You might not know this but my love of entrepreneurship is fuelled majorly by my love of computer programming. My first exposure to computers was in 1988 when I played shuffleboard on an Atari. Having been raised in the boondocks I was utterly spellbound with the concept of a video game. In 'shags' we hardly ever got toys from the shops; instead we would create our own toys using locally available material. For toy cars we twisted and shaped wire coat hangers and cut out rubber tires from old (and sometimes mom's new) bathroom slippers. For planes, we stuck a stalk of grass through a dried maize leaf and made our 'propellers' rotate by holding them out in front and running into the wind (incidentally this was my all-time favourite). For marbles we hunted for used and discarded bottle-tops (beer bottle-tops were coveted). In fact we had so many toys that our game time never felt inadequate. That was until I discovered video games.
Hard as I thought I didn't see how I could recreate the video game using local material. My wait however was not to be long. One year later I started my first computer class on an Apple Macintosh; and in barely less than one year I was already into BASIC programming. It didn't take long to discover that with BASIC I had the material to create video games. It was like a door had been opened to a whole new world for me. I stepped into this world and saw endless opportunity to create. Even at that age, I realised that the only thing that could hold me back was my creativity.
BRAKES....Now I'm getting excited so allow me to stop here and save 'My Life with a Computer' (soon to be written post) for another day; let me get back to topic. I find my love for start-ups and programming intricately linked; in fact most of the new products I have come up with involve some level of computer programming i.e. SoftLaw Citator, LawsofKenya.com, Genius Executive Centre.
One area of netpreneurship however has always eluded me and that is selling stuff over the Internet to Kenyans. The problem as I've seen it as been two-fold: settlement and delivery. However with the abundant variety of courier firms that have sprung up recently and with a new and easy way to transfer money I see a light at the end of the tunnel.
At the risk of giving away a perfectly good business idea let me say now that online purchases/settlement (Kenyanised for mobile phone use) is the next big thing. The next E-bay or Amazon or even Google is just waiting to be launched; and the platform will be driven by M-PESA, Safaricom's rapidly growing money-transfer service (note to self: remember to write post on how Safaricom is transforming into a financial services company).
I tried Sambaza for online purchases on LawsofKenya.com with some moderate success but its problem was always convertibility of airtime into cash. With M-PESA however, this is not a problem and I've already started experimenting by selling an e-book online. The response so far has been encouraging and I'm now working on tweaks to improve the buyers experience.
M-PESA is a runaway hit, and when a smart entrepreneur starts selling a basic commodity through M-PESA it will be the beginning of a revolution. So popular is M-PESA that it has totally eclipsed its rivals from Celtel and Telkom ($1,000 for anyone who knows what the competing products are called!) and I plan to be in smack in the middle of the gravy train.