Last month I traveled to Uganda on business, it’s the most entrepreneurial country in the world* and as someone who works with startup companies and trains entrepreneurs I really wanted to meet Ugandan entrepreneurs to find out more. I had a couple of free days and through local connections I had the chance to visit Hive CoLab, the tech hub in Kampala. I spoke to the impressive Barbara Birungi, Director of Hive Colab and founder of Women in Technology Uganda (WITU). She gave a fascinating overview of the work that they’re doing and there were some key points I think are particularly interesting.
Seed funding is a big issue for them and through negotiations with government they are now going to be able to provide seed funding for early stage companies. And Hive Colab will be the decision makers for 80% of the money allowing them to provide direct financial support. They are currently considering what methods to use to distribute this funding. I explained about some of the systems we have in place in Scotland including Converge Challenge and Scottish Edge which uses competition as a mechanism for funding the best ventures. Barbara was interested in the format because of the added value, not only does funding go to impressive startups but all the applicants benefit from upskilling themselves in the process of applying.
At Skillfluence we run our own Business Bootcamp that uses Lean Startup methodology and a build- measure- learn approach. Hive Colab also use Business Model Canvas (BMC) and lean processes to help build tech business and describe their value proposition. It’s great to have a tool that’s so easily recognised and used around the globe. They use it in a similar way to us, helping entrepreneurs to articulate their idea in a simple, visual one page format that’s a great starting point for customer discovery and validation.
Women in Tech
Some of the other challenges we discussed sounded very familiar. We talked about women in tech startups, Barbara noted after a year or 2 of running the hub there were very few women. And the women who did come along didn’t stay very long. They even noticed in tech training that on the first day they’d have 50 participants with 10 women. The next day there would be 40 participants, with maybe 4 women and by the fifth day they’d only have 1 or 2 women left. The drop off rate seemed much higher for women. So they asked why! We had a fascinating discussion about the various reasons.
They tried running courses just for women and found that the drop off rate was much lower. But they also had to consider how the world actually operates. You can train women separately but at some point the aim is for them to work in diverse teams and startups. That’s why Barbara founded Women in Technology Uganda to support young women to build confidence and improve their tech skills. What’s noteworthy is that it seems to be working. More women are basing themselves in the Hive, becoming part of startup teams and starting tech businesses. Check out the websites to find out more Hive Colab and WITU
Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers
I gave Barbara copies of the Skillfluence Lean Startup Student Handbook Skillfluence for the entrepreneurs at the Hive. These were very well received but I got the impression that the gift of Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers were even more appreciated!