Saturday, March 31, 2007

Barcamp in session

15:09 EAT

Q: How do you know whether you are in a techie zone?

A: Everybody talks in TLAs (three letter acronyms) and they all understand each other!

Barcamp Nairobi 07 is definitely a techie zone. CNC, GNU, USRP, MIT etc. I'm realising I need to touch up on my IT diploma notes. The atmosphere is great, I always love being around intelligent people, and there is no shortage of them here. I'm yet to give my presentation but expect to write about it as soon as its over (thanks to WiFi)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Barcamp Kenya

Tomorrow (Sat. March 31st) Barcamp holds an interactive gathering at the University of Nairobi , Civil Engineering Lecture Theater AT 1PM. The theme will be technology, media and startups. I'll be talking about this blog as well as LawsofKenya.com and Genius Executive Centre. Everyone is invited and best of all its free.

See you there.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Victorious Minute

Today I was reading an article by HR consultant Annabell Karanja in the MyBusiness entrepreneurship magazine. The author spoke of the challenges facing those going through the transition from employee to entrepreneur. It got me thinking about some of my own experiences.

Granted I was never employed for long (about 1 year) but I nevertheless picked some habits which were hard to shake once I decided to go into my own business full time. As an employee one abides to strict reporting times at the pain of dismissal (stick). Since there is such a strong motivation to report to work early in the morning, waking up is not so difficult. I'm also generally an early riser so that made it all the easier. Even those days when I really didn't feel like getting up, imagining the pursed lips of my supervisor speaking a silent disapproval would help me get out of bed.

How things changed when I became my own boss. Most people long to be their own boss so as to avoid waking up early in the morning. I meet people everyday who are employed and tell me "you are so lucky to be your own boss, you don't have to go work if you don't want to". This is one of those fallacies held by non-entrepreneurs, but that is a story for another day. Entrepreneurs wake up everyday to go build their business with the motivation of making money (carrot). Because the carrot is not a strong as an incentive as the stick it requires a great deal of personal discipline to get up early in the day, every day as an entrepreneur.

In my daily journey as an entrepreneur I have found one strategy particularly useful in overcoming the morning challenge. It is a strategy I wish to share today, taught to me by a good friend. The strategy is called the Victorious Minute.

With the Victorious Minute you recognize your first minute of consciousness in the day as the most important minute. How you act in this minute determines your attitude, enthusiasm, and potential for the rest of the day. As soon as you are awake you are to jump out of bed with strength, confidence and optimism. Today you are going to battle and need to be performing at your optimum; you shake off any exhaustion, complacency, and procrastination that hungs on you with the last vestiges of sleep. A good hearty battle cry (as long as it doesn't frighten the neighbours) also increases your chi. The good entrepreneurs' fight must be fought and the fate of your hopes and dreams rest with you. Today is an opportunity to change the world, and the world will remember that it was at this moment, at this Victorious Minute where you set off on the incredible journey.

I hope that tomorrow morning you too can experience the Victorious Minute.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Treating the Last Minute Syndrome

If you read my post The Last Minute Syndrome then you know that last Monday I was going through acute symptoms of a certain disease. Lets pick it up from where we left off.

My nerves were all frayed, my breathing was irregular, my body temperature was above normal, and my eyes kept drifting to my watch which I noticed was showing a time five minutes earlier than the street clock. The disease was now in its final stages, would I survive or was the disease going to get me?

When rushing towards a deadline with these symptoms, it seems the world moves in slides instead of a continuous flow of events, and that you are watching yourself as the lead actor in a tragic-comedy.

I saw myself: jump out of the taxi, rush towards the lift, get stopped by security, go back to security desk, requested for ID, fumble for my wallet, drop my wallet, look at my watch 8:43, think of those movies where a bomb is being defused up until the clock is just about to get to zero, allow myself a smile, rush back to the lift, continuously jab the lift button although its already lit, look at my watch, 8:44, tap my feet, take a deep breath, think how I would curse myself if I miss the deadline, lift opens, jump in, have to wait for other passengers, lift door closes, press 20th floor, other passengers getting of on lower floors, see 9, 12, 16 also pressed, look at my watch 8:44, look at my watch again still 8:44. Jump out the lift door, wonder if I should wait 15 more minutes to make the story I am going to tell more dramatic, rush towards the tender box, find an overzealous employee preparing to close it, loudly announce its not yet 9:00 am and dramatically drop my proposal into the box.

The event was over, I came out shaken but generally unscathed. I could now joke and laugh about it, and therein lies the danger. Once you escape LMS you build up a fool-hardy bravado attitude thinking you can never succumb to it. But I'm smarter now, prevention is better than cure, so I'll be making sure I complete my tasks in good time. Will you?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The "Last Minute Syndrome"

Last Monday I spent a good deal of the day in bed. No, I wasn't sick or nursing a hangover - I was just sleepy but when I think of what made me so sleepy perhaps I was sick. You see I think from time to time I get infected with a certain syndrome, what I call the "last-minute syndrome". Now this syndrome is not contagious but from my discussions with others I have discovered it has a high infection rate in Kenya.

