The StartUp Grind – FRANCISTOWN

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Waking up earlier than usual was a bit hard, but it was going to be a long trip and our first ever Startup Grind at the Cresta Thapama Hotel in the city center of Francis Town, Botswana.

The refreshing feeling of traveling and mingling with new people got us excited. However, this time around it was going to be different, rubbing shoulders with people who had similar interests and pulling in the same direction as ours. A good day out of the office!  One to create business links and more importantly relations across borders.

The Road-trip

We left Bulawayo early morning, with our Team leader Takunda on the way picked up Thamsanqa then Lindelwe and Tatenda. Tatenda who happens to be a road trip fanatic was excited, we all  wondered why she took so long to get ready.  We eventually took off and hit the road the same way adventures are done on TV around 630am . No issues on the road except 1 tyre change. The music was on point courtesy of Dj Lindy, produced by Tate, choreographed by NJ, director TK and gaffer Thamu.

Villagers arrive in Botswana
From left to right: Takunda, Thamsanqa, Tatenda, Lindelwe, Njabulo

We made our way to the Cresta Thapama after buzzing around town a couple times. You see, if you’re not used to terms such as ‘freeway’ or ‘off ramp’ and if you’re not sure where a one way street will take you, you tend to go around in circles. We kinda went around in not so circular circles but eventually, we got there. Took a bit of a refresher, got WiFi passwords and found our way to the meeting place where there Startup Grind was set take place. If you’re a little hazy about what a  Startup Grind is , it’s where entrepreneurs meet-up and discuss issues to do with growing their business. We exchange contacts and create strategic links, it is  way better meeting in person and asking questions so that you know whether you can work with someone.

The Grind

Meeting up with the founders in Francis Town was an eye opener as we heard and got insights from people’s ideas and other areas we did not think possible. A good example is that of opening up an AA for start-ups, it might sound crazy but on the flip side, it creates growth as each founder or employee of a start up realizes the importance of what their peers are going through in an informal and non judgmental forum to build each other.

Our host for the day was the bubbly Shirley Tshambane who made every effort to make sure we were well taken care of.  We met other startups such as Moemedi, Tshepo, Jeremiah, Emmanuel to name a few. They were working on their ideas too. We talked in snippets during the short meet and greet session as we went around the facility briefly asking a few questions to each other. We discovered that some of the challenges we’re facing are just the same.

Startup Grind take home points

During the event Takunda was on the hot seat and he was dissecting all those startup issues and making them palatable for people to take down. Of note, one thing we remember him saying is that ‘borders were not placed in Africa by Africans’. They were placed there by colonialists whose agenda was to divide and conquer. Their system was so effective that the borders are still up and running to this very day, long after African countries have claimed to be independent. Isn’t it strange that some former colonialists created a ‘United Kingdom’ or ‘United States’ and have become wealthy with some from the resources of their colonies? Mainly human resources?  When will we wake up and realize that we need to work together? That is the purpose of the TechVillage ‘community’. For as long as we’re not working together, we’re not really going far.

Technology is only a tool to help us reach our goals, so the real issue is whether we understand what needs to be done and if we’re willing to put in the work, ‘together’. We may need to start small and work our way up.

One other question Takunda was asked, ‘where do you see TechVillage 5 years from now?’.… ‘I see it being a billion dollar enterprise collectively from the Startups who are able to identify problems and provide sustainable solutions’. And it was at this point that we vowed that our Startups “X- Beta” and “Construction Link” will not be left out of that equation.

What struck deep about the StartUp  Grind Francistown, was the similarities of problems we are trying to solve as entrepreneurs in Southern Africa. There is definitely a need to connect,to work as a syndicate, not that i’m vouching for a cult, but to work as a group of entities or startups feeding off each other’s production. This will create sustainable growth in the future.

All said and done, we headed back home, passed by Debonairs Pizza and chose what we believed to be the best triple deck pizza.  The way it came out, we may as well have put tomato sauce and sweet chilly sauce on 3 tortillas and voila!  Pizza Slice could give them a real run for their money if you ask Njabulo, haha!

 Thamsanqa Mpofu is the Founder of X-Beta a Startup that accelerates user driven product development through early user acquisition by providing startups with form/function based feedback from it’s community of betas (users).

Njabulo Mpofu is the Founder of Construction Link a platform for construction industry participants to link for actual building projects, providing a tracking and rating system for clients who need their services with project estimates and timelines.

Tatenda is a Storyteller and Public Relations, strategist. Currently a Director at The Hype Squad, a creative storytelling agency in Zimbabwe. She is passionate about exploring and understanding all things to do with freedom, particularly freedom of expression.

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