John Oyadougha

The world’s largest taxi company has no single taxi. The world’s largest hotel and hospitality company has no hotel. The world’s largest retail/grocery company has no retail or grocery store, the world’s largest Search engine has no content of theirs. We can go on and on to cite innovative ideas. This is what we call innovation. Innovation in its simplest form is the act of introducing or creating something new or doing an old thing in a new way. It is usually a break from the norm. innovation is one big reason life has been made easier today. From the advanced and sophisticated cell phones to the new model cars to the OLED television sets to anything technology you can think about are all products of innovation. In this article, I will expose to us on how to be innovative in our own little way, solve social and business problems profitably as well as get reach solving societal problems.

Innovation starts with an idea and we all know that just anyone can have an idea. Ideas are meant to pass through us to execution stage and not to remain in us. A million-dollar idea is nothing if it cannot be executed. So, when next you have an idea, examine the odds and prospect so you can immediately move unto execution. Well ideas are said to come to us mostly in the bathroom or restroom, we can also have ideas when we commute our cities and study how people currently solve problems or meet their needs, look for a new way to meet that need and people will surely pay for it.

Until recently, people who wish to call a taxi would have to go to the taxi park or stand in the sun by the roadside to wait for a passing taxi and those who have the contact of a taxi driver would call him to come pick him or her up at home then the taxi driver would also charge for coming to pick the customer from his house and for this part of the world, these commercial taxis are always dirty and smelly with no air conditioner until some two young guys decided to help commuters get to their destination with ease at a cheaper rate and that was how Uber was birthed and today Uber is the world’s largest taxi company but it has no single taxi of its own. Anyone who has a neat car can apply to ride for Uber and get paid. In the process, Uber has provided millions of jobs around the world to car owners. How nice.

Another amazing innovation is Airbnb. Accommodation and hospitality for travelers and tourists has been a major problem. Also, there are a lot of people who have spare rooms in their home and would love to make money from it so what Airbnb did was to create a platform where people with a spare room in their home can register so travers can request to share their home. The owner of the house gets paid as well as Airbnb. When the company started there were a lot of concerns as to whether people will be willing to share their home with total strangers but today Airbnb is a huge success in many countries and keeps expanding.

We can go on and on to cite innovative companies that are springing up both locally and internationally. Let us see how to start an innovative internet enabled company. After you have gotten an idea, no matter what the idea is, so long it solves a problem or meet a need, people will pay for it. How your product works is called your business model. It has to be an idea that people will pay for which means it must meet a need. You will then need a developer because it could be an App or a website whom you can name as a co-founder because you cannot pay a developer off for a tech enabled start-up as bugs that need to be fixed keep coming up frequently.

After which you will need to create a workflow or a timeline of development but before then you need to prepare a business model canvas using an online tool called canvanizer, it is the most comprehensive summary of a business plan, you then prepare a user persona to have an idea of who your users are after which you have to do a pre-development survey. Ask your potential users what they feel about the product and know if they will pay for it before you begin development. Do not make too many assumptions about the usefulness of your product to your users, always ask question.

After that, you complete your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). MVP is the simplest form of your end product that people can use. You launch it, receive feedback from users and add more features based on the feedback they have given. Remember that the longer it takes to develop, the longer it takes to launch. Haven completed your MVP, you could apply for an Accelerator Program for you to learn more on how to scale your business. You could also get grants at the end of the accelerator, it could also be an investment because at the end of every accelerator program, there is a demo day for founders to pitch their start-ups to investors and venture capitalists. You could get information about such accelerator programs on Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A) website.

Before receiving any investment for your start-up, it is advisable you use your personal money to run it and gain traction. This is called bootstrapping. The idea is that before any investor will invest in your business which means giving out some ownership stake (equity), a valuation has to be done on your company so each party will know what percentage of your company’s ownership (shares) will go for a certain amount of money. If you go for investment at a very early stage, your company’s valuation will be low and just a hundred thousand naira may buy your entire company. As you grow your company, you will need to go for angel round/seed investment. These are investments for early stage start-ups and would have less stringent terms of investment.

A perfect way to run a scalable company is to ensure that your platform uses user generated content, by doing this, you save yourself the stress of feeding your users with content, rather users will feed each other with content. This is one of the main reasons Facebook is a success today likewise every other social media platform. We frequent Facebook not because of the amazing features but because we want to see what our friends are posting or post contents for our friends to like and comment. Same goes for Uber and Airbnb, if they were to buy their own cabs and build their own homes respectively, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

Youtube also has hundreds of millions of videos that people watch but the company (Google) owns none of those videos. Coming local, you could adopt the model of that is trying to be the largest photography company without a single Camera or NextGist that aims to be the largest blog without having a single blog post of their own. So, you see, it is best you save yourself the stress of getting your own content and that is how you grow.

I hope this has been a wonderful read for you and hoping it spurs you to innovate and start your own company and feel free to reach out to me if you need advice on growing your business.

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