The Last Minute Syndrome (LMS) is a fully preventable disease, but do not be surprised if you are re- infected severally. Worse still you face a higher risk of re-infection if you come out of the disease unaffected. We can say you build up a psychological immunity.

Ok, lets rewind about two months back and I explain how this all started. I was sitting in my office going through the daily when I saw an advertisement inviting tenders. The ToR seemed in line with SoftLaw's business so I went ahead to purchase the tender documents. I had a whole six weeks to submit my proposal so I put it on the back burner as I attended to "more important business".

Amazing how six weeks can fly by. It was the Friday before the 9:00 am Monday deadline to submit a bid proposal and I had not even started writing it. "How hard could it be anyway", I rationalised; I had done it before, the specifics of the proposal were within my knowledge, and I had a whole weekend. Yes, I had a whole weekend - and I blew it away. By Sunday mid-morning, I was yet to start. Still I remained unfazed, I even had time to read the Sunday papers and squander another two hours. Finally as one o'clock approached I forced myself to start writing it, but the easy stuff first: I filled out the pre-designed forms and drew up the table of contents. Someone once said that the only thing that doesn't delay is time. No truer had this statement felt than by that Sunday evening, my proposal was still-born and time was on time. The minutes merrily passed by and doubts about my ability to deliver the proposal on time started growing.

By 11:00 pm I thought another hour and I would be done, I even made arrangements for a late-night dinner date. Its only when the calls of the muezzin summoning Muslim faithful to prayer filtered in at 5am that I knew I was in trouble. The proposal was more or less done, but I still had to proofread, print, copy and bind it. Four opportunities for something to go wrong; and of course I still needed to actually drop the proposal in the tender box.

Murphy's law as usual did not disappoint, "if something can go wrong, it will go wrong". Of all days the automatic feeder for the printer refused to function and I had to feed each page manually. Not a problem when you are printing a couple of pages and have all the time in the world. Disastrous when you are high on caffeine and stress, deprived of sleep, have a financial deadline, and a hundred pages to print. Binding also had to claim a share of the fun; on that day I saw a document take twenty minutes to bind (usually takes about five minutes). Finally at 8:40 the proposals were ready. Jumping into a taxi for a distance I would normally walk was one of the prices I had to pay. My nerves were all frayed, my breathing was irregular, my body temperature was above normal, and my eyes kept drifting to my watch which I noticed was showing a time five minutes earlier than the street clock. The disease was now in its final stages, would I survive or was the disease going to get me? Find out in my next post.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

BBC World Service interviews me on entrepreneurship

The BBC World Service interviewed me yesterday on challenges facing entrepreneurs in Africa. Have a listen of the interview on the Business Daily program at http://www.bbc.co.uk.

Friday, March 09, 2007

UN job vacancies

UN is looking for a communications specialist and a policy adviser. Both vacancy announcements can be found at http://jobs.undp.org

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A business experiment

If you have read my posts on currency trading then you'll know about my latest fascination, forex. This week that passed I decided to send out feelers to Kenyans to see what their thoughts were on forex. I took out a 7-day classified ad in the leading daily with the words
How to invest 14K and earn 50% pm. www.geniuskenya.com/scalp
My primary objective was to gauge the quantity and quality of response to see what kind of future if any forex trading had in Kenya. The link on the ad led to my website where I had a free teaser e-book for download. At the end of the book one was requested to transfer mobile airtime of K.Shs. 100 (~ $1.50) to my mobile phone in order to register for a free lecture I was to hold on forex trading. The lecture was for March 3rd. Secondary objectives were: to market GEC, market my consultancy services with regard to rural internet connectivity and see the opportunities for training in forex trading.

Trust my luck, just after I had put my ad two potentially "experiment-ruining" things happened. First of all the Central Bank of Kenya put out a paid advert warning people about unregulated financial investment schemes in particular pyramid and ponzi schemes. Unfortunately the wording of my ad was very much like those for the aforesaid investment schemes. Secondly Safaricom also put out an ad warning people about fraudsters who were requesting unsuspecting members of the public to send airtime in order to qualify for some prizes. Even though my ad was innocent, I know that we Kenyans are pretty suspicious so the warnings must have had an adverse effect, although I'll probably never know the extent.

However immediately the ad was out my phone started ringing off the hook and my inbox always had a new message. Most of the inquiries started off with a hint of disbelief at the possibility of earning 50% profits per month, but it helped that I had put a disclosure that money could be lost or gained in equal measure. Some callers asked so many questions that I could swear they were Central Bank anti-fraud investigators :-). I think that the fact that I had put explanatory information on my website and disclosed my monetary objectives also helped in putting people at ease over the whole project.

March 3rd finally arrived and I had 18 people registered for the lecture (some just 10 minutes before!). The lecture was very engaging and informative for both me and the participants. I will be sharing the gems of the lecture in this blog but for now I must go and prepare for my next lecture.