What was the 2016 Leap Conference about?
The Leap Conference was launched in December 2015. This summer, our Founder, Dennis Aguma, spent 6 weeks in Uganda organising the 2016 Leap Conference, which took place on 26th and 27th August 2016. Leap this year lived up to its name, attracting a vibrant, fired up and hungry group of over 400 enterprising students and budding graduate entrepreneurs, eager to learn from the experiences of a carefully selected and knowledgeable line-up of speakers, panelists and facilitators. Unlike the 2015 Leap Conference, the 2016 Leap Conference was a two-day event, offering hands-on experience to students and young entrepreneurs in developing business ideas and pitching these ideas to potential investors.
The conference, which was organised by NASE in partnership with Makerere School of Public Health affiliated ResilientAfrica Network (RAN), very befittingly kicked off with a welcome address from a representative of the First Lady and Minister of Sports and Education – Mrs. Mabel Kiggundu. Mrs. Kiggundu, an enterprising woman and the Chairperson of UWESO’s (Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans) National Executive Committee was no stranger to startups and therefore begun the discussions by sharing some of her experiences in the startup space. Her experience stretched over 20-years and included retail businesses and opening the first courier service- ‘ELMA Express Delivery Ltd’ in Uganda.
The first day of the conference was guided by the theme ‘The Bare Knuckles of Business and Enterprise” and aimed to introduce the group to the requirements of entrepreneurship and the traits of an entrepreneur. Having discovered mindset to be a big issue to these young folks, Dennis Aguma begun the conversation with a colorful presentation on ‘Entrepreneurship from A-Z’ and prepared the delegates for the tough and unforgiving world of entrepreneurship, whilst encouraging them to take the Leap regardless of the challenges and obstacles that awaited them – because the rewards were worth it.
THE ROLE OF BUSINESSES IN SOLVING PROBLEMS / CHALLENGES
We are genuinely convinced that the sole purpose of any business is not to make money, but to provide a solution to a particular problem. Just like a river follows the contours of the earth, money naturally follows this principle. Indeed, identifying problems around you will often present numerous business opportunities. The challenge though is when people confuse the problem with the symptoms. This point was driven home in an interactive session by Leo Henghes, the Co-founder and Executive Director ofUNITED (Universities Together Empowering Development) who demonstrated ‘Where Social Enterprises come from’ using the analogy of a tree. Leo highlighted that it is usually the ‘symptoms of a problem’ that are most visible and are therefore similar to the leaves of the tree. He further pointed out that in order to address a problem, one has to ‘delve down to its root causes’. He also mentioned that social enterprises can identify ways to ‘prevent’ or ‘adapt’ to a given challenge and gave the example of solutions for climate change, which are often designed to help people adapt to an already existing problem.
Kampala’s Biggest Problems
The challenge that followed was in identifying some of the biggest problems in Kampala, a task that was led by a well-known talk show and radio Presenter – Ben Mwine. Mr. Mwine shared some of his own experiences in Uganda and drew experiences from the crowd who identified problems like the ‘poor road infrastructure’, ‘unemployment’, ‘gambling’, among others. The problems identified were grouped into themes (See below) and the students/graduates were tasked to come up with solutions for one of these problems in groups over the two days.
KEY SPEAKERS / FACILITATORS
Other prominent speakers on the first day included Mr Dickson Mushabe, the Co-Founder and CEO of Hostalite Limited, who shared on how ideas can be turned into ‘formidable businesses, Dr. Fredrick Kitoogo – the Director of Planning, Research & Development at the National IT Authority Uganda (NITA-U) who shared on the ‘role of Technology in Startups’and Mr Michael Niyitegeka the Chair of the Board of Advisors at AIESEC Uganda – a Ugandan Youth organisation. Mr. Niyitegeka spoke about ‘Personal Branding’. He mentioned that ‘a brand is your unique promise of value’ and highlighted the ‘difference between a brand and a commodity’. His talk was followed by another interactive session by RAN’s very own- Brian Ndyaguma and another familiar face, Nicholas Kamanzi – the community Manager at Hive Colab who introduced the budding entrepreneurs to the Business Model Canvas. Delegates also received tips on how to pitch from Toro Orero – the Managing Partner of DraperDarkFlow a Silicon Valley VC Fund that had sponsored the prize money. With the foundations of enterprise properly laid, the audience then went on to tackle some of Kampala’s biggest problems (see full list at the bottom).
