Keep your eyes open.... There is something going on !


By STRIVE MASIYIWA

 

The Lion and the Ranger (Part 4)
__Keep your eyes open. There is something going on!

My first contact with mobile telephony was actually at university in the early 1980s in a telecommunications class. At that time there were small systems operating in the US. I had one question on my mind: Why can’t we introduce this technology in Africa?

Fast forward: I was now an entrepreneur running my own business, and focused on construction engineering. Having always subscribed to professional magazines, I knew about the excitement building up over mobile telephony in Europe and America. 

There was no Internet where I could “Google” to learn the latest developments but I did my best to keep up, sometimes going to the British Council to read foreign newspapers! I would often spend hours in the library at the University of Zimbabwe, even though I was never a student there. I would go there to read periodicals on engineering subjects.

One day an American guy who sold “walkie-talkie” radios for the police forces came by my office and I began to pump him about this new technology:

“Do you know if there is anyone in Africa working on mobile phones?”

“There's a guy in Zaire who has started operating a small analogue system. He set it up in 1987. Has about 3,000 customers.”

“Can you introduce me to him?”

“Definitely.”

A few weeks later I was on my way to Zaire (now DRC). Mobuto was still President. That was 1991.

I began to travel to telecommunications equipment trade shows. During one of those trips in Germany, I went straight to the Siemens stand:

“I hear you guys recently shipped a small trial digital mobile switch to Cameroon.”

“Where did you hear that?” the guy asked, quite surprised.

He introduced me to his boss, who introduced me to his boss. Eventually someone admitted they knew something. They were behaving like it was some kind of state secret! Eventually someone introduced me to the guys at Siemens South Africa. It was now 1992.

“Since you are so smart, you obviously know that soon a new standard will be announced called GSM,” the guy said laughing as I sat in their Pretoria office.

“Then things are really going to take off," he said. "This game is not going to be analogue but digital.”

“Yes, I know.”

“What do you have in mind?” he asked.

“I want to set up my own business in Zimbabwe.”

The story of my battle for a license in Zimbabwe, and subsequent successes in countries like Botswana, Lesotho, Kenya, New Zealand, are well documented. I have chosen to recount this part of the story in the Lion and The Ranger series, because there are key lessons for entrepreneurs running through this theme:

# To get in early on new developments you have to be well read, and constantly learning!

Right now, even as I write, there are things emerging that are going to be bigger than anything we have seen before, including mobile phones, and the Internet. These developments are known best by people linked to a particular field, and who are determined to stay at its cutting edge. 

__It does not matter what you are into, there is something going on there! It might be in cars, media, telephony, agricultural, manufacturing technology... something is going on!

# Once you spot an opportunity you must step up your learning about it. It will not come from one small write up. You will have to follow up, sometimes even for months or even years. There are no "short cuts." You must apply yourself.

# Invest in yourself! See how I invested in both time and money to get the knowledge and contacts I needed. With your smartphone, in less than two weeks you could probably learn everything I took years to find out in those days...

Wow, you guys are so blessed! I could wait three weeks (or more) to get a reply to a letter for information. This now takes you a matter of seconds, on the smartphone you're using to read this post!

# Act quickly. Don’t procrastinate!

“If you see a bandwagon, it is already too late!” William Goldsmith, once said... As a student I once worked in a restaurant and I learnt it's not smart to order food when the kitchen is about to close. # You figure it out.

Finally, always remember: # Your mindset!

Maybe you are not yet as successful as you want to be, or you feel you aren't successful at all...

# Every single lion in the history of the world started out as a cub.

To be continued. . .

Image credit: Jeff Stamer



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User's Comments:

Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 5. Is it possible that in future we will not rear animals for food at all? When I heard that people like Bill Gates and Richard Branson have invested in companies that produce “meat” which does not involve rearing an animal, I was totally intrigued and wanted to find out more! First of all, I read everything I could find over the Internet during my spare time. Finally I got my chance to actually visit a company called “Impossible Foods” in California. Yes, I tasted the “Impossible Burger,” and I could NOT tell it apart from normal meat! The “meat” had “blood, fat, texture...” It was “meat,” yet it was not from an animal, but plants! This was a few years ago already. Fast forward: Recently my daughter, who is a student in America, told me she went to one of the first restaurants which specializes in selling only “Impossible Burgers.” You have to queue to get one of these burgers, and they're very expensive. “It’s amazing! In a few years, we will not need cows!” she said excitedly. Before you express an opinion, just take time this week to study this development. Do a bit of research. If you have Kwesé Play, there's an amazing documentary on Economist Films which you can also see and share your thoughts with others.

