Joseph Kaizzi, a Ugandan tech innovator is no stranger to the value of disruptive technologies. His company ThinVoid (U) Ltd employs cutting edge solutions based on global standards while understanding and adapting to the local environment, markets and tech-space. Their flagship product, Tambula, uses location awareness, micro-credit and indirect insurance services to create a cost-effective solution for small businesses and supports financial security. Kaizzi has led his team to impressive achievements, including: four-time East and Southern Africa Champions in the Microsoft Imagine Cup (2008-2009, 2011-2012), ITU Young Innovator of the Year 2011, Recipient of the 2012, Microsoft Imagine Cup Grants, and most recently awarded Startup of the Year Africa 2017.
Kaizzi shares his thoughts on how the technology innovation space is changing in East Africa:
1. How do you see the space of technology and innovation changing in Uganda?
Tech innovation is coming of age in Uganda. People are embracing home-bred solutions that better cater to the context; investors are now seeking and funding Ugandan tech startups focused on healthcare, finance, education and agriculture. The government policies are also facilitating this growth, and Ugandan entrepreneurs are developing solutions for both local and regional challenges.
2. What are some of the common challenges for individuals and companies in Uganda?
On an individual level, the common challenges in Uganda include limited time (entrepreneurs often launch a start-up while still working another job) and a lack of experience managing a start-up, co-founders and shareholders. In terms of company challenges, in this market like others, I think companies often have too wide of a focus or still need to refine the product market fit; also there is limited access to capital for scaling.
3. What external factors should entrepreneurs understand?
The landscape continues to evolve and with it the regulations. Governments are currently creating policies that better facilitate innovation but also regulate sensitive sectors like health and finance. Without an understanding of the changing regulation or a long term view of what the policies will likely be in a few years, startups will experience challenges in business sustainability.
4. What do you think are some of the current opportunities for tech innovation in Uganda?
I think there are some exciting opportunities in agricultural produce auctioning, voice-based automation for local dialects, leveraging school data to reduce dropout incidences, and a technology that includes a comprehensive platform for all forms of transportation. In the heath sector, opportunities also abound from affordable medical equipment to better health insurance plans to innovative prescription at pharmacies to emergency services.
5. What excites you about working in technology?
Technology is multi-disciplinary and tech start-ups offer a chance at hands-on learning. I continue to be challenged and stretched in new ways and as a result I have learned more in tech start-ups than I think I would in a more traditional job. Also, technology can affect so many, the positive impacts can truly be far reaching.
6. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting out?
Find a mentor that you trust and follow their guidance.