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“There are no Ideas in Uganda Worth Investing in”? Really? Entrepreneurship Finance Social Innovation 

“There are no Ideas in Uganda Worth Investing in”? Really?

On Friday the 12th 2016, The Innovation Village Kampala organized the inaugural Innovator’s Night event. The idea behind this event is to spur budding entrepreneurs, innovators and businessmen and women to showcase the efforts of their inspiration and thoughts. The wining Idea would take home the Prize from The Innovation Village. This is the start of many such initiatives.

Someone somewhere has said: “There is no business in Uganda worth investing”. The thing is that that is a blanket assessment and it might not necessarily be true.

Judith Nantume, CEO of Wastics Recycling Company
Judith Nantume, CEO of Wastics Recycling Company

On the other hand, that saying is also a massive challenge for entrepreneurs in Uganda to rise up and conceive ideas “worth investing” in. Probably, we need a gauge that we can as a yardstick to decide what worth investing really is:

  • Is it the Social Impact that the idea is creating?
  • Is it the scalability of the idea to affect a great number of people?
  • Is it something that is already being done and all is needed is to push it over the top?
  • Is it something that is worth a certain threshold of Dollars worth of investment?
  • Is it something that guarantees great profits and sustainability over a long period of time?

Well, at the Innovator’s Night, a total of 7 Companies came up to showcase their ideas. It was refreshing to see diversity in the ideas spanning several fields such as Education, Health Education, Financial Technology, Climate and Renewables, E-Commerce, Animation, as well as Innovation in Food Processing.

Jonathan Kayemba, one of the two Judges
Jonathan Kayemba, one of the two Judges

Just the fact that someone sat down and leaned into what matters to them in terms of an idea is laudable enough. A great appreciation to all the participants.

The judges were Jonathan Kayemba, CEO of Logos. He is a practicing Systems Engineer who has experience in over 5 years in Business IT. He is a mentor to many young women and runs several initiatives through his internships. He is also a mentor with Mara Launch Pad and Yunus. He loves the youth and his passion and to create an ecosystem of ideas worth investing in Uganda.

The other panelist was Bwire Ancel, a business developer at Global Business Labs in Makerere Universtiy. They provide coaching, consultancy, acceleration as well as office space an internet. For the last 4 years, they have graduated 16 companies. The aim of GBL is to invest in entrepreneurship in order to create jobs. Their avenue is through Universities. He also runs his own company called Ancywax.

Ancel (Left) one of the Judges, with CK Japheth of Innovation Village
Ancel (Left) one of the Judges, with CK Japheth of Innovation Village

Key Learning Areas:

There was a lot to learn from the event in general, from the Judges and from the performances of the participants as well as the wonderful audience that traced the occasion.

1. Too Much Technical Language:

Startups that were showcasing IT-related ideas were so immersed in the idea and failed to show the business sense of it. Breaking down the idea however intriguing it could be was not easy. The judges and the audience were left with more questions than answers.

2. Lack of Clarity:

At some point, both the audience and the judges had to ask the participants one question: Why are you pitching? What do you want from us? Some startups were making presentations rather than talking about what they are solving and what kind of help they need to make their dream a reality.

3. Duplication of Ideas:

Some startups showcased ideas that are not new. The ideas that were being presented mirrored what many other startups had successfully done and were already doing. In essence, they were coming into the market full of competitors who had a market lead.

4. Lack of Originality:

Some Startups were trying to make an idea out of an existing idea thereby lacking full control and ownership. The existing ideas already do have authentic solutions in what the pitchers were trying to solve, albeit in a longer and non trusted method. Such a Startup needs to Pivot because what they were showcasing could work out well if they found out how to be in control and to own the idea.

5. Lack of Research:

Some startups failed to prove that they had put some good thought into their idea to answer pertinent questions such as Business Model, Competition, Regulation, projected Revenue and so on. In fact, some startups numbers in terms of their projections were not adding up upon questioning by the judges.

The Winning Idea

The CEO of Wastics (to the right) Receiving the Winner’s Prize

The ultimate winner, unquestionably so was non other than the CEO of Wastics Ltd.

Wastics Ltd sets out to recycle plastic waste that is found in garbage dump sites. From this waste, they create desks that can be used in many learning institutions in the country. They have partnered with other organizations such as Unicef and USAID to see this project a reality.

The following are my verdict on what she was the outright winner:

1. Preparation:

She is a member of the Social Innovation Academy in Mpigi. Doubtless, she has been taught and instructed on a wide range of topics including Social Entrepreneurship and Pitching.

2. Research:

She was able to answer all the questions relating to her idea: Competition, bottlenecks, Central and Local Government Policy etc

3. Social Impact:

Of all the Pitchers, arguably, Wastics was one of the Startups with a potential of massive impact in multiple areas: Climate, Education and Health being the chiefest from just one idea, not to mention unemployment. I think this is what put a smile on the faces of both judges, and after she left the stage, there was no question who would win.

4. Pitch Presentation:

Wastics attended a pre-pitching meeting where here presentation was vetted by a group of people at the Innovation Village. Critical input was given which she took to heart and implemented.

Participating Teams of Startups
Participating Teams of Startups

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