Building sustainable media enterprises is a marathon, not a sprint
By Clifford Machingaifa
Looking back at how I was raised, I have mixed feelings over how my upbringing influenced my thinking as a young African man venturing into the cesspool of entrepreneurship. On one hand we were raised on the premise that the ultimate goal is to get a well-paying job, and all the other things that represent the phenotype of success. On the other hand, we were (through the conduit of liberal education) encouraged to ‘be ourselves’ and ‘follow our dreams’ which didn’t always translate into a huge paycheck and a black Mercedes G63 with the beige leather seats and mahogany trim… and sunroof. It’s almost sad that in my culture (particularly), success is a measurable outcome…”how much you earn, what you drive, where you shop” And so, in a sense, this had become the delivery of opinions and insight in my eyes. It seems to have become more important for your story to have the most views or interactions… “Who is talking about it and where was it featured?”, are questions that are frequently asked. We no longer place value in the ‘helpfulment’ of that insight as much as we do on how much traction it got (don’t look that word up).
Walking into the JAMLAB accelerator programme I had a notion of rebelling against this culture but was struggling to structure it into an actual thought process: how to break away from delivering a subject with the sole intent of creating an impression and gaining mileage, forgoing the importance of reporting facts and giving an objective and reliable source of information. The African Tech Round-up aims to be an impartial, reliable and consistent source of tech insight and the accelerator programme has very much helped us to shape and direct our energies towards that. More so, helping us to give structure to our workflow and so enabling us to expand and grow our reach. A few caveats I have taken to heart so far are:
1. It’s okay to fail: Failure is only an opportunity for improvement, so test out your assumptions and learn from the failures and successes that result.
2. It’s essential to leave room for a pivot in the direction of your vision: We don’t always start out on the right path and through learning and growing what you initially thought was the solution could very well not be!
3. Leverage off the influence of like-minded individuals: Superman doesn’t exist (if he did he’d have Cheerios for breakfast. Random I know, but I love Cheerios!). So you can’t do everything all on your own in your own strength. Through the people you know, you have access to EVERYTHING that you need to make your vision come true.
The JAMLAB accelerator programme has helped us to hone in the entrepreneurship skills necessary to grow and run a sustainable business, allowing us to focus our energies on only what is truly important for our success. Irish professional mixed martial artist and boxer, Conor McGregor wasted a lot of valuable energy in his fight against Floyd Mayweather in the early rounds by wildly throwing punches and just trying to be all over his opponent. In my opinion he should have slowed down a bit, identified Mayweather ‘s defensive and offensive strategy, adjusted his own in accordance and while conserving energy for the later rounds, concisely picking his shots and avoiding Mayweather’s own. Our team is now in the process of studying the market, seeing which ‘punches’ we need to avoid and also deciding where we need to ‘land our shots.’ We’ve had to change our strategy a bit but most importantly, we’re learning to conserve energy so that we don’t burn out in the first few rounds of the bout.
So as we step into the African tech scene with the intention of promoting the dissemination of reliable information and insights, not only are we challenged to become a sustainable entity but to also grow, expand our reach and ensure that decisions are made that push our continent forward; more importantly they’re made having had the right information and insights available. Whether for us that entails reporting, introducing, facilitating, curating or catalysing within the African tech space remains for us to put together through the help of the JAMLAB program. But we strongly believe that access to reliable insight is essential in developing African solutions to African problems.