The digital revolution has brought about enormous changes in the way people manage businesses because it has removed many of the barriers that entrepreneurs used to face, says Emma Kaye, the head of the Cape Digital Foundation.
Kaye has launched plenty of successful digital businesses, one of which is Bozza, a digital platform that artists from across Africa use to upload their music so they can sell it.
Bozza was launched in November 2010 and today boasts content from more than 300 African musicians and poets.
“Here we can unlock talent from right across the continent. Artists no longer have to be limited to church or the school hall where they live,” says Kaye.
“They get exposure to a worldwide audience.”
Kaye says Bozza has begun breaking down the ceiling that limited artists’ opportunities in the past.
That’s one of the major advantages that the digital world brings – the entrepreneur can choose whether they want to make a hyperlocal mark among people within a particular region, or whether it should be geared towards an international audience.
Another new platform that Kaye’s been involved in developing is Mobfest.
It was started in 2008 and was the first digital platform in Africa where users could create and then upload the content themselves. On Mobfest’s first channel, Novel Idea, users uploaded chain novels that were written specifically so that people could read them on their cellphones.
“When I started [these kinds of businesses] in 2002, I had to code everything from scratch. The barriers to entry have come down,” says Kaye.
“Things have progressed so much. You no longer have to be a coder to create a business on digital platforms. There are loads of turnkey solutions.
“An important development is the large number of digital platforms that now exist. You no longer have to be a programmer because you can operate your business on existing digital platforms.”
Some of the most important advice she can give to aspiring online entrepreneurs is to surround themselves with the best team they possibly can.
“It’s not very difficult to come up with a bright idea. The big challenge is in implementing the idea and turning it into a sustainable business.”
Kaye says she is good at coming up with ideas, but making them a reality sometimes isn’t her strongest suit.
“Surround yourself with people who are good at the things that you’re not good at.”
She says she had an exceptional manager at Bozza: “This person was everything that I wasn’t.”
Entrepreneurs also have to find ways to make sure that their ideas are not just implemented, but that they are also sustainable.
Think about issues such as who the target market will be and what the “problem” is that you are trying to solve.
“Businesses such as Uber and Airbnb were started to tackle challenges within a particular community,” she says.
Entrepreneurs also have to intervene quickly when they notice a problem.
“Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made were having the wrong people on my team and not taking action quickly enough when I noticed a problem.”
Kaye believes the next great digital changes domestically will come from informal communities.
“Everyone is focusing on the big corporations that are concentrating on the development of artificial intelligence. But as people in townships get more access to and knowledge of the digital world, there will be a bunch of new ideas.
“Mobile platforms have a fundamental socioeconomic, educational, business, social and individual impact. Emerging economies use them in highly creative ways, especially to empower micro-businesses,” says Kaye.
Haluk Demirkan and Bulent Dal, who are involved in analytics, say digital innovation is a new way of thinking and doing things.
“A key characteristic of digital innovation is that it often changes the roles of providers, co-producers and customers of services, and alters their patterns of interaction.”
Demirkan and Dal remind entrepreneurs that almost all businesses focus on innovation to make their business model sustainable. But many make the mistake of focusing their energy on traditional product development.
The entrepreneur has to ask himself or herself what they can do differently – whether that relates to a product or a service.
Demirkan and Dal point out that people don’t actually want to buy a drill, they just want a hole in the wall so they can hang a picture.
How do you give them that hole in the wall? And how do they know you can give them that hole in the wall with the least hassle?
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