A global perspective – Zachariah George – Tech4Africa 2014

U-Start Africa COO Zachariah George has spent most of his career on Wall Street, as an investment banker. He’s lived in South Africa for the past few years, advising investors on business opportunities in emerging markets, like this one. This, he says, gives him a global and local perspective. His Tech4Africa 2014 talk, he says, will be very practical – detailing what international investors look for in early stage emerging market tech ventures, how to build financial plans, strategies for attracting investment – what to do and what not to do, and how to align your venture’s interest to that of an investor.

“It’s very practical and looks at things like ROI and debt versus equity and valuation methodologies, instruments like convertible notes versus equity, dilution laws when you look at rounds of investment. It’s the kind of information an entrepreneur would be well served knowing before get into a roundtable with an investor, for example.”

Attendees at Tech4Africa CT will also be treated to 10 or 15 minutes of walk-through into how ventures are evaluated. “If someone can give me an answer to ‘how do you value a tech company’ I’ll quit my job and go work for them,” he not entirely jokes. The 10-minute walk-through on what Silicon Valley investors look for is usually charged for and represents 10 years of IP, he says. Companies like Pinterest, twitter and Uber were valued with no revenue. How do you do that? George plans to give some high-level insight into that complex equation.

Another thing he’ll get into, he says, is something many entreprenuers don’t focus on – how to make money for their investors. “Are they options to buy yourself out of the business and make money for your investors that way?

If I’m a financial tech startup do I have clear understanding of Old Mutual’s portfolio and could I sell my app to them? Most entrepreneurs don’t think about exit opportunities.”

Tech4Africa is probably one of the few events that gathers entrepreneurs, investors and everyone in the incubation/acceleration space into one common area with interests that serve every stakeholders needs – even banks and law firms, he says, which is why he submitted a session this year.

“I work with tech entrepreneurs every day and there’s no structured forum for them. This is a good forum for people to share opinions and insight. I’m doing my bit and speaking for 45 minutes, but I’m really there to hear the entrepreneurs talk about their experiences, they’re the real rockstars.”



Taking a leap of faith – Elan Lohmann – Tech4Africa 2014

Elan Lohmann quit his corporate job and set out to change the lives of 100 000 people two years ago. He has grown the SleekGeek social health and fitness community from 10 to 25000 members to date, and is well on track to achieving his goal. He will be sharing his personal story with the Tech4Africa audience, he says.

“I’m going to be telling the story of how I built this brand using digital platforms with no real budget, doing it from my bedroom and creating something from nothing. In that there’s the story of a whole bunch of people whose lives are affected – as well as the story of my life transitioning from a corporate to being an entrepreneur.

“I’m going to be talking about authenticity and the importance of it in the social media space,” he conitnues. “I’m also going to talk about what real community is. We use the term quite loosely. People also use the word ‘value’ for the customer like its jargon but I really believe the secret is giving people what they want and what they need.”

In amongst that, he adds, he’ll be talking about intent and social entrepreneurship – and how your intent is linked to your results.

Lohman has been off the corporate speaking circuit for a while, he says, and was invited to speak at Tech4Africa by founder Gareth Knight – Lohman inspired him to lose a lot of weight and he decided Lohman’s story needed some airtime.

“I’m not giving people a social media lesson,” Lohman adds, “all I can say is what I did and why I think it worked and people can take from that whatever they will.”

Celebrating failure – Andy Hadfield – Tech4Africa 2014

Hadfield is presenting the lessons he learnt as a failed startup at Tech4Africa CT and Jhb this year. Says Hadfield: “Gareth Knight and I are continuing a little tradition that started at the last Tech4Africa… #FailCon. Trying to change that stigma that the South African startup scene has around failure. Like it or not, failure is a part of startup culture. Everyone forgets that 95% of these things fail. And yet we tend to hide failure instead of celebrating what we’ve learned. With the closure of Real Time Wine and the publishing of a certain blog post that did the rounds, I’ve unwittingly become the poster boy for startup failure! A moniker I’m happy to wear for a little bit, hopefully not forever…

“The point is, both Gareth and I are happy to share our failures – if it helps others succeed. Our industry could do with some more sharing. This will be a brutally honest fireside chat about the realities of startup life. Come and ask anything you ever wanted to ask about the messy behind-the-scenes nature of a tech startup. Hopefully between the tears, scars and cashflow issues, there’s enough in there to inspire more people to go out and start something.”

Hadfield has spoken at almost every Tech4Africa since its inception. “I’m a huge supporter and glad to help out any way I can,” he says. “This is OUR SXSW-in-the-making. Be there or be [ ].”

If you’re a first timer Hadfield has some advice for you: “As with any conference, it’s always more about the people than it is the content. In terms of content, pick topics to attend that are WAY outside of your comfort zone. That way, you’ll learn something. In terms of people, don’t be scared to say hi. Scan the # for interesting comments. Buy people coffee (it’s free after all). Say hi.”

Tech4Africa comes to Cape Town

Now in it’s 5th year, the annual Tech4Africa conference will be running the first Cape Town event on August 28th. Tech4Africa focuses on deep technical workshops and sessions for practitioners, and then engaging talks which impart knowledge, perspective, African context and inspiration.

The unapologetic vision for Tech4Africa is that the best tech ecosystems in the world have regular events that bring together everyone in tech to learn, meet new people and have lots of fun.

Tech4Africa bills itself an un-conference – they don’t like suits and ties, there are no plenaries, committees or chair people. Their focus is on great content and value for all who attend, coffee all day, and fun at night. Placing greatest emphasis on learning, interaction, engagement and discussion, they want Tech4Africa to be a place for new ideas and to encourage people to make and change things.

“We were skeptical of bringing Tech4Africa to Cape Town, but after watching the clear growth of the industry in the Cape, we felt that in keeping with our own Lean / MVP approach to Tech4Africa we would kick off a Cape Town event this year.” said Gareth Knight, Founder of Tech4Africa. “There are so many great new things coming out of the Cape, it’s going to be great to hear the stories that emerge…”

Tech4Africa Cape Town will take place at the Old Mutual Conference Centre, Pinelands in Cape Town, on the 28th August.

Tech4Africa was sold out in 2013 and it is strongly advised that interested parties book as early as possible.

This year Cape Town will be showcasing over 20 speakers [http://cpt2014.tech4africa.com/grid/], in 4 rooms, running sessions concurrently every hour.

IBM SmartCamp:
There will also be an IBM SmartCamp running on the same day, and startups are strongly encouraged to attend in order to benefit from the mentoring on offer.

The following topics will be covered:
Community and Activism, Content and Distribution, Design and Development, DIY Hacker and Maker, E-Commerce, Entrepreneurialism and Business, Growing into Emerging Markets, Health and Medicine, Impart wisdom, Mobile and Emerging Markets, Talk about success or failure in a positive way, WTF and Beyond.

Dates: 28th August 2014
Venue: Old Mutual Conference Centre, Pinelands in Cape Town
The Schedule

Tech4Africa: R500

Applications for speakers for Tech4Africa Johannesburg 2014 are open. Candidates may submit their session at http://speak.tech4africa.com for consideration and voting.