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How to Launch a Tech Hardware Startup in Africa

By Aaron Mason on May 14, 2013


On May 28, join a conversation with Verone Mankou, designer of Africa’s first tablet computer. RSVP today.

Bringing a new product to market is no easy task. In an ecosystem of incubators, payment frameworks, crowdfunding, hubs, meetups and virtual marketplaces, savvy entrepreneurs still hit walls. Most products never make to launch, much less to scale.

So how would today’s entrepreneurs fare without these systems? What kinds of out-of-the-box thinking is necessary to launch and grow in today’s emerging markets? Verone Mankou, the founder of Congo Brazzaville’s VMK, can speak to this personally.

The 26-year-old creator of the Way-C, the first African tablet to rival the iPad, Markou dreams of bringing internet access to the masses. The Way-C launched late last year and Mankou’s experiences as an entrepreneur tell an amazing story and illustrate how designing a profitable device doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Development and launch of the Way-C cost just $170k, and sales of the $300 device are already in the thousands.

Interested in learning what it takes to be a tech entrepreneur in Africa? Join Mankou this May 28th on the Singularity University campus for an intimate morning conversation on design, development and speaking to your audience.

In and open discussion Mankou, along with your peers in technology and development, will share their thoughts on:

  • What are the top challenges of designing a hardware product in Africa? What resources and opportunities exist? What major lessons were learned?
  • What factors (personal and in the wider environment) were needed to spur the design process?
  • What is the overall roadmap for tablets and smartphones in Africa?
  • What skills and support does African youth need to innovate in technology like Verone?
  • How can we excite more girls and young women to join in tech startups?
  • How can private sector technology supporting development programs that help education and health?

There will be no powerpoint presentations or remote participation, only in-person, off-the-record intense debate of these questions by 30 industry experts seeking the truth behind the hype.

Be sure to sign up to get invited to future Salons in SF, NYC, DC, Nairobi, and London.

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Written by
Aaron Mason is a technology and development expert with experience in design, analytics, ICT and disaster response. Follow him on Twitter: @Aaron_Mason
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2 Comments to “How to Launch a Tech Hardware Startup in Africa”

  1. Tim Hatt, Senior Analyst, Mobile for Development Intelligence says:

    Mobile for Development Intelligence recently wrote a short article on the mobile coverage challenges facing DRC and Congo as well as South Sudan and Sudan


    While urban coverage (and mobile penetration) is healthy, coverage in rural areas is limited. Given that a large section of the population lives outside of cities, this places a limit on basic mobile access, and by extension access to mobile-enabled services – be they on a featurephone, smartphone or tablet

    The path to filling this gap is likely a combination of operator own investment and government subsidy (to drive investment where it would be otherwise economically unviable)

  2. Aaron Mason says:

    Bridging that gap is an interesting challenge, and you’re right, there may be a combination of government incentives and private investment…

    I’m still a huge fan of JumpStart’s statement that sustainable business models are the best source of funding.