By Anna Chinyoyo, Program Associate.
On Friday, July 3rd, 2020, Smart Lab hosted the seventh episode of its Founder to Founders event , an online event with the theme,
‘Financial Sustainability for startups after COVID-19 crisis’. Businesses do not always recognize the actual threat that a potential crisis event entails and the majority of startups will not have been prepared for the events of the last four months caused by COVID-19. Financial Sustainability during a crisis is something most startups are never ready for, COVID-19 has brought magnificent change in businesses. A lot of things have changed especially financial management, for startups this must have hit them by surprise, and this is why we have to have discussions around financial sustainability especially during a crisis like the one the world is facing now.
This event assembled all types of innovators, founders, aspiring founders,professionals from various sectors like Mobile Telco’s, Tech/innovation Hubs, Financial Institutions, Industry Associations, the Private sector, Corporates, Ecosystem builders, students, university students, Development partners and various key players in the Tech and Innovation community. In this case it created a platform for people from vast industries to learn from each other, apart from the insights from the panel.
The panel consisted of prominent leaders and accomplished founders. There was; Dr Kimei - Former MD & CEO of CRDB Bank Plc, Epimack Mbeteni - Head of M-Commerce, Emmanuel Kawedi- COO Smart Codes, Faith Pella- Head of Mobile Financial Services Tigo, Joseph Singano- Founder JointPesa, Stewart Kitila- Founder Lokofin, Stanley Mtonyole- Founder Mfuko Pesa and Andrew Tesha- Founder A-Trader
The event began by introduction of the panelists and their general view of the topic. They explained according to their experiences in the corporate world and their startups the effects of COVID-19 in businesses and how it has changed how things are run, especially financial management. Dr Kimei and Epimack Mbeteni gave insights on how much businesses have been affected, especially small and medium businesses causing collapse, redundancies and absolute closing for some businesses.
Mr Emmanuel Kawedi explained the strategies startups and young companies can employ to avoid collapse in times of crisis. He insisted on keeping expenses low and trying aggressive saving but mostly having a concrete financial plan that includes envisioning potential future risks. The rest of the panelists also including founders gave their insights on this reminding startups to ensure that they not only lean on negative effects of a crisis but look at both sides of the problem and try to pick out opportunities brought by a crisis, and try to be flexible and forming solutions for their customers to keep using their services and products. Remaining static will not only make them irrelevant and cause financial problems, it may end up killing a young company. They also insisted on startups embracing agility in running their companies to ensure proper running of their business because it directly affects their finances too.
The panel also insisted on young companies using this time to learn and try new things, Faith Pella called for startups to try enrolling their teams in ongoing online courses on financial management and other important skills that will help them run their business. The panelists also insisted on the digital transformation caused by COVID-19. Given that it has changed a lot in most industries not only is it important to embrace this in their operations but also use it as an opportunity to to come up with new products and services for the growth of startups and maybe big companies that are trying to transform their operations and the way they conduct their business generally. They ended by insisting that it is not about just having a startup and solving a problem but telling a story through your innovation and the problem you are solving in the society.
Smart Lab hopes that the Founder to Founders event keeps being a space for founders and aspiring founders to come and learn, discuss, share and grow their businesses and probably find potential co-founders for their startups. For aspiring founders and students, we hope this will be a platform for them to learn, connect and get motivated to innovate new solutions to tackle the problems in our society.
Smart Lab is an innovation platform that links learning institutions with corporate partners to empower groundbreaking solutions that will impact communities.