By Pumulo Ngoma

How has Jamlab changed my entrepreneurial thinking?

Something that I realised throughout this Jamlab experience is that you shouldn’t be afraid to reset if something isn’t working. We pivoted once during the duration of Jamlab — the core idea remained the same, to distribute content via WhatsApp, but the format was different. But having done the legwork with the previous ideation of our startup really propelled us forward. Said differently, we were able to seize the opportunity that Newsbyte offered to us precisely because we’d done the work. It can best be described as a moment of flow, in the Mihaly Csikszentmihaly sense — where different factors almost perfectly align and you are able to see a new opportunity where previously there wasn’t one. Also, if you haven’t read this book, give it a read, or at least watch the Ted Talk.

I think that Jamlab has revealed for me how important it is to have people on your team that complement each other’s abilities. I feel that it’s very important to surround yourself with people, even a network that challenge the way you think. Each person should have a fundamental belief, a filter, a worldview, a contrarian ideal that differs from my own. Even if we have the same grand vision for the project, we shouldn’t have the same way of executing it.

Entrepreneurship and the conversations around it are often very masculine, very testosterone-driven, often suffers at the hands of the hustle ethos. I think Covid really provided an opportunity for a reset, a moment to regroup and rethink how we should do business. Are these practices really helpful and how can we factor in rest and thinking time as another form of being productive? On a similar note, I found the templates that were shared such as PESTLE and the Lean framework to be useful for thinking through the viability any sort of venture.

What did I appreciate about Jamlab?

In comparison to other programmes, Jamlab facilitators have had a much more hands-on approach. Often I find entrepreneurial support programmes to be overly anecdotal — I don’t need another Whatsapp group, I need to be able to do financial projections! And some of these programmes can be quite rigid in their structure. I felt the Jamlab programme has been more dynamic and more agile and open to change, and I owe that to the entrepreneurial thinkers involved in structuring the programme. I think that’s a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of the programme. I enjoyed the Creating the Media course, particularly the class dynamic and receiving insights from the case studies approach. I particularly found the exercises to be quite useful and had real life applicability, I was able to absorb a lot of information from witnessing different entrepreneurial thinking.

I also enjoyed meeting the other members of the cohort, I enjoyed being inspired by different projects, personalities and approaches. It was easy to learn from other entrepreneurs’ lived experiences, their successes and their failures.

The Highs and Lows

One of the lows was not really being able to get the tech support and funding that we needed to implement the dev stage of our project because of Covid. Interestingly, though Covid presented challenges for us, it also represented opportunities. Particularly in thinking about how we could make content distribution more localised, more useful, what was it that users actually needed and wanted, and how could we go about providing a service that could accommodate those needs with a sense of efficacy? That was the moment we decided to pivot and Newsbyte Africa was born. We thought, if we could distribute African news and content via WhatsApp, we would be able to target a demographic for whom WhatsApp is the internet. I think embracing the fact that we are African, we are in this present moment, can we build solutions that address our unique context?

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