Undeterred by their lack of sleep from developing their ideas the night before, the young “Leapers” hit the ground running on day two of the conference. The second day of the Leap Conference, which was appropriately titled ‘Where the Rubber Hits the Road’ maintained the momentum of the previous day. We summarised the learnings from the previous day before inviting the audience to practice and perfect their pitches for the ‘Dragons Den’ competition later in the day.
With their pitches mastered, the well-fed and caffeinated groups were then requested to give their attention to a panel discussion moderated by Richard Zulu – Founder of Outbox Uganda and attended by key stakeholders in the startup space. These included the banking sector, which was represented by Ssekitto Paul Kasule, a Customer Relationship Manager at Centenary Bank, the Uganda Registration Service Bureau, which was represented by Allan Kakungulu, Dr. Ernest Abaho from the Makerere University Business School and Leo Henghes and Deborah Naatujuna Nkwanga from UNITED and RAN respectively who represented innovation and startup HUBS in Uganda. The panel discussion commenced with a brief word on the roles of the different institutions in Enterprise before addressing a number of cross-cutting issues like how seed funding and loans for startups can be accessed, the process of registering businesses and the type of support offered by innovation hubs, among others.
PITCH ME BABY ONE MORE TIME!
The panel discussion was followed by a lightning pitch session, where a total of twenty-three groups presented the solutions they had come up with over the two-days. The quality of the pitches exceeded all of the judge’s expectations, so much so that the winning team, ‘Team Musawo’, who described a health-related application, ended up taking home a whopping 32 million Ugandan shillings, instead of the expected 5 million they were due. The winners’ funds will be transferred into their business accounts which will be opened by Centenary Bank after their businesses have been registered by The Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB). Other winners of the day were ‘Serenity Solutions’, who came in second place with their sim card-free method of communication that will definitely deliver a “whatsapp like” disruption to the phone companies, and ‘Team My Crib’ who described a platform to bring together landlords and University students – apparently a huge problem in Kampala. With the help ofResilientAfrica Network, the top 5 teams will now be incubated and mentored to help their business ideas realise their full potential.
Imagine if these kinds of events and activities were happening in all schools and across all regions in Uganda, throughout the year? The desire and hunger by these young folks has forced us to plan on holding regional conferences of this kind, so as to reach to a wider demographic, starting with Kigezi Region this December. We are also in discussions with other stakeholders to roll out similar but bigger and more impactful programs using print, TV, radio and social media platforms. Worth noting that we are ourselves in a startup mode and therefore welcome support any from all well wishers.
SPECIAL thanks to Toro Orero of DraperDarkFlow who provided Seed Funding for our top teams. This guy has big plans for Africa. But the gut-feeling and speed with which he quickly came on board is ridiculously mind-boggling, as Team Musawo found out on day two after receiving ALL the funds their business requires to make it big. Looking forward to working with him on our future projects.
SPECIAL thanks to ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) who will now take over the tough task of incubating and mentoring the top five teams. Crucially though, the Leap Conference would not have happened without the support and dedication of all the selfless folks at RAN. Special mention to Nathan Tumuhamye Kipande, Deborah Nkwanga, Natasha Kassami, Brian Ndyaguma & Harriet Adong whose stewardship was invaluable, not to mention Vanessa Khainza & Israel our Social Media and IT Guru’s. If only the world was full of folks like these!
In just three weeks, the media played a crucial role promoting the plight of young people and drumming up awareness for the Leap Conference. So much was their impact, that we had to close Eventbrite as we were inundated by signups. Clearly, the media has a huge role to play in impacting the mindsets of young people. It is for this reason that we are working on plans to ensure that our events and activities are disseminated across the numerous media networks. Thanks to KI Media, Urban TV and the Nation Media Group – (Daily Monitor, KFM and NTV).
Dennis B. Aguma | Founder, NASE
Co-written with Natasha Kassami