Move fast and break things. Experiment, fail, learn and repeat. Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Think bigger. Complaining is not a strategy. The riskiest thing is to take no risks. These and many more blurbs as curated from startup founders and their teams have become the rallying call for companies looking to leave a dent in the universe, disruption being the operative term.
At Nairobi Tech Week, held from the 19th – 21st of April 2018, many speakers were talking up the innovation and disruption agenda, I could not help but reflect on how easy it is to say that anyone can innovate, drive change and if it lends itself to it, create a fortune addressing the myriad of challenges that we face. This cannot be further from the truth, with many entrepreneurs carrying battlefield scars from encounters with government and the enterprise class who play the regulation, policy and process card to very swiftly dead pool promising startups.
While it is indeed true that innovation moves faster that legislation, the latter has the ability to stop even the best of the best dead in their tracks. This ability remains true whether a piece of legislation exists or not.
We now have a blockchain taskforce that is looking at the use of distributed ledger technology and artificial intelligence. The Central Bank still frowns on the cryptocurrency manifestation of it. A number of companies that were commercializing these technologies were quickly shut down by a mix of lack of legislation from the government quarters and corporate moats keen on defending cash cows even when the how was not quite understood. Of these only BitPesa had enough of a buffer and clout to put up a legal fight, exit and set up in more accommodating markets where they are now thriving.
Our digital workforce has grown exponentially and one need only go to platforms like ODesk and filter for Kenya to see the range of services that Kenyans are offering to the world. While they earn in the dollar or euro, they must spend in the shilling. Voila! An opportunity to serve thousands but unfortunately the script reads the same.
For an innovator the decision tree that guides strategy and action needs to take up a larger share of mental time to ensure that resource burn and risk based outcomes are agreeable. One can either move while its hot and make do with market returns knowing they may not survive long, or wait it out to battle with others for whom the opportunity becomes apparent after the fact.
What path would you take?