Being the Outlier in IT
Posted on April 3, 2014
I decided to name my application after a fruit- Ffene, which means ‘jackfruit’ in Luganda. I didn’t have Apple in mind, although I am aware of the similarity, it wasn’t the biggest consideration. The name was about finding an object that was familiar, not technical and intimidating for users.
Ffene is a low cost business management platform that enables small and medium businesses to leverage technology to reduce overhead costs incurred due to administrative tasks, freeing up resources that can be redirected to growth initiatives. Currently, Ffene can be used for accounting, customer relationship management, product management and report generation. The app is about offering small and medium sized Ugandan businesses an affordable local alternative to the standard business management software systems, which usually cost owners thousands of dollars which is prohibitive for all, except large firms. At $12 per month the simple and affordable platform even allows farmers to use it while their are out at work on their fields. The design of it was about creating a solution which was simple and affordable to use, even by those without an accounting background or computer experience.
Being a winner of the App4Africa competition we were flooded with questions relating to what we are to do next. “I am working on this!” I would tell them. Most Ugandan developers are into building apps that win something, and not necessarily into building a business. That mentality alone makes me an outlier in a community that has tremendous potential in technology – especially being positioned next to Kenya (what I would call Africa’s Silicon Savanah.)
Having a focus on the bottom line illustrates the burgeoning startup scene of the country. Although Uganda trails our neighbour, Kenya, the maturing state of entrepreneurship is a positive sign of growth. There are two factors (however) which must be addressed to fully result in effectively tapping into the vast opportunities in the entrepreneurial scene in Uganda: that is government support and private investment.
Government support is something that Uganda truly lacks. Software developers have found the promises of support by the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to champion the tech sector, to be nothing more than lip service. Until now, the same could be said about private investment opportunities with banks rarely loaning money to budding IT business, because of a lack of trust in homegrown products.
What has often set me apart from other businesses, especially in the local IT scene is the long-term strategy I approach every business decision with. I believe that Ugandans have a tendency to think too-short term. I believe that entrepreneurs in general do the same. I hope that soon, all players in the entrepreneurial community across Africa will recognize the long-term prospects and make decisions around that instead of employing short-term strategies such as: creating apps to win competitions (by entrepreneurs); finding ways to create jobs instead of promoting entrepreneurial activity (by governments) and; using traditional strategies to measure the opportunities in new IT businesses to determine lending rates (by banks.)
“See the end from the beginning,” that’s my motto. Then work your way to it. Everything else along the way is detail.