Six Lessons for Entrepreneurs from the GES in Nairobi

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The Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) was held in Nairobi on the 25th and 26th July. The summit was co-hosted by the President of the United States, Barrack Obama and the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta. It was first time the summit was being held in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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AKON at The global entrepreneurship summit in Nairobi. http://www.ibtimes.com/obama-kenya-global-entrepreneurship-summit-2015-african-youth-start-businesses-amid-2024082 global-entrepreneurship-summit

The first summit in Washington had 250 delegates. Five years later, and the number of delegates has grown six-fold. The summit in Nairobi had notable entrepreneurs such as Daymond John (founder and President of FUBU fashion line), Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft Corporation), Akon (Founder of Konvict Music, a recording label), Penny Pritzker (United States Secretary of Commerce), Steve Case (Co-founder of AOL) amongst others. Delegates from Kenya included Michael Macharia (Founder and CEO of Seven Seas Technologies), Joshua Oigara (CEO of Kenya Commercial Bank), Hilda Moraa (Country Head, Enterprise Liquidity Solutions at AFB), Bob Collymore (Safaricom CEO) amongst others.

Some of the lessons entrepreneurs got from the summit include:

1. Africa is the next big thing; the place to be:
A big problem that the African continent has faced since independence is the loss of its best talents to Europe and America. Brain drain has seen the continent lose its best workforce especially since it pays more in Europe and America. In the recent past, while someone in Africa says, “If only I can get to America” someone in China is saying, “If only I can get to Africa!”

Africa’s natural resources are underutilized and its cheap labour makes it one of the best places an entrepreneur can set up their business. As the founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation, Ashish J. Thakkar put it, “Africa has the opportunity to leap forward and take African innovation globally.” This was seconded by President Uhuru Kenyatta who said, “Africa is the World’s newest and most promising frontier of limitless opportunity” and President Barrack Obama who said, “I wanted to be here because Africa is on the move.”

2. Passion:

Most of the speakers emphasized on the need for someone to have passion in what they do. Strive Masiyiwa, the founder of Econet Wireless put it thus, “Just add a little innovation and a lot of passion at what you do best” while Monica Musonda, the CEO of Java Foods said, “Understand the market and be passionate at what you are doing.” It is passion that will make you go on when things are tough.

Eric Kinoti, founder and director of Shade Systems East African Limited said, “As an entrepreneur, you need to keep focussing on your goals. Every morning when you plan your day, make sure your eyes and mind are set on your goals.”

3. It’s your role as an entrepreneur to get training:

Learning does never comes to an ends. Several entrepreneurs have knowledge in business management, accounting, law and other courses that benefit and help them in their business. It is up to an entrepreneur to know where to get training. Training can be from many sources including mentors. Good training will help in selection of employees as well as potential investors.

Daymond John put it so well, “As an entrepreneur, you never stop learning.”

4. Get more people to know about your products:

With competition for products ever increasing, hard work is needed in getting people to know about the products and/ or services one is offering. Franklin Leonard, the CEO and founder of The Blacklist (a company that links movie makers with screenplays) said, “You have to work hard, for example, go through 500 bloggers to promote your product.” Another important point is the fact that advertisement is no longer a preserve of the traditional media but also, blogs and social media which offers a greater Return On Investment (ROI) it being cheaper and reaching a greater audience.

5. Believe in yourself:

This is especially so for those who are in the creative business but not limited to them alone. Believing in oneself and what one is doing will ensure that one is sure in what one is doing. Moreover, it will be important in pitches to prospective clients as everyone always wants someone who is sure with what they are doing. Someone said, “If you do not believe in yourself, no one will.”

6. Failure is not necessarily a bad thing:

Some of the panelists were not successful on their first businesses. The summit had a session dedicated on how to handle failure. Chef Jose Andres said that we should “Be happy when you fail because it gives you important tools to use later.” Failure makes one to be careful not to repeat the same mistake in the next venture.

Daymond added, “The more times one has failed and is still kicking, the more they understand what they want and how to avoid mistakes in the future.”

Finally, the best advice that was given was by Julie Hanna of Kiva, a crowdfunding platform. She said, “Ask for advice and you will get money; ask for money and you will get advice.”

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