Oct. 30, 2017, 10:58 a.m. Reply
Christ

Just like you said, every industry is now technology driven. Impossible Foods' scientists discovered that a molecule called heme is a key factor in how meat behave. Heme is the molecule that gives blood its red color and helps carry oxygen in living organisms. Heme is abundant in animal muscle but is found naturally in all living organisms. Plants, particularly nitrogen-fixing plants and legumes, also contain heme. The heme molecule in plant-based heme is identical to the heme molecule found in meat. To produce heme protein from non-animal sources, Impossible Foods selected the heme found naturally in the roots of soy plants. To make plant-based heme in large quantities, Impossible Foods' scientists then engineered a yeast and used a fermentation process very similar to the brewing process used to make some types of beer.

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:13 a.m.
Strive masiyiwa

Well done. Christ Next what will you do with this knowledge yourself?

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:14 a.m.
Ogozi alex john

Biotechnology is about the fastest growing areas of science and it is already permeating every aspect of human existence, from agriculture, healthcare and the environment. As a student of genetics and biotechnology, I believe that a lot of people are being misinformed about biotechnology and it's huge potentials (including the 'impossible burger', edible vaccines, etc.) are being stifled especially in Africa, but this is driving the economy in most of the developed world and as we continue to grow in knowledge, we can also enjoy some of its benefits here.

Oct. 30, 2017, 11 a.m. Reply
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 2. In this series I have talked about things like Virtual Reality, electric cars, augmented intelligence, and so on. I could have just as easily been talking about developments in other fields. The list is endless. You are better placed to pursue developments in your own field of interest. I’m interested in teaching you principles that will help you spot opportunities, and then execute on them.

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:02 a.m. Reply
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought : 4 Last night I watched Shark Tank in the US. I never miss Shark Tank. Mark Cuban said something to a young man who wanted to quit school and pursue his venture: “Go to university and finish your studies. Take every opportunity to increase your knowledge, because the greatest competitive advantage to an entrepreneur is knowledge.” I totally agreed with him: The modern entrepreneur is someone who lives their lives as a “compulsive learner”!

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:04 a.m. Reply
Igodan victor

The truth many people aren’t willing to admit is you don’t need a college degree to be successful. But you do need an education, along with a desire to to learn, work hard, and adapt. An education is different from a degree. An education can be formal, informal, self-directed, on the job training, professional licenses and certifications, or any other form of education.

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:07 a.m. Reply
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 3. During my visit to Kinshasa, as we drove through town, I noticed that there were a lot of men, dressed in great suits and colorful clothes, who were speaking very loudly on their mobile phones. “Wow!” I thought, “So many people have phones already!” “Unfortunately, those are dummy phones which they use to impress girls!” said the guy I had gone to see. The guy was charging $3 per minute and had only 3,000 subscribers. That is how the industry worked in the early days.

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:10 a.m. Reply
Kweku

Dear Strive Masiyiwa, I have been pursuing the trail of a disruptive technology for a year now but this post just showed me I am thinking way too small, i am inspired by how you fiercely pursued knowledge, its something i have come to realize many people down play. Your faith in pursuing this technology has greatly paid off. Faith in business is risk and your story is just one of rewarded risk founded on wisdom and insight Today am going to spend my day thinking bigger and narrowing my focus to achieving one block at a time. The goal is to think longterm and be aligned to be carried by the wave that is coming!

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:18 a.m. Reply
Strive masiyiwa

If you follow the path I have taken on Kwese TV, it is very similar to our mobile business venture (Econet Wireless). I did not just wake up one morning and say “hey let’s build a Pan African TV network.” It was a process that began years ago once I realized that one day TV would migrate to the mobile phone. I kept tracking the developments, and following until I felt it was time to act. The rest is history. Last night millions of people watched Joshua VS Takam using their mobile phones than on actual traditional TV sets

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:19 a.m.
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 1. As I studied how to get into this new business called "mobile networks", I thought of all kinds of entry points. I contacted potential manufactures of mobile phones to get dealerships. I heard about a Finnish company moving from timber into electronics and was betting big on mobile phones. Back then it was not a household name... Nokia! I was ready to try out anything to get into this new game.

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:24 a.m. Reply
Kibet

Am in online education as a business and it's a huge opportunity as technology advances and internet speed improves, as well as cost to access internet is coming down, and smartphone price coming down as well and the young population in Africa. Oooooh I feel inspired!!

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:27 a.m. Reply
Strive masiyiwa

I’m also in this business. Welcome! We have a company called Cassava EduTech. It is part of a business called Cassava Fintech which looks at financial technologies related to mobile phones such as remittances, insurance and mobile money. In Cassava EduTech we focus on how mobile phones will be used to drive education. We have a number of platforms including Ruzivo which looks at primary and secondary school education. Ecoshool which looks at University level education. We also have Muzinda Hub, which trains computer coding.

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