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Debrief: Startup Weekend Khartoum 2014

Congratulations, you did it! You survived the inaugural Startup Weekend Khartoum event. You’re now a part of history here in Sudan. The Sudan startup scene is going to thrive because of you. I’ve had a great time here in Sudan and I’ll definitely be coming back. So now Startup Weekend is over, you’ve hopefully had some rest, what to do next? You only have a few hours left to submit your startup video for the Global Startup Battle so if you haven’t already, go make your video and upload it! There are some awesome prizes on offer, don’t miss out! The very next thing you should do is thank the sponsors! Startup Weekend is not an easy event to run. Without sponsors support, the event would not be possible here in Sudan. Send your sponsors an email, tweet or Facebook post thanking them for supporting the event. Without them #SWKhartoum wouldn’t be possible and we want them to continue supporting SW into the future.

Visit the Startup Weekend Khartoum site,  find sponsors and thank them.

NTC IEC SSWA Sudan Subsection Ericsson EBS MTN  Samsung Sudan  Capital Radio  Ashorooq Hala 96fm Iambhaaali سينما-الشباب

General observations of SWKhartoum

Holy wow, the internet sucked. Not a lot we can do about that now but in future we can put pressure on a telecommunications sponsor to do more for the event. The internet is vital to startup success, it needs to be reliable! The telecommunications industry is competitive here in Sudan with 3 main players, MTN, Zain, Sudani. This means that they must be responsive to consumer demands if they want to maintain their market share. For example in Australia, Vodafone went through a period of lousy service delivery and it cost them half a million customers. There was even an angry consumer generated ‘vodafail‘ website made in response to their poor service. As consumers here in Sudan you must demand better service. If 100 people from Startup Weekend wrote a letter to MTN and complained that the internet was less than satisfactory then next time they might try harder to deliver a faster, more reliable internet service. Telecommunications companies are a key stakeholder in the success of startups, you’re only going to be as good as their ability to deliver a good service. Don’t let poor internet get in the way of your success!

I am surprised at the percentage of female participants at Startup Weekend Khartoum. This is such a good thing! Women are notoriously under represented in the tech sector and having a high women participation rate is a massive advantage here in Sudan. Many successful tech companies have policies in place to hire more women. For example Microsoft, Apple and Facebook are aggressively trying to recruit more women into their workforce. There is a great opportunity for women here in Sudan to develop their skills and demonstrate their abilities. Talented women will have more opportunists to work abroad in larger, global tech firms.

Some teams performed well over the weekend, some seemed like they were a disaster. But that’s okay. This is what Startup Weekend is all about – getting the opportunity to demonstrate your capabilities and benchmark with your peers. Some of you will continue your startups, some of you will wait until you have the next big idea. But now you have the strategies in place to not go and work on a product before you have validated the idea, tested your assumptions and made sure that there was a market there for you to make money. The ultimate validation is making money. Get sales!

This was my first experience as a Startup Weekend mentor and I had a lot of fun. I was testing my own assumptions and validated ideas as I was mentoring because I would like to have my own startup serving the startup space. After this post I am going to write about and critique every group, giving you feedback. I will be brutally honest. Feedback will help you improve and we should always be seeking ways to improve! Please understand though, my comprehension of the Arabic language is poor, my judgement of some your groups may only be based on my observations of your startup work output, PowerPoint / Prezi slides and crowd feedback. If you think the feedback I give your group is harsh, unwarranted or undeserving and if I could understand Arabic my opinion maybe different, well then bad luck. I am also giving you the opportunity to be brutally honest with me and give me your feedback. The feedback loop leads to improvements and I want to improve as a mentor.

Please take my mentor survey here

What to expect now?

Now startup weekend is over what to expect next? This event is proof that there is an emerging startup community here in Sudan. There are some passionate enablers in your community who are going to nurture your startup scene into something significant. It won’t be long until the world starts hearing about amazing startups coming out of Sudan. I predict that very soon a tech up / co-working space will open to accommodate your emerging startups. A tech hub is an incubator for startup ideas and I want to see Sudan added to this list of tech hubs across Africa by next year. The next progression is a startup accelerator will emerge and this is already happen with Startup Next. Some teams that want to continue developing their startup can apply to the 5 week Startup Next mentorship program. If your startup team wants to apply, I suggest you put together a few compelling reasons why you want to continue with your startup. There will be more startup / tech events coming to Sudan. You might see a hacker-space emerge or a a gov-hack event where the government releases some data and then you hack it into something meaningful. A startup specific media will materialize to cover your startup scene. Maybe the Kick Off team will cover this vertical? There will be opportunities for businesses to your startup scene – designers, developers and hustlers can expect to get busier!

I came over to Sudan to see what I could see,

I’m really surprised with your use of technology,

 I really love Sudan and I love your ideas,

 I loved working with you so here’s cheers,

 Good luck with ya pitches, I’m sure you’ll be fine,

 This is my first time rapping, I hope you like my rhyme,

 I really love this city, you call Khartoum,

 I got to go now, but I’ll see you soon!

8 Responses to Debrief: Startup Weekend Khartoum 2014

  1. Thank you very much Tim for beening here for us, it was one of my greatest week ends. In these limited hours -maybe 30 maximum- I have learned too much I wish if we can StartupWeekend like every month 🙂 ,, I was literary down -career wise- lost hope of developing myself and turned into office zombie … But now,,, I can feel the energy through my veins, myself confidant is back and sooo excited to start my own business/project because now I totally sure I can.
    Thanks for StartupWeekend both locally and globally through you.
    Enjoyed your writing, totally with you about the internet, it sucked,
    will go with your idea of writing them. And waiting for your critique of MyDoctor team.

    • If we had a Startup Weekend every month, I think people will start to die from exhaustion! Really it is totally up to you guys where you want to take your startup community from here. Send your feedback to your organizers and ask them when the next event will be. Typically SW is a biannual thing but if there is enough support there is no reason why it couldn’t run more frequently. There was 380 applicants for SWKhartoum. There’s a huge market potential startup to serve. This is only just the beginning. Exciting future for startups in Sudan! As for SW re-energizing you, that’s fantastic! Being a work zombie sure sucks! I’ve done my best to avoid getting stuck into that trap but as a consequence I now have the life I have…I’ll get around to critiquing MyDoctor as soon as I can. Is this the startup you want to pursue or you have another idea?

  2. We were so lucky to have you Tim. Your comments are deep and to the point.

  3. I’m Mustafa Yassin from Neptune team. You came to our desk at night and asked me about the hardware we developed.
    Thank you for being here and for actively supporting the teams. Specially after the event, people are excited and scattered with all the memories not certain about what to do next. Your advices about what after the event are much appreciated.

    Waiting for your critiques for Neptune team


    • Yes Mustafa! As I recall it was late on Friday evening, perhaps around midnight. You looked like you were in the zone so I did not want to disturb you. You seemed at this stage to know exactly what you were doing. Clearly that was the case because your team won! Congratulations again on winning the inaugural Startup Weekend Khartoum! This is just the beginning…

      So we’ve confirmed Wednesday for media training 5:30pm, Al Waha mall. See you tomorrow!

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