long way.

Clay Shirky was the keynote speaker at the conference and he also took a moment to speak to us. In a nutshell – Clay is a professor, speaker, thought leader and an icon in all things economics, community and open source.  He is the author of 2 books and shares his expert views on how social phenomena were started small and grew globally.

Take a look at the video below and share some of your views with us in the comments.

Entrepreneur of the Year Award

It is not often that you get appreciated for the hard work you do. The sleepless nights. The pitches you don’t get called back for. But lucky for you, someone out there is watching.

This morning in the mail, I got something that might excite you. At least I thought it would.

Sanlam and Business Partners are giving away up to R100 000 in their Entrepreneur Of The Year Award. It’s also quite easy to apply from what I saw.

The requirements in their three categories are also simple enough. Before you think it’s too good to be true. You have to prove that – by their standards – the three most important financial risks of your business are quantifiable. The application form has more details on that. 

Categories and minimum requirements 

  • Emerging Entrepreneur (business younger than three years old)
  • Business Entrepreneur (turnover up to R20 million)
  • Medium Business Entrepreneur (turnover greater than R20 million

Of course, you are not motivated by the cash prizes. But they are offering those too.

Cash Prizes

  • Category winners will receive R20 000.00
  • R100 000 in cash for the overall winner along with the opportunity to attend an international conference or trade show, as well as extensive public exposure. That should help in acquiring the much needed sales.

Download the entry forms and more information to enter.

Spread the word as far and wide as possible as well. . . . Good luck!

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Image by : xtrarant on Flickr

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Solve Your Own Problem

“What problem are you trying to solve?” counts as one of the most important questions I was ever asked by a business mentor. We tend to have great ideals for starting companies, as we should, but end up losing the plot. I would imagine every business has one thing in mind when they open doors, that being solving someone’s problem with their product.

People who created their own solutions

Chris Guillebeau wanted to change world, challenge the status quo, travel the world and meet people with similar interests. He started The Art Of Non-Conformity, his website, where he documents his travels and invites readers to become part of his experience. This solves a few things for both him and his readers:

– It gives other travelers the opportunity to connect with like-minded people around the world.

–         He meets people online before setting off to travel.

–         He also gets authentic voices to talk about their countries, which is always better than reading photoshopped brochures.

Allon Raiz discovered that businesses didn’t need funding to thrive, but required direction and resources that money cannot buy. So he started Raizcorp, the first privately held and unfunded business incubator.

For every online startup that is looking for funding there is the Crowdfund. Some web entrepreneurs realized the need for “Angel Funding” in South Africa and together they started it. With small contributions from the public, who in turn become investors, they are able to develop web startups.

First find a problem then become the solution is what most successful entrepreneurs have done. It’s even better when you know problem, thus making the product even easier to create.

What problem are you solving?

Photo by: Zoopreme on Flickr

A matchstick that made it to a movie

In July of 2009, I announced the Netweb Event for that month with a video give away sponsored by Missing Link. Little did we know that the prize would go to an amazing project I had been following for a while.

One Matchstick, a concept where the founder is trading a single matchstick till she gets to offices through a series of trades, is a lesson in innovation.

It was simple for us – start a competition that benefits small business and give it to the most deserving company after our delegates have voted. From that simple definition came being an MC at the premiere in Johannesburg, being in Cape Town for another and making interesting contacts along the way.

The lessons

– You are as big or small as you think you are.

It ‘s because one matchstick that I went over 1000 kilometers away and made contacts I wouldn’t thought of on my own.

– Small has to do with efficiency than size.

The size of this project meant all we needed was a notebook, a DVD Player and a room of 30 people for it to be successful.

– Naming is very significant

We called the prize a corporate video when we gave it away, but Telana referred to it as the “One Matchstick Movie”.

You are invited to the “One Matchstick Movie Premiere” sounds better than being invited to the “Launch Of The One Matchstick Corporate Video” any Sunday afternoon. Yes, the Johannesburg premiere was packed on a Sunday afternoon.

If a single matchstick can make it happen, that changes the whole game.

Please view the One Matchstick Movie below.

Seth Godin discusses his latest book Linchpin: NetwebTV Exclusive [episode 9]

“Good enough” – will no longer get you through the door when your most remarkable work is what matters.

Seth Godin a marketing guru, international author and well sought after speaker wrote yet another thought-provoking book. The difference now is; we were one of the first shows he spoke to about his latest offering.

Linchpin is a book that questions what your best is and how you as an artist, an agent of change can get it out there without leaving your job. The times of work, get a paycheck, retire or even worse get retrenched are gone. Now the world is looking for you, for your work and we are listening to what you have to say.

In this episode Seth tells us how we can take advantage of change and even better be the cause. I also asked him about the concept of giving things free yet still being able to make a living.

Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin can transform your business model

When developing a business model, we often overlook implementing marketing tools to spread our concepts virally. Unleashing the Ideavirus, a book that I think requires a sequel, transformed the view I have of my current business model.

While there many concepts covered in the book, for the purpose of this post, only 3 significant highlights will suffice.

Loosely referencing The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell on how some ideas turn into social epidemics and others don’t. Seth takes us through the process of how companies such as Hotmail and Vindigo spread as viruses and the Toyota Prius, while an award winning vehicle, didn’t.

The second mind altering concept, though disputing all known marketing ethic, is focusing on a smaller target audience (called ‘a hive’) instead of setting out for large numbers. This makes sense if you view your client base as a community that can reach friends and recommend your product or service better than adverts and large marketing budgets ever can.

The steps below, a very short summary, are how you develop an Ideavirus.

Step By Step, Ideavirus tactics (summarized from the book)

  • Make it virusworthy – If it’s not worth talking about, no one will talk it.
  • Identify the hive.

You won’t get the full benefit of the ideavirus until you dominate your hive.

  • Expose your idea

Expose it to the right people, get them into the experience as quickly as possible and pay them if necessary. But never charge if possible.

  • Once attention has been volunteered request permission.
  • Amaze your audience.
  • Some viruses don’t forever, embrace the lifecycle of yours.

Any business model that has a viral marketing method built into it has a better chance at longevity, besides why not make it easy for your clients and customers to spread the idea? If there’s one thing I would recommend, it would be read it with an open mind and download the ebook or get the shiny collector’s version here.

NetwebTV [episode #8] Mentorship for business growth

While technical skill is important to develop a business, it is not the most significant element for survial. In this episode with Dumisani Nkala we uncovered things entrepreneurs are not told. Dumisani is the M.D of Zinandi Telecommunications a company that was bootstrapped from the ground.

She shares her insights with us in this video.

We also have audio version below, feel free to share.