Harambean Meditations on African Innovation

Author Okendo Lewis Gayle, Harambeans Founder and Chairman with Harambeans featured in the book

For too long, the lessons of the 200 square miles that house Silicon Valley have been uncritically accepted across Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape. This unguarded acceptance has led many entrepreneurs to employ strategies ill-suited to the idiosyncrasies of the African ecosystem. Talent acquisition assumes a vast pool of experienced professionals; product development processes neglect the realities of customers in African markets and ambitious fundraising targets are seemingly conceived in the patrician terrace of the Rosewood Hotel on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley.

In numerous conversations with the influential coterie of innovators and investors that make up the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance, it became apparent that Harambeans are eradicating practices detrimental to the development of start-ups on the continent and are adapting valuable lessons from the 200 square miles of Silicon Valley to the distinctive realities of the 12 million square miles of Africa.

Harambean Meditations on African Innovation: Talent, Product, Capital is Harambeans Founder and Chairman, Okendo Lewis Gayle’s new book, which was launched at the Rome Forum VI. The book is a snapshot of the new venture formation process across Africa, as seen through the experiences of innovators and investors in the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance. The book brings together laconic reflections on emerging lessons relating to talent, product and capital by 12 Harambeans, representing 5 countries in North, East, West and Southern Africa, 3 Harambean-founded unicorns and 9 classes of Harambeans spanning 11 years.

Katlego Maphai, H Affiliate is the Co-founder and CEO of Yoco, a company making it simple for entrepreneurs to get paid, grow their businesses and the economy. Since launching in 2015, the company has acquired over 150 000 merchants/small businesses, processed $1 billion per year through the platform and today employs 230 people. The company’s growth has been driven almost exclusively by small, independent businesses that were previously cash-only due to the complexity and high costs of existing alternatives. Maphai generously contributed his insights on talent and capital.

“We’ve seen time and again that the moment you have strategic clarity across the organization, the quality of decision making and your talent hires start to align well. This clarity also enables you to mechanize recruiting processes for lower-level staff to support scalability.” TALENT

“In the beginning, we were looking for enigmas – people who just didn’t fit into their environments which, in addition to their skills, could bring some character and alternative thinking and something extra that would help to build and shape the culture.” TALENT

“There must be a deliberate alignment of the customer, product, employee and investor at every stage of the company’s life cycle. You need to raise according to your context and the requirements of your next milestone. Aligning with suitable investors at the right stage is paramount.” CAPITAL

Melvyn Lubega, H’16 is the Co-founder of Go1 a company that lowers the barrier to world-class training through an easy to use and affordable e-learning training system. The company offers thousands of courses and learning content covering everything from compliance, professional development, leadership, management and more. In July 2021, Go1 announced the closing of a $200 million Series D funding round, which cata­pulted the company into unicorn status, bringing its valuation to over $1 billion. Lubega generously contributed his insights on talent, product and capital.

“Try to be a user of your own product as early as possible. If you’re solving a problem you’re experiencing, using your product will be a no brainer. This also forces you to focus on the parts that are most important to get to where you need to be. Get as many people in your business to use your platform and really engage with it so you know which parts of your platform aren’t being used and why. These points of inquiry will get you to a better product.” PRODUCT

“I think you reach product-market fit when you are clearly able to articulate a succinct value proposition that is relevant to a significant base of clients who are willing to pay for it. That was key for us. If you aren’t generating revenue, that signals to me that you can’t capture value and begs the question of whether you can create value.” PRODUCT

“While most investors will perform due diligence on companies or start-ups they invest in, start-ups should similarly do due diligence on their potential investors to make sure that their goals and approach to the growth of the business are aligned.” CAPITAL

“We hope that the venture hacks synthesized by these meditations shorten the learning curve of a new generation of African innovators and that these insights will accelerate the growth of high-performing teams across Africa,” said Lewis-Gayle.

Harambean Meditations on African Innovation: Talent, Product, Capital is available on Amazon.

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