Publishing has always been at the mercy of technological disruption and when the internet became a huge force in service transformation it managed to introduce another dimension to the way this industry is continually altered.
In light of all these changes, Mazwi, a local startup has put a lot of effort into the creation of an avenue for publishing through the internet.
The Mazwi platform allows authors to publish and distribute their electronically, and through the integration of a functional payment platform ensures that any book published on it generates revenue for the content creator. Part of their efforts have involved the integration of digital rights management software to curb the piracy of the content.
However, these are not the only challenges they face as a Zimbabwean startup. In our Conversations with Zimbabwean Startups series, we managed to have a discussion with Taf Makura, the founder and CEO of Mazwi, and he offered these responses to our questions.
What are the three biggest challenges that you’ve faced since you started?
lack of experienced mentorship,
and an exceptionally difficult market to succeed in.
If you could have offered yourself some advice when you started what would it be?
Learn about the industry that you wish to operate in before you start building anything. Gain important contacts, credibility and insights in your chosen sector or industry, also make sure that what you want to do is already making money in a different form and that your product will simplify or enhance an existing process for your target customer. Don’t try to create new markets on a tight budget in this economy. Also stay away from people, mentors or organizations that try to force you to innovate for the sake of innovation; more often that not you will be left with a novelty product that is cool but not relevant within the current context.
From your experience so far, how much work should an aspiring Zimbabwean tech entrepreneur be ready to put in?
Unfortunately my experience has taught me that hard work and long hours are not all it takes to succeed in the tech startup space in Zimbabwe. More often than not it has a lot to do with credibility, politics, connections and exclusive relationships that will place your startup in an ideal position to solve or simplifying a huge problem in a particular industry using ICT. So if you want to run a successful tech startup in Zimbabwe, I would say put away your favorite programming language and enter the market scouting for opportunities where technology can simplify, improve or even enable a previously impossible or complicated part of an existing process that is already making money. Build relationships and credibility while learning and establishing a name amongst important stakeholders in a particular industry. As you hunt for a opportunities be honest and professional. Once you have identified, negotiate and secured a commercial agreement start building the product or repurpose existing software to solve that problem in a proficient and scalable way. It is hardly innovative, but it requires entrepreneurial brilliance to pull off.
How is tech entrepreneurship viewed by the people around you?
Most people I know including family look at tech entrepreneurship as just that, entrepreneurship! Only when you talk to fellow tech entrepreneurs do you start to hear some familiar catchphrases, slogans and clichés that frankly don’t mean much to the average person on the street. Depending on who you ask and which investor (read donor) they are angling for I’d say tech entrepreneurship could be anything from a hobby, a business, an obsession to the panacea of all the world’s problems.
Have there been any sacrifices that you’ve had to make as an entrepreneur that you think are relative to Zimbabwe?
Of course. Very few Zimbabweans from my generation would prefer to be in the financial circumstance that most Zimbabweans – tech entrepreneurs or not – find themselves in. I would have preferred a more predictable career path and better economic opportunities for business. Most startup founders are really unemployed youth trying to find a means of survival and a way to be relevant and admired. For most the sacrifice is incredible. I have personally quit employment and turned down offers that will not return anytime soon. I have essentially gambled my future on the promise of a local technology boom that may not come in my prime lifetime.
– See more at: http://www.techzim.co.zw/2015/11/conversations-with-zimbabwean-startups-mazwi-its-play-on-book-publishing/#sthash.YgRlnbZq.dpuf