For close to 4years now, the ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) has been incubating a cohort of 12 innovation projects with a total of up to 60 multidisciplinary team members. Through RAN’s comprehensive support system, the team has successfully worked with innovators through Needfinding, prototyping and testing their innovation prototypes in target communities. The feedback from the piloting activities has greatly demonstrated a desired demand for the innovative solutions to communities’ most pressing challenges and motivated the just concluded 2nd training on Business Modeling in preparation for scale of the solutions to other communities. This 2nd Business Modeling workshop was made possible by a Capacity Building Grant from the Rockefeller Foundation through BridgeSpan Group. To implement the workshop, the RAN Team was joined by a team from Stanford University   Change Labs and  the workshop ran from February  8th -10th 2016 at Makerere University School of Public Health Annex, Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (EA RI Lab), Plot 30 Upper Kololo Terrace Kampala Uganda.

The three-day workshop was guided by the theme: “Creating socially inclusive business models, and enhancing sustainability”. It aimed at supporting innovators to develop suitable business plans, scaling strategies, stakeholder analysis and outreach, resource mobilization, and product diffusion. The workshop was an opportunity for the 8 innovation teams which participated to learn from and interact with one another. The topics covered included; an introduction to business thinking, costing & pricing, customer journey, advanced concepts of business models and two externally facilitated topics; common early mistakes of entrepreneurs and effective  pitching techniques. The workshop facilitators were Dr. Roy William  Mayega,  RAN Deputy Chief of Party, Dr. Dorothy Okello, RAN Director Innovation alongside guest speakers James Wire an Astute Entrepreneur and Consultant in the fields of Agriculture ICT and Business and Richard Zulu,  Co-Founder and Lead at Outbox.

RAN Innovators were then tasked to make 3 minute pitches of their innovations and convince the audience, investors or buyers that their project was worthy purchase and utilisation.

The participants were later on taken through Introduction to Business Thinking, “A customer will only acquire a product or service or information from a business as an offering if he/she perceives it to have the value available at the right place; the task is upon us as innovators to ensure that we deliver this to our end users” emphasized Brian Ndyaguma, RAN Consultanton Innovations Scaling, Business Modelling, Mentorship and Outreach. In addition, innovators were encouraged to ensure that they deliver not just a product or service to the users but an experience. This is created when technology, business and human capacities are together put to use while simultaneously considering the social cultural, economic and environmental factors. A great experience will encourage return customers and referrals that are good for business.

James Wire, an astute entrepreneur and consultant in the fields of agriculture, ICT and business gave an eye opening presentation about Common Early Mistakes of Entrepreneurs. He pointed out a number of mistakes that are common with Ugandan startups as per his experience in the business field. During his presentation, Innovators raised certain concerns such as heavy taxes, competing life demands, how to transition from grants to self-reliance among others, that hinder them from achieving full success. James then urged the innovators to seek for mentors and advisers to keep guiding and motivating them in the difficult and tense times of working for success.

Dr. Dorothy Okello, RAN Director Innovation, facilitated the Basics of a Socially-minded Business Model session. She noted, “In order for your innovations to scale, there must be pushing drivers like having enough resources and market demand. You need to note that in all the communities you have been, the people there don’t have a lot of disposable income, nonetheless, you have to make some money”. The innovators were given an overview of the Business Modeling Canvas and with the guidance of the RAN team; they re-grouped to incorporate the knowledge, strategies and tools that had been shared into their canvases.

Richard Zulu the Co-founder and Lead at Outbox, a technology incubator shared with the innovators how to make captivating and winning pitches. Richard also advised the innovation teams to tell the story like an ‘event’ – “walk the audience through the (business model) canvas like it is a story unfolding, however, without being all over the place” Richard emphasized.

Points to note in order to make an effective pitch include but are not limited to the following;

  • Pitch an empathetic/ personal story and connect with the end user
  • Be confident and persuasive
  • Show validation in your presentation.
  • Use pictures and videos as evidence more often.
  • State clearly your needs and how you will use them to reach the required goal
  • Make use of graphics like; pie charts, bar graphs, and posters among others to make it easy for the audience to follow and understand.
  • Desist from using Internet powered links unless you are very sure of the        connectivity speed to ensure that these link actually open.
  • Prepare for the pitch and keep in mind the dress code. The presenter must be smart because the biggest percentage of what the audience will perceive of you is what they see and not what you say!
  • Keep your language simple and Introductions short
  • Never downsize your competitors

*Note: Never have notes for reference purposes while pitching your idea, innovation or prototype because this is your idea and you know it best.

Harriet Adong, RAN Communications Manager wrapped-up this session by emphasizing key pitching and branding points to the innovators. She emphasized that while pitching a product, service, an idea, prototype or innovation, one needs to quickly summarize the background to the problem, the problem itself and the innovation while clearly stipulating the value add/nitch. She also shared that the power of subtitling the entire video while taking care of proper language and spelling use could not be underestimated. That subtitling goes a long way in informing different audience.  It is however important that we seek consent from all participants before we start the documentation process so that all are clear about the advantages and how/what the footage will be used for moving forward. She further urged the innovators to keep the videos captivating, short (manage content) and smart while putting consideration into cost for market since these products/services are meant for the market.  In addition, Harriet shared with the innovators both RAN and USAIDs branding guidelines emphasizing use of different colors, logo placement, text and the USAID disclaimer without forgetting to acknowledge the source of funding for all these innovations among others.

This ushered in Dr. Roy William Mayega, RANDeputy Chief of Party tofacilitate a session about Advanced Concepts of Business Models. He emphasized the fact that innovators have to attach gains to the offering they are creating for the beneficiaries and customers. Dr. Roy noted, “There must be a funding stream that will support the operational processes and once there is no profit or cash flow, the entire process will not be sustainable”.

As the workshop came to a conclusion, Innovators were introduced to the Strengths Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis. Through the SWOT analysis, innovators were able to identify the strengths, weaknesses as well as the external opportunities and threats to their projects.

The Advanced Concepts of Business Models session was followed by a hands-on MKITS Training guided by Joseph Mukawa, RAN MKITS Developer. Here, innovators were split into groups, tasked and guided to film, edit and present a short video of any innovative idea.

It was at this workshop that the RAN, innovators were exposed to more opportunities of partnerships, customers and end users. They also attained more training on further polishing their presentations/ oratory skills; raise their confidence levels, sales and marketing skills.

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The ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) living up to its name.