To properly support these people, you need 3 things:
Generally, people in 3rd world countries are much more creative and resourceful than we are, they just need an environment in which they can flourish, and where they're not constantly worried about someone coming to take everything away from them (in my wife's country, having any sort of wealth guarantees you WILL be robbed - and the police are complicit, sometimes committing the robbery themselves).
Focus on the microdevelopment aspect of this rather than the dreams of avarice and VC ROI. I don't want to replicate a "Found it and Flip it" mentality.
I'd like to see a world where people start building businesses that they could feasibly pass on to their children. Solid local businesses, (both tech and traditional) using entrepreneurial tools to find and serve a need for the community.
It keeps you honest if you always put the needs of your customers ahead of your investors - who are usually looking for an exit. Continued customer revenue demonstrates that you are continuing to deliver value over time.
This is the message we should be trying to spread in the developing world, not get rich quick. Hasn't worked out so well for us, really.
That said - count me in.
Some of the stories I've heard around African Fintech point to a more grounded approach, with systems built around political redundancy and growth coming from old-fashioned cashflow.
I'm hoping to learn more about this, as there's potential for us to learn, not just teach, and potential for these companies to jump the chasm into Western markets, where the finance system is getting shakier.
Perhaps the first Antifragile Fintech startups will come from emerging markets.
Let's assume that smartphones and tablets (and previously, cheap netbooks) are as vital to the poor as they are to everyone else. What does that have to do with enabling them to be the next "tech founders"?
In America, we have digital device wealth aplenty, and there's no clear correlation that such availability to the middle class enables a corresponding rise in valuable tech entrepreneurship. In fact, one might argue the opposite: that tablets and on-demand-high-speed entertainment has made people more into consumers (and snarky commenters) than producers.
Again, I think the attention toward the poor is great and much needed. I just think the "let them make startups!" vibe is cognitively awkward.
I am from Brazil, here for example 50% of the entire economy is underground, most of these are composed by small 1 or 2 person business, the normal tax-paying economy also has a huge amount of small business...
What happen here is that normal jobs are so problematic, that people then rely on creating business (legal or not) a lot.
I am very sure if you got a bunch of tech here, and invested into the people ideas, some really cool things would flourish... I frequently hear people wanting my help with several cool ideas! (I do not help them beside advice, because I need help myself too anyway... My business is make educational but fun games for children below 6, and I am finding no funding, the education market is seemly very scary and hard to understand, most investors avoid it entirely)
In the same way that the likes of M-PESA enabled a group of tech founders, like in the pan-African transaction networks for example, there are untapped needs in food distribution and other "last mile" inefficiencies where tech could help. My feeling atm is that we can borrow lessons from vertical accelerators like HealthBox, for example, and speed up the time to get to a rapid field trial.
1. Small business fads exist -- everybody seems to try to run the same business at the same time. Somebody gets the idea of importing cars -- and suddenly you have hundreds of copycat businesses -- all importing the exact same make and model of car. A relatively small steer towards e-commerce (If the pioneers are seen to be making money) could trigger a large avalanche of interest. The problem then will be persuading enough people to find distinct and profitable niches so that a sufficient number "stick" and are successful.
2. Technology start-ups require quite a lot more time and energy to be invested before you see returns. Certainly more so than a typical import/export business. Many will be discouraged by this, so the gentle encouragement may be required to help people stick the course. There are a lot of social groups and cooperative savings societies that already exist -- these could probably be used to help reach potential entrepreneurs.
3. A surprising amount of entrepreneurship is driven by middle aged women. These individuals are tremendously busy, and may already be running up to 2 or 3 small businesses (in addition to day jobs) so they may not be able to take on anything as time-intensive as a technology start-up ... but they are definitely movers and shakers in the Kenyan small business sector.
Finally, a caveat: I am also an outsider; my view of the Kenyan economy is filtered through a fairly narrow lens -- (My wife and her family).
We've done a decent amount of training for general entrepreneurship in London, so I'd keep my eyes open for ways to help general entrepreneurs too.
In America, I would hope that public libraries help bridge that gap.
I'm all for educating the world's poor, but it must come from a different perspective. For example, I wrote a Python web development course from the bottom up so that one actually learns programming techniques. I touch Django last.
When it comes to those less tech-savvy, you need to educate from a more practical, instantly gratifying standpoint. Teaching them how to get an MVP off the ground quick, even if they don't understand what's happening beneath the surface is key.
With the rise of MOOC, it would be great to tailor one to American's poor.
> "Poor people don't need smartphones they need food"
I like this attitude. A lot of our accelerator clients ask us with a kind of cultural change, from bring protective of ideas, to being open and inclusive. This is easier when there's a local community of experience tech founders to connect - so we can include the new founders and they feel safe sharing.
I'm wondering how/if AKDN has a similar goal, or if they look for existing, indiginous attitudes that help others take on the right attitudes...
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