What we learned from the visit of MIT Sloan students?

Last week was so busy that we are getting to sharing the activities just now. Mr George Mulamula from DBTi had organized a full day of panels and group discussions for the MIT Sloan students and local entrepreneurs and ICT students.

The day was kicked off with a panel of young entrepreneurs’ stories and challenges in Tanzania with Eric Mutta (winner of Apps4Africa), Jamie Yang (EGG Energy), Andrew Tesha (Green Thumb Initiative), Taha Jiwaji (BongoLive) and Joshua Stein (Envaya). The panelists introduced themselves and told their story at the innovation space and then we moved to the conference hall to provide a seat to all participants.

Eric Mutta kicking off the panel introductions by showing that there's business in the mobile sector in Tanzania

A lot of insights on starting and doing business in Tanzania were shared during the panel, here are just a few:

  • Products and services need to be culturally relevant; there are endless failures as a result of ignoring this.
  • Don’t ignore the aid industry, they can distort the market and mess up your business. They are also slow and you can usually hear or see them coming.
  • You need to do your own market research and that requires a lot of travelling, walking and talking.
  • Partner, never do alone.
  • Even good customer service can be sufficient added value.
  • Buying power of people living under two dollars per day is not clear from the statistics alone. Many of them are trading with farm or other produce directly.
  • Green tech revolution may end up coming from Africa because here people need to think ultra-efficiently.
  • Don’t start by establishing company first, get customers first!
  • You need to do a lot of roadshows to advertise your product and understand the market better.
  • Startups fail when they pivot for opportunity from the original idea for what the team was established for – don’t forget why you started the company!

After the panel there was time for group discussions between the MIT Sloan students and local entrepreneurs and ICT students to exchange views and ask more questions; followed by Q&A session with Omar Bakari from COSTECH, Peter Ulanga from UCAF and IP officer from BRELA. During lunch DTBi incubatees also briefly pitched their companies and business ideas to the visitors.

We spoke to many of the MIT Sloan visitors and they said they learned a lot during the day and whole ‘Innovate’ Trek to East Africa. They are planning to organize an Africa Business seminar at MIT in the next couple of months to share their learnings.

What do you think should happen now to keep the connection between MIT and Tanzanian ICT entrepreneurs and students alive?

Check out the full photo gallery of the event: