Cheap TV Advertising for the Startup

Believe it. Google has more recently than not launched a new service allowing for next to anyone to buy ad airtime on TV, and it’s part of AdWords. Google TV Ads works very similarly to the current AdWords, you log in with your existing Google account, upload an ad 15, 30 second, etc… name your price, place it in a network and time slot, and boom there you go. Your home made ad is now on TV.

Of course getting your advertisement during a top rated show such as the Simpsons, South Park, or similar is going to cost you a heavy penny as you’ll be competing for airtime with large advertising companies, multinationals brands, etc… and in all as a startup, it’s probably not the most effective manner in which you can spend you ad dollars, but nonetheless, an ad during off peak may be just what you’re looking for.

Though we can’t really vouch for the effectiveness of the service, in the video that we’ve included from from SlateV on using the new service, they explain that from the one million people who saw the advert only about 1000+ actually typed in the address, making a click through of 0.1{abb65e2b6815f549a727af2ea9f3a377a727ddc064972a198a74f88a6b766686}, and for the $1300 they spent on the ad campaign, that makes a potential customer acquisition cost of $1.30. Worth it? Perhaps not for SalteV, but all the same it was just a test ad, and I’m sure that if a company were to offer a service that the TV viewer could use there and then i.e. price promotions, etc… the customer retention would in fact be higher.

Do note though, that “Google TV Ads are available only to advertisers located in the United States who pay in U.S. dollars. We can’t take advertisers from outside the U.S. just yet, and we can’t offer direct debit or prepay as payment options. In addition, advertisers must set up billing prior to initiating a TV Campaign. – Google

VIDEO Series: Steve Jobs Commencement Speech

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you’re a Mac or a PC, the truth is that Steve Jobs is a visionary and widely recognized innovator, and in this edition of the Video Series, we present you with the 2005 Stanford University commencement speech by Steve Jobs.

But aside from just the CEO of Apple talking about OS X, or the iPhone, he talks about his life, and what made him the entrepreneur and innovator he is today.

The USSR was good for entrepreneurship.

When you think of the Soviet Union, and in fact communism – the last thing that comes to your mind are the favorable conditions it set for private enterprise. And while undeniable that the “concept” of privatization was “frowned upon” under the hammer and sickle, it’s not to say that it inadvertently didn’t do more good than bad for entreprenerus – at least in today’s world, and looking ten fifteen years down the line.

Have we lost our marbles. Hardly.

The East – West Divide

Let’s look at the nature of things as they were prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall and Perestroika. Not only was food scarce in the Warsaw Pact but so were normal commodity items such as pillows, skirts, toilet paper, or for that matter next to everything that wasn’t either vodka, potato, or beer, or combined product there of, and you can forget about the availability of Levi’s Jeans all together.

So what would happen if say a few individuals gained access to a box of Levi’s, another few, to a couple of crates of Bananas, another to extra couches at the factory, and perhaps someone else to some toddler shirts, etc… etc… effectively an underground economy, which initially arose as a barter system. 3 pairs of 501 regular fit jeans for 1 couch. Done. One pair of regular fit for 10 shirts. Done. 5 shirts for three bushels of bananas. Done.

An entrepreneurial mindset was forming out of necessity to have basic human goods. What’s interesting as well is that – this new basic form of entrepreneurship – spanned the Eastern Block, the Polish would have a surplus of something the Hungarians did not, who in turn had a surplus of something or other that the Romanians lacked, and so the circle went ’round and ’round, and under the table micro international trade was blossoming.

Aside from the trading and the bartering, this did however carry risks, visas were next to impossible to acquire, individuals were putting themselves and their families at stake for just participating in this activity, but history aside, all this came to and end with the fall of the USSR and the introduction of free market reforms, or did it?

The West – West Divide

Let’s fast forward to now, and look at the Western block, aside from a few pockets, entrepreneurship and failure is generally looked down upon. If you fail, it’s as if though you are negatively branded, and instead of being looked a as a brave individual whose attempted something new, and in terms of the general mentality – this is probably the most differentiating factor between the U.S. and Western Europeans.

What do we mean? Well in Spain one of the most sought after positions is a “funcionario” or a civil servant, in Danish there exists a word for being too ambitious, but the buck doesn’t stop there.

There is a popular drive not to succeed and just be comfortable in the majority of the populace, and the socially backed government initiatives, the sometimes month+ it takes to get a company up and running, the don’t get us started on various labour laws that make firing people more expensive than keeping them on, it’s no wonder that entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship has been hit with the stick for decades and just now individuals are trying to turn things around led by best practices and initiatives coming from the states and those Europeans who had to leave in order to fully develop their companies and ideas in places such as Silicon Valley, NY, Boston, etc.

The East – West Junction

We’re 20 years on from the fall off the Berlin Wall, the entrepreneurship mentality is still there, the post Warsaw pact citizens are innovating, creating, going around obstacles and taking risks in order to move their enterprises forward, not only on a local but an international front. Furthermore, due to the oppressive nature of the Soviet regime, the region has typically embraced US American ideals and concepts, further positioning themselves to grab the reigns for European Entrepreneurs.

Notwithstanding, many of the C&E Europeans feel that they have something to prove, to show that they too can become magnates of industry, and with the total alienation to socialism caused by the USSR it wouldn’t be surprising if within the next 20 years the focus of entrepreneurship on the European front will shift much further East.

The Business of a Start-up in Africa

Business Start-up Africa

Suzana Moreira is the founder of moWoza, a social enterprise adopting mobile phone technologies to aid food distribution in Africa.  Suzana has travelled extensively across Africa, and has developed significant insights into sustainability at the Bottom of the Pyramid.  It is from conversations with grass-root communities across Africa that moWoza was born.  Food security, nutrition, literacy, female empowerment and climate change are issues that Suzana is addressing through her work in social enterprise and community development.  Suzana regularly contributes research and articles to academia, NGOs and business institutions on the topics of innovations leapfrogging in emerging markets, social enterprise and sustainability.  Prior to setting up moWoza, Suzana worked on several large infrastructure development programmes in Europe and in the manufacturing industry in South Africa.  Suzana holds a MBA from the Imperial College London Business School.


On March 14th, the NY Times reported that the Washington Post was not using Twitter, YouTube or Foursquare to map road blockages and resource availability during the disruptive snow storm, but rather Ushahidi, an IT platform built in Kenya.  Because Ushahidi originated in crisis from a bedroom, no one tried to patent and monopolize it.  Because Kenya is poor, with computer systems out of the reach for many, Ushahidi made its system work on cellphones.  Because Ushahidi had no venture-capital backing, it used open-source software and was thus free to let others remix its tool for new projects.”  Ushahidi today is used all around the world in crisis and crowd situations.

Ushahidi, is an African start-up that has attracted the world’s attention, likewise, M-Pesa, African inspired Kiva and Integr8 are world renowned business models that were conceived in Africa and have overcome the usual African challenges of poverty, corruption and inadequate policies.  Each of these challenges should be viewed as creative catalysts in the knowledge that the resulting model will be at least innovative and at most disruptive.  It is the processes and systems that are adopted to overcome these challenges that turn the African start-up into the success stories we hear about in the developed world.

Africa is becoming a business destination and many start-ups are positioning themselves to become part of this growing business trend.  As Vijay Mahajan points out in ‘Africa Rising’, 300 million of the 900 million consumers are tirelessly working their way out of extreme poverty to become lower middle class citizens. The World Bank says the percentage of Africans living on $1.25 a day or less dropped from 59{abb65e2b6815f549a727af2ea9f3a377a727ddc064972a198a74f88a6b766686} to 51{abb65e2b6815f549a727af2ea9f3a377a727ddc064972a198a74f88a6b766686} from 1996 to 2005 and has decreased further since.  The Development Policy Forum (DPF) estimates that by mid-century, the greatest population concentration will be in neither China nor India but in sub-Saharan Africa. The region is expected to gain a billion inhabitants – from 900 million today to 1.8 billion in 2050. The urban population alone will triple from 300 million to over a billion in 2050.  Africa offers huge business potential in the upcoming years.

The principles of doing business in Africa are the same as doing business in any developed country in the world.  Emphasis however lies on conducting extensive due diligence, understanding that decisions take time and that access to capital is best sought internationally.  Depending on the scale and nature of the business, corruption can be an issue to be offset but as most Africans will attest to – there are options and an entrepreneur can proceed without being involved in these somewhat complicated and thwarting business practices.

Although Africa is not as connected offering the hi-tech wizardry of the developed world, Africans are overcoming electricity shortages and lack of internet connections by applying unique mobile phone technologies that deliver services which range from connecting farmers to agricultural cooperatives to mobile phone education aimed at youth, and, interestingly corporate companies are rolling out mobile phone training programmes for their staff.  As with any start-up, on the ground market research will expose countless opportunities.

Success in many African countries is in engaging and developing relationships with village elders or with church and health leaders in particular communities.  These are the people who can endorse the offering that you are taking to market.  This is familiar to the business ways of the developed world, where business success is associated with brand leaders and strong sponsors.  Village and community leaders are also useful in negotiating premises, recommending resources and providing the bridge between a start-up and the local authorities.

Perhaps most challenging in Africa, depending on the industry, is infrastructure capacity.  Whereby e-commerce and sophisticated distribution models are taken for granted in the developed world, logistics and distribution can turn the viability of a great start-up concept into a failure.  Start-ups need to carefully analyse supply chain complexities and the constraints of accessing marketplaces.

Many innovative start-ups are piloting there innovative technologies in Africa.  moWoza is a social endeavour that is emblematic of a new generation of African start-ups that have recognised the pressing need for transformation and empowerment amongst the people of Africa.   Initially operating between South Africa and Mozambique, moWoza, is servicing the low income economic migrant who regularly remits goods back to their dependants in the home country.

Most African migrant workers are extremely price sensitive and prefer to shop in South Africa where there exists a larger competitively priced product selection than in their home countries.  However, sending these goods across borders is costly and by relying on informal distributors to transport the goods across the South African borders to their home countries they are risking confiscation at the border crossing, extremely late deliveries and the dependant receiving damaged goods.

moWoza provides a unique mobile phone powered cash-to-goods, end –to-end service that guarantees the migrant worker that the dependant will receive the goods in the dispatched condition on a confirmed date. By committing the time and resources to conduct extensive market research across various African countries, forming focus groups and understanding what situations migrant workers faced, moWoza was able to develop a value proposition that delivers a superior offering to its target market.

Illiteracy and malnutrition are high on moWoza’s agenda.  The World Bank has set targets to reduce illiteracy and relapse into illiteracy – this has spurred moWoza, whose low-income migrant target market are predominantly illiterate, to design and deliver literacy programmes through its agent network.   In addition, most Mozambican migrants in South Africa originate from rural areas where malnutrition amongst children is acute.  By offering food packages that conform to the World Health Organisation basic food basket standards, moWoza is ensuring that its economic migrant workers’ dependants are consuming nutritional food.

There are many possibilities and with a good service offering, it is only a matter time before moWoza will pursue secondary revenue streams. Community leaders are opening doors and suggesting other services that can be commercialised.  This is Africa.  A new era has begun, and for start-ups that are willing to commit themselves to the development of Africa there are endless opportunities.

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