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  • 20 hot Nigerian startups to watch

    As we gradually approach the end of the first half of 2010, we are expecting to see more web 2.0 innovations and mobile-based platforms developed by Nigerian tech entrepreneurs. At this year's Barcamp Nigeria, coming up on 22 May at the University of Lagos, we also anticipate many new product launches. There is no doubt that Nigeria's startup scene is heating up. It deserves attention from the global webspace. Already, there are indications that an Android-powered tablet could be coming from Nigeria. Some quick facts and figures: Nigeria is a country of about 150-million people. The CIA Factbook also reports that Nigeria...

  • Company Office

    Here's how small businesses can also cash in on Mother’s Day

    The Mother’s Day period in May is always a highlight in the annual retail calendar, but how do small businesses compete with the larger retail stores and shopping centres and make sure they also benefit during this peak shopping season? Paul Kent, MD of payment service provider says many of the company's clients using Sureswipe card machines are the smaller, boutique-type businesses that trade in custom-made goods like clothing, jewelry, confectionery or specialty chocolates, or they run nurseries, beauty spas and independent coffee shops and eateries. "To help them leverage sales for peak retail periods such as Mother’s Day, we encourage...

  • The Stuart Ntlathi story: A hope-filled prophecy for entrepreneurs in Africa

    High profile speakers, animated presentations, and the occasional F-bomb on stage all characterised the proceedings at what is fast-becoming one of South Africa’s hottest tech conferences. Net Prophet, a free one-day conference established by the RAMP Foundation last year as a means of social investment to debate and grow the local Internet economy, attracted about 800 people from all walks of life. This year’s line-up included Erik Hersman (Ushahidi), Vinny Lingham (Yola), Adriaan Pienaar (WooThemes), Stefan Magdalinski (Mocality), Richard Mulholland (Missing Link), Patrick Kayton (Cognician), Sarah Lacy (TechCrunch), Stephen Newton (ex-Google SA), Stephan Ekbergh (TravelStart), Stuart Ntlathi (SNSET), and Arthur...

  • Net Prophet: Africa is a sea of opportunity

    Free coffee, wi-fi and pumping music tunes was how more than 800 tech geeks, freaks, entrepreneurs and industry leaders were greeted at the Net Prophet Conference in Cape Town on Thursday. With an impressive line-up of speakers and the sense of a growing tech community in the Silicon Cape, it was no surprise to see a packed and enthusiastic auditorium at Old Mutual Park. Speakers included Erik Hersman, co-founder of Ushahidi.com, and Mocality.com CEO Stefan Magdalinski, who shared insights on mobile and internet innovation in Africa -- and how South African entrepreneurs in particular are well-placed to take advantage of...

  • Where is SA’s entrepreneurial spirit?

    Economically, America is almost three times larger than its nearest rival, and despite its size, it is one of the most productive economies in the world. This begs the question: What makes America the most successful economy the world has ever witnessed? The obvious reasons don’t provide us with a ready explanation though. What about education? Education is the ultimate driver of development, so surely America must have the best education system in the world. The reality is that, especially at the primary and secondary levels, many other countries have far better education systems than America. What about manufacturing? At the heart...

  • Can SA expect a boom in ecommerce?

    The ecommerce landscape in South Africa has historically been hampered by slow and expensive Internet access, but things are beginning to change for the better. And if you are in any doubt as to whether speed is important for an ecommerce website, consider the following observations on the effects of latency on user behaviour: Amazon found every 100ms of latency cost them 1% in sales. Google found an extra 0.5 seconds in search page generation time dropped traffic by 20%. Anyone running a South African website would be very familiar with the highly predictable dip in their web stats over weekends, indicating that...

  • Web forms: Get them right and make more money

    A web form is like a solid wall between you and your customer. The customer wants to buy your product. You want to sell your product. But in between there’s the form… and everyone hates filling in forms. Making your forms easier-to-use can have a dramatic effect on your company’s bottom line. Jared Spool has written about a form redesign that increased a company’s annual revenue by $300-million. At Flow Interactive we have seen as much as a 125% increase in conversion rates with better form design. And Google thinks form design projects will have a much larger return-on-investment (ROI)...

  • The startup way: 10 web tools we use

    When building a startup venture, small teams come up against several tough challenges. One being, how to deliver a lot of work in a little time, and how is this achievable with almost no budget? Luckily, these pains have been recognised by many great services that help small businesses punch above their weight. In a startup environment, inefficiencies are punished more than anywhere else. After getting Personera off the ground, our team has learnt some lessons in selecting the right tool for the job at hand. Here are 10 online tools we use regularly and have come to love. Communication Gmail: Yes,...

  • A business lesson: Go where the sardines are

    We are lucky in technology, because many other industries can only grow linearly and so that growth is a massive, long term effort that results in businesses like General Electric. The interesting thing is that even though we have the ability to scale with tech, a lot of people building businesses in tech try to build businesses in verticals that have no inherent potential for scale, or at least not enough to get to profitability before the runway cash is spent. They underestimate the sales effort required, overcook technical requirements, avoid the cold hard problem of "What's in it for...

  • Not all traffic is created equal – a guide to ecommerce

    While recently preparing a report on the annual traffic to a large corporate website, I had many opportunities to pause and reflect on the nature of Internet traffic and the difficult job businesses have in procuring this traffic, holding on to it, channelling it in the right ways, and turning browsing into the business that will help the company increase profits and improve its bottom line. A successful online business transaction has so many variables -- some technological, but most human, that make the process of conversion less than an exact science. Web metrics have gone some way towards providing...

  • Fear of failure is robbing South Africa of great thinkers

    Fear is the greatest energy sapper. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule and fear that things might never happen as you would like them to. As someone wisely said, fear is also the parent of cruelty. Cruelty to yourself. With fear paralysis sets in, and failure, which is so necessary for rapid innovation, is lost. Find your own way by getting things done. An idea does not have to be crafted into perfection to be worthy of an audience. In fact, the mere act of speaking it will allow it to emerge as better than it currently is. Ideas are...