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Save the Date: 5th Sankalp Africa Summit

Published on February 22, 2018

The 5th Sankalp Africa Summit is scheduled to take place on March 1-2 in Nairobi, Kenya, under the theme Open Alliances for a Sustainable and Inclusive Africa 2030. The USAID Hub is supporting the event to connect entrepreneurs with investors, corporate representatives, policy makers, and fellow entrepreneurs and to forge open alliances toward the achievement of a collective vision for Africa 2030.

Summit organizers anticipate 1,000 plus delegates from more than 40 countries. The two-day event will host more than 50 sessions on impact investing, innovation and more. Conversations will focus on using knowledge, capital and networks to drive an innovation-led economy.

Register for the 5th Sankalp Africa Summit https://africasummit2018.sankalpforum.com/

Why should you attend?

Since its inception in 2013, the Sankalp Africa Forum has provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn and grow the entrepreneur culture. Dr. Moka Lantum, Chief Executive Officer of Sagitarix Ltd Kenya, who first attended Sankalp in 2014, said the event helped him rethink his approach to creating a start-up culture in his company, with the understanding that is ok to be a lean, one-person company at the beginning. Below are a few insights from Dr. Lantum about the Sankalp Forum.

What impact did your participation at Sankalp Forum have to your business?

Sankalp helped me rethink about my whole approach to creating a start-up culture and mindset. Having worked in a large corporation in the U.S. before starting my venture, I was of the opinion that all aspects of the business had to be in place, with fully operational marketing, sales, R&D, finance and accounts, office administration, human resource, drivers, etc, roles in place. Hence I was burning through cash fast. I also, therefore, tailored my initial product offering to meet the needs of high cap projects such as selling to the government and I craved for large deals. But these were not forthcoming. I thought I had a product and a business model, but I did not. I just had an idea, staff and people with jobs. That is not a start-up mindset. That is a corporate mindset. Many start-ups have the wrong mindset as I did, hence try to raise $1 million dollars pre-revenue.

Sankalp helped me understand that it is OK to be one-person company in the beginning. I learned to walk the start-up path, understand the market, and then learn pick who my customer would be. I learned I had to fine tune my idea to only offer what the customer is willing to pay for, an no more or less. I had to understand how the customer is willing to pay me - cash, credit, in-kind, or never. I had to rethink the scale of the ask for what I was offering. Was it niche, or was it ubiquitous? These very humble beginnings are key to future success and that is what I learned at Sankalp. With a scholarship from Sankalp, I got to attend the 2014 Sankalp India Forum as well, and watched how the India ventures pitched. They pitched for $5,000, $10,000 or maximum $50,000. We in Kenya were pitching for $2 million dollars. It shows how much more we had to learn from our colleagues in the India market. The social enterprise opportunities in India are very similar to those in Africa, hence it was eye-opening for me to see how the India ventures were disrupting the market and achieving growth early in the game.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs planning to attend 5th Sankalp Africa Summit 2018?

Sankalp is a wonderful venue to engage and LEARN FIRST FROM OTHER VENTURES. Prioritize learning from businesses in your sector as well as in other sectors. You will learn a lot about customer acquisition, marketing, staffing and product distribution in different segments and regions of the country. These are lessons that you can’t find in a book or in public seminars. These are the invaluable lessons that will give you new insights on how to tweak your business plan.

You also may be consumed by the notion that you are ready to raise capital. Great place to be and a great feeling to have mentally. If you get a chance at Sankalp, speak with the investors and just LISTEN to how they are thinking about deploying their money and listen carefully, don't rush to pitch. Remember, a pitch is just a conversation starter. No one will fund you based on a 30 second, 2 minutes or 5 minutes pitch. Just learn to generate interest for a future conversation that will take 9 months to mature. Don't chase the investors. Ask what they are interested in, and share with them how you make money (as opposed to dwelling in the problem you are trying to solve) , and why your business may be a fit or not for them. It is the other way around. Your venture is yours and if you can help the investor multiply their returns, it is you to make the offer, not the other way around.

I recall, Vineet Rai once saying to me - "Moka, don't pitch when you are seeking funding. Pitch when you don't need the funding. That will guarantee better success and returns for both."

Take charge of your destiny when you go to Sankalp and remember, it is your venture and your idea. It is your brand. You are the one with the customers. You are the one with the intellectual property. You dictate the terms. And “NO” from an investor, i.e., someone with a fund seeking for a way to multiply their returns, is a good thing. “NO” simply and only means it's not the time to bring that investor in to your company and you just past on the promise of paying them back at a later date multiples of what they will give you that is not the right fit. So embrace the “NO” as a good thing. It is an expensive game.

So go to Sankalp to learn, not to pitch. Then when you have to pitch, pitch on your own terms to achieve 99 "No's" for every "Yes". After the summit, go back to looking for your best source of cash, the customer.