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All posts by Mich Atagana

  • Physics, healthcare and imagination: meet Africa’s future

    Every year, Microsoft asks university students to imagine what they could do with technology through its Imagine Cup competition -- a skills-based challenge comprised of three key categories: Games, Innovation and World Citizenship. The idea is to create innovative and original software applications for Windows devices, of course. The competition is open to students around the world and spans a period of one year, beginning with national and online competitions, and culminating at the World Finals. So here we are, in sunny Seattle (who would have thought?) with 34 teams of students from around the globe competing either in...

  • Many fragments of a whole: unmasking Nigeria’s tech industry

    "Things don't work like that here," someone in the audience responds as Gareth Knight, founder of popular tech conference Tech4Africa, talks about the need to learn on your feet. There seems to be an underlying negativity when it comes to the tech ecosystem in Nigeria. There's a sense that it will always be a struggle and a hustle; one with no glorifying future in sight. I am at lunch with three startups: one has a solid footing in the market and is well on its way to becoming an SME, another tried a few things but reckons this new thing...

  • Taking Nigerians cashless: Q&A with PayPal’s business lead for Africa

    Nigeria’s 170-million plus population has an estimated 60-million internet users, making it the largest potential market for PayPal of all the countries it has entered in recent months. Before now, attempting to use PayPal in Nigeria would have led to the blocking of your PayPal account, with the service hardly viewing the country in the most favourable light. However, it seems all that is changing, as the country's young professionals with disposable income come online in search of places to spend their cash. This week, PayPal made the trip to Lagos, Nigeria, where it officially launched the service with its...

  • Disrupt everything: Lagos and the transportation overhaul

    The streets are flooded, it has been raining all night and all morning, and I need a cab. I have a couple of meetings to get to and I don't really know the city that well. I would order an Uber but it doesn't operate here... yet. I am in Lagos and everywhere I look is chaos and masses of cars... Transportation is a major problem here, so much so that a number of startups and established companies have decided to throw their hats in the ring and disrupt the space. This is good -- in a city so...

  • The Western Cape Taxi Council is not loving Uber and its tech savvy ways

    It's the end of the work day, I get into my Uber and settle in for a contemplative ride home. The driver begins the trip and starts a meter as well. I am not sure why he has done the latter but I say nothing and we begin. Half way through the ride as I direct him toward the turn into my neighbourhood, he says to me: "don't worry about the meter, it is just a precaution." My first thought is that perhaps the cab company he works for (that has now joined Uber) is comparing prices to see...

  • ‘Work is a sideline. Live the holiday’: welcome to the cult of entrepreneurship

    I have a penchant for books about entrepreneurship and starting a business from almost nothing. Books about ideas, making those ideas work for you and the importance of building a sustainable company. So when I got asked to review Seth Rotherham's foray into the world of lessons learnt from starting an online business I thought, why not? The book, titled Work is a Sideline. Live the holiday, arrived at my desk via a messenger fairy with a note of thanks (pressure!). Rule one on reading a book is to never judge it by its cover. It's a ghastly thing but...

  • Ushahidi’s BRCK raises $1.2M to connect the 4-billion in emerging markets

    Good news for BRCK after a very successful Kickstarter campaign is that Ushahidi has announced a new round of funding to the tune of US$1.2 million. BRCK is hoping to solve the problem of internet connectivity issues in remote areas. The Nairobi-based technology startup made waves when the product was first announced. According to the team, the gadget could be described as mobile router, and works as a backup generator for the internet. This round of funding was led by Invested Development, an early stage impact investor, but also included Omvestments, Urban.us, Cheryl Heller and Gary Scheft of CommonWise LLC, Synergy...

  • Uber [enter African city here] is happening sooner than you think

    Like it or not, Uber's path to world domination cannot be stopped. The San Francisco-based car ordering technology company is making its play for every market there is with hunger and urgency. A few months ago, Uber's International Launcher, Patrick Studener, took a trip to Nigeria to explore the possibilities for Uber there. An entry in Africa's most populous nation would mean the company was serious about the continent it seems things have tunred exactly that way. Some weeks ago, job ads starting popping up in Lagos from, yup, Uber. That only means one thing -- Uber Lagos is...

  • Are we beginning to over-indulge, over-romanticise and over-glamorise failure?

    This week, I read a very insightful piece in the Guardian about failure and the culture of failure that currently exists in Silicon Valley. In the startup community, the concept of failure has both positive and negative connotations depending on what continent or country you are in. The Guardian's piece talks about Silicon Valley's need to not just invoke failure but celebrate it as well. The oft repeated phrase most entrepreneurs have begun to live by is: "Fail fast, fail often." "Entrepreneurs give speeches detailing their misfires. Academics laud the virtue of making mistakes. FailCon, a conference about 'embracing failure',...

  • Africa isn’t in need of saving: it will likely save itself, it just needs better execution

    There is a very popular notion that Africa hasn't been able to shirk for some time now, namely that it's a dark continent in need of saving. If we liken Africa's story to that of a Disney fairytale, the continent is always the damsel in distress waiting for her prince to come in with his sword and slay the dragon guarding her. Truth be told, I doubt the many innovators and billionaires in the West getting ready to save Africa think of her as a beautiful princess. Instead they pity Africa, hence the belief that they are swooping in...