My family and I had the privilege to travel to Africa last month.
Our journey led us to Ogun State in Nigeria, where we had the honor of serving as guest teachers at a local school for an inspiring week. But that wasn’t all; we also had the privilege of visiting LAUTech University, where an amazing tech entrepreneurship community is being led by Ennovate Labs.
I was honored (and surprised) that I was asked to speak on the topic of what it takes to build a successful tech company. This prompted me to reflect on the common threads of the success of the companies I’ve been a part of over the years. After some procrastination, I distilled my thoughts into seven fundamental principles.
Learning the Art of Forecasting
One of these principles is “Build where the ball is going,” a reference to a game where the majority of my knowledge comes from watching Ted Lasso. When my kids were very young, we put them in a football (soccer) league. The way they played the game was similar to this picture
Everyone would frantically follow the ball around the field, with the fastest runner kicking the ball while everyone else chased them. While I’m clearly no soccer expert, I knew enough at that time to gather that this was not the most efficient way to play the game. Speaking with people that knew more than I did, I was informed that masters of the game possessed the ability to foresee where the ball was headed and positioned themselves to be where the ball was going to be so that they could make plays that others didn’t see coming.
Reflecting on my own experiences, I realize the privilege I’ve had in co-building companies with individuals who were unafraid to “run where the ball was headed.” At BigMachines, we built internet software before there was an internet infrastructure to enable it. At G2, we constructed a platform for publicly sharing B2B software reviews when most software companies feared them, not valued them. These experiences have trained me to be a student of the trends in human behavior and how products can be created to meet the needs of our changing behaviors.
Forecasting the Future of Technology
So, where is the tech ball heading? Something in the Generative AI space seems to be the obvious answer at the moment, and G2 Labs is exploring it with excitement.
Looking ahead, one fundamental question arises: In the future, who will lead the charge in building these innovations? While in Africa, I became convinced that tech in Africa is on the verge of massive growth. Here’s what I observed:
Nigerian culture places a high value on education. Parents will go to great lengths and sacrifice to ensure their children get the best education possible and the youth value their education as a privilege and not as a right.
African culture values both STEM AND Art. A great tech company needs both of these to be successful.
African tech infrastructure is outpacing its physical infrastructure. The African tech industry is not impacted as much by the supply chain challenges the manufacturing sector faces caused by poor infrastructure.
Nigeria’s population is growing rapidly. Demographers predict that it will have a population larger than the U.S. by 2050 and will be the only major country where its youth population will still be growing in this timeframe.
This youth population is energetic and optimistic…
Is Africa Where the Ball is Going?
Amidst these promising signs, there are still challenges. Healthcare, agriculture, and transportation are a few I observed. But, with youthful optimism on their side, these obstacles will surely be overcome. If the spirit of innovation I experienced at Ennovate Lab is mirrored throughout other similar tech communities, I have no doubt that the tech “ball” is moving towards Africa.
What are your thoughts? Where do you believe the tech ball is going? Will the next big wave of tech entrepreneurs be from Africa?
PS: Are you curious what my other six other principles of building a successful tech company are? Stay tuned…if I can stop procrastinating, I plan to share them soon.