Big Changes Take Masterful Guidance

30 Mar Big Changes Take Masterful Guidance

[fullwidth backgroundcolor=”” backgroundimage=”” backgroundrepeat=”no-repeat” backgroundposition=”left top” backgroundattachment=”scroll” video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” bordersize=”0px” bordercolor=”” borderstyle=”” paddingtop=”20px” paddingbottom=”20px” paddingleft=”0px” paddingright=”0px” menu_anchor=”” equal_height_columns=”no” hundred_percent=”no” class=”” id=””][title size=”1″ content_align=”left” style_type=”single” sep_color=”” class=”” id=””]The Guiding Light Of Mentorship[/title][one_third last=”no” spacing=”yes” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” class=”” id=””][imageframe lightbox=”no” style_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][/one_third][two_third last=”yes” spacing=”yes” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” class=”” id=””][fusion_text][Part 3 in a series of 6. Read Part 1 here.]

Entrepreneurship and mentorship have always gone hand in hand. Becoming a successful entrepreneur can be a seemingly daunting and constant uphill battle. Without the support and wisdom of mentors, success is near impossible. They provide us with steady guidance from experience, deep field knowledge, world-class advice, and endless patience. We at Hack For Big Choices are entrepreneurs ourselves and we have always benefited from the guidance and tutelage of incredible mentors in our lives. In setting up the H4BC hackathon program, we understood the need to pass on the benefit of mentorship to a new wave of emerging entrepreneurs in West Africa. The participants at our Africa hackathon took full advantage of their access to the incredible mentors we were able to bring to the event.

We wanted a chance to share the perspective of the event from a mentor’s point of view and we were graciously granted an interview with Wes Wasson, Board Chairman of Elevate Africa & Former SVP and CMO at Citrix Systems. The following reflects his views of the event as a mentor and outlook on the entrepreneurial ecosystem emerging in West Africa:[/fusion_text][/two_third][/fullwidth][fullwidth backgroundcolor=”#ffffff” backgroundimage=”” backgroundrepeat=”no-repeat” backgroundposition=”left top” backgroundattachment=”scroll” video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” bordersize=”0px” bordercolor=”” borderstyle=”solid” paddingtop=”20px” paddingbottom=”20px” paddingleft=”0px” paddingright=”0px” menu_anchor=”” equal_height_columns=”no” hundred_percent=”no” class=”” id=””][title size=”2″ content_align=”left” style_type=”single” sep_color=”” class=”” id=””]An Interview With Wes Wasson[/title][one_third last=”no” spacing=”yes” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” class=”” id=””][imageframe lightbox=”no” style_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][/one_third][two_third last=”yes” spacing=”yes” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” class=”” id=””][title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”single” sep_color=”” class=”” id=””]Wes, what are your thoughts on the emerging entrepreneurial community in West Africa?[/title][fusion_text]I spent most of my career in Silicon Valley, one of the most amazing centers of innovation the world has ever seen. Many people in the Valley have written off Africa. They’ll tell you the obstacles are too great, and that the people of Africa aren’t up to the challenge. I flatly reject that thinking. While the difficulties are clearly profound, I see a new generation of talent rising up in West Africa that is simply too smart, too creative, and too connected to dismiss. It may take more than one generation to affect broad systemic change at a regional level. But when the history books are written, the young people we see rising up today in places like Ghana will be hailed as the changemakers who altered the destiny of an entire region by having the courage to dream big and write a new narrative for West Africa.

[/fusion_text][/two_third][title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”single” sep_color=”” class=”” id=””]What kind of expectations did you have going into the event?[/title][fusion_text]I had spent enough time with young entrepreneurs in Ghana to know that this event had the potential to be something special. While the region clearly has many challenges, I believe there is a new generation rising up in Ghana with the passion, talent and creativity to change the game in West Africa. I also had high expectations for the team behind the event. The sponsors were fantastic, Hub Accra is nothing short of amazing, and everything I had heard about Hack For Big Choices was impressive. Even with those high expectations, however, I think we were all blown away by the number of people who packed the venue and worked around the clock, pouring everything they had into delivering some truly amazing proposals.

[/fusion_text][title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”single” sep_color=”” class=”” id=””]What kind of difficulties did you observe the teams facing during the event?[/title][fusion_text]While the level of innovation was impressive, some teams struggled to make their ideas practical in the first few iterations. For many, it was simply a matter of starting too big. It’s incredibly tempting for young entrepreneurs to see high-flying startups like Uber and AirBnB, and miss the fact that even in Silicon Valley, most successful ventures begin with a narrow focus that allows them to learn the market, iterate rapidly, and expand when they know they have the right formula. When you’re tackling major social challenges like unemployment, healthcare and education, that temptation to go and start big is even stronger. I loved helping these teams discover more realistic ways to get their dreams off the ground. We often talk about encouraging young entrepreneurs to dream big, but I’ve often found that the real reward is helping them uncover the little “ah ha” moments that take their dreams from vision to reality.

[/fusion_text][title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”single” sep_color=”” class=”” id=””]Did you face any personal difficulties while staying in the region?[/title][fusion_text]Of course, but that’s part of what makes it such an amazing experience. If you come to Africa expecting things to work like they do in the rest of the world, you’ll go crazy. The best way to experience Africa is to live every day with a sense of adventure and a passion to overcome challenges in creative ways. In many ways, daily life in Africa is like that of a startup. You should go into it expecting that half the stuff in your plan won’t work, but that the reward of sticking it out and discovering the hidden gems along the way is more than worth the journey.

[/fusion_text][title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”single” sep_color=”” class=”” id=””]Do you have any advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs in West Africa?[/title][fusion_text]My biggest advice is to surround yourself with innovative thinking and focus on the things you can control. Watch lots of TED Talks. Download hot new apps and ask yourself why they are succeeding. Read about successful entrepreneurs and hear how they overcame obstacles. Subscribe to every Twitter feed you can from innovative thinkers, and don’t be afraid to pose questions to them. And most important of all, ignore the crowd of naysayers who spend their time complaining about things they can’t control. That doesn’t mean you ignore the challenges. It just means you keep refining and narrowing your focus until you find a business idea where you understand the market and know you can shape the variables, then pour all your energy and imagination into making it amazing and learning everything you can from the experience. Every big market is simply a collection of smaller markets, so don’t spend too much time in the early days worrying about how big the TAM (total available market) is. Focus your time and energy on something you can control, bring some innovative ideas to it that no one has ever done, and learn everything you can along the way. Don’t start off trying to hunt elephants. Begin by focusing on the smallest market where you know you can do something amazing, and use the experience to learn and grow. You’re far more likely to win big by starting small, and you’ll have more fun along the way.

Being invited by Hack for Big Choices to participate in the largest hackathon in the history of Africa was an amazing experience. Seeing hundreds of courageous young entrepreneurs work around the clock to solve the world’s most challenging social problems utterly destroyed the myth that Africa isn’t ready to change its own destiny.[/fusion_text][/fullwidth][fusion_text]Mentors like Wes Wasson help us entrepreneurs realize our greatest potential and guide us towards building truly impactful innovations that can help elevate our lives. All of our mentors came to us either through existing relationships we have built or through new partnerships and sponsorships. We wish to thank and acknowledge Hub Accra, Facebook, Internet.org, WordPress, MEST, UNICEF, the U.S. Embassy, the Foreign Minister of Ghana, and all of the other new partners and sponsors that made their resources and advice available to us. This event would not have succeeded without their full support.

[Next up: We ask a fundamental question – What if?]

– Ehb Teng

Community Manager[/fusion_text]

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