What I Learned While Living in Europe

When I lived in Deutschland for 5 months less 1 week this year, I had come to realize how independent I have started growing. Living and working away from family and friends. My mind was getting more flexible than I can imagine. I could jump on any interesting offer to change my physical location. I liked how flexible and open-minded I have become. Living away from home has cultivated many attributes in me. So when the chance to go to Germany came, I was stoked about the idea and wondered how fantastic it would turn out.

Personally and humbly speaking, the trip is one of the highlights of my career, having come far in my quest for energy efficient and sustainable buildings. I had come to understand how to improve and evaluate thermal comfort in our buildings during my research stay at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. I also learned a lot about other things like how to speak a little German, what is life in a European country, who Germans are, history of Europe, how to cook Italian lasagne and seeing my friend cook Egyptian Koshari, living in a more sustainable way, why they are more developed than African countries, yoga, stargazing and hunting, bouldering, and a lot of other things, too numerous to mention.

In subsequent blog posts, I intend to share different stories of my stay there. Subscribe to my blog not to miss out.

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Out of the numerous things I learned, I will start with these two things mentioned below.

Learning to Appreciate and Enjoy More

One of the things I took away was learning to enjoy nature more and more. It was a lovely sunny day and I looked outside my window, alas! What did I see? Some two guys holding their shoes and working bare feet on the hot tarred roads. My eye sight fixed on them as they treaded on the road before turning left and disappearing. Another time again, I saw another group of friends repeating that. And my wondering came to an end. I understood why they took off their shoes; to feel the sun warmed roads. The summer has started and they are not letting go any moment of it to waste. And I remember myself, how I will like to take off my shoes and walk in the beach sand. Walking slowly at times, allowing my feet to sink into the sand and giving me a soothing feeling in my brain. But this didn’t teach me that, seeing some guys walk bare feet just to feel the warmth of the sun inspired me to appreciate more the things around me, especially the things we do not often notice. To acknowledge that such enjoyments might not be forever and the need to live every moment of its existence is key to becoming happier daily.

They don’t know just as much as about Africa

I listened to Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk on the Dangers of a Single Story. She narrated how her first roommate in the US asked her questions about what Africa was like, especially how she turned out to speak very good English. The questions were nothing but pitiful, due to the huge ignorance and misconception of a single story many non-Africans have have on African countries. “Do you have roads like the way we have them in Germany?”, “Do you have power (electricity)?” and other questions I cannot remember verbatim but remember the ignorance of the questioner, when I was asked. It is completely alright to be unaware of things outside your way. There is quite a lot happening in people’s lives that what doesn’t matter won’t mean a thing, especially when one big continent of 54 different nations with 2000 different spoken languages and different cultures gets generalized as one. Do not get me wrong, I am completely not mad about it. I and many ‘Africans’ have our own single stories of developed countries. But when I pay close attention to this notion of generalization of Africa, I often ask myself whether it is right for all those beautiful different people to be taken as one when it comes to description.

I have lived in two different parts of the continent, the east and west, and been to a total of 4 different African countries, including Egypt. They all have many different things, not only through my eyes, but in terms of geography, time difference, language, currency, social interaction, food, mannerisms, festivals, etc. seeing much of that diversity in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Egypt motivates me to take different expeditions to other African countries. I cannot promise, but I think I will make it a point to see the whole of those countries.

Appreciating the different countries means showing concern, respect, and knowledge and acknowledge their existence and diversity. Many people, including ‘Africans’ have joined in this wrong generalization. I always like asking, what part of Africa are you referring to?

Living in Europe has been fantastic to say the least. So many amiable memories, friends and relationships have been formed. I am eager to share my backpacking trip around some western European countries with you. Reminiscing all these bring smiles to my face. Do subscribe to not miss a post 🙂

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How to Start a Startup: 3 Things I learned While Attending the Founder’s Conference

For some years passed, I have been seriously thinking of starting a startup. A small company that will solve a problem in an innovative way and that will grow rapidly. One that will help and bring ease to its customers or clients. I began ideating how to go about developing my objective, which has not concreted into a formidable solution yet. I started attending conferences where ideas and innovative solutions were being discussed. The only thing missing was how to go about turning them into real viable businesses. And so this year June, I got to attend a startup conference called Heureka, The Founder’s Conference, in Berlin. It gathered more than a 100 startup founders and successful startup owners and directors of companies like Airbnb, Uber, Zalando etc.

How to start a startup

To say the least, I was inspired but  demotivated of starting a startup, after conversing and hearing a lot of people tell their stories. I was inspired because of the success they achieved but daunted by learning the fact that it takes a huge effort in making your startups into reality.

While I still wondered about my next move, during the break session, I approached Microsoft Accelerator Programme in Berlin occupying one of the exhibition booths. I wanted to know how I can get into their 12 week accelerator programme.

The following conversation ensued between me and the Gonen, the person I met.

“Do you have a prototype or a startup.”Me: “No! only an idea.” “Everybody has ideas. Everyone on the street has ideas, but not all are good ideas. To get in (Microsoft Accelerator Programme), you need to know that people want your idea, people are interested in the solution you will bring. Cut the story short, do these 3 things, I guarantee you, it will make a beeline in becoming successful:

  1. Test your idea
  2. Assemble the right team
  3. Read this book”

Let’s get into the details of what these steps mean

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Testing Your Idea

So you have an idea you are thinking will become a huge success, right? How do you know people will be interested in your solutions? In a poll made for why most startups fail, the number reason (totalling 30% of the votes) is because they build something nobody wants. Build a prototype using the lean startup method (using the least resources to build a basic version), test it and get instant feedback. If your solution is a digital one, one that people can easily access, quickly develop it and launch it online. The number of people who sign up will tell you how many people are interested. If you cannot build any prototype, make a story about your solution and share it online. Ask people who are interested in the solution to drop their emails and they will be the first to know when the product is finally ready. If you do this, you will no doubt know whether you need to invest more time or not in developing your product. Even if you cannot build a prototype, run a Facebook ad or wherever you can tell people about the solution you have in mind. Have them sign up if they are interested in the soultion when the product or service gets ready.

Read Traction

Traction is a wonderful book put together by two startup founders. It is the result of interviews with 40 company owners and deep research and understanding of countless successful companies, about how they gained traction. In other words, how they increased their customer base. Because that is all you need, number of customers or clients. This book detailed exactly how you can use 19 different ways of doing it. I am sure you will find one or two ways you can easily start using without spending a dime. The book is available for free download here.

Assemble the Right Team

To build a dream company, you need a dream team. Why? Because everyone will have a role to play and you can easily have more time to focus and do much in your role. You need at least 3 people for you team. It is not a most, but it will be easier. Also when investors are looking at your team, they will easily see how competent you are. Remember, people do not invest in ideas, they invest in people. So hire wisely. The number 2 reason (18% of the votes) why most startups fail is because of hiring the wrong people. Hire people to complement your skills. An associated failure rate is also not finding the right co-founders.  At least have an engineer, a graphic designer and a marketing/sales personnel. You need someone to make the beautiful designs that will appeal to the potential customers, the images, the posters, the videos etc. The engineer does the programming of the site, the solution or takes care of the technical side of the company. Then you need the sales/marketing guy to do the marketing. I believe you all know how difficult it is to market a new product.

“With this, you will definitely see tangible results.” These is the best advice I received from Gonen, a current intern at Microsoft Accelerator in Berlin. With his team, they are working on Raklet, an online platform to help associations with membership subscriptions manage their association through sending messages to their members, updating their payment profile and the likes, all through one platform. I totally recommend it for the association you belong to.

I got more motivated as the steps were made clearer to me. But one thing must be be stressed; it requires hardwork.

If you enjoy reading this post, please share it with an ambitious entrepreneur out there. Like me, some things may become clearer to her or him. Are you about starting your startup too? Do you find these suggestions I received relevant or how do you like to begin? Please share your thoughts or formula.

 

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