It’s that time again for our quarterly review. For those new to our tribe, we write these updates every few months to show you what we’ve been working on.
The disclaimer: One of our guiding principles that we seek to implement as a group is transparency. As we work with entrepreneurs and their companies, and build companies of our own, we think it’s important to inform you about what we’re working on, as well as how it’s going. At the end of each Quarter, we’ve written reviews showcasing what projects we’re working on and the status of those. If you’ve followed closely, you’ve noticed that some projects went very well and some have flat-out failed. We think that’s part of it and we’re not going to hide those stories from you, no matter how failure makes us feel in our personal lives (read more about our thoughts on fostering failure here and here and here and here).
Here’s a list of some of our past project updates:
Due to our growing portfolio and list of things our team is cooking up, we’ll give you updates on the things that have had movement this quarter. If no movement, then you won’t see it in the list. For a full list on the projects we have going, click here. So for example, we built The Basement almost four years ago, it’s the first modern youth hall in Zimbabwe. There’s not much to update you on with a physical building space other than it’s still runs, hosts weekly events, and is cashflow positive. So we’ll file that in a list of projects on our site.
Ok enough of that…
So here is our 2017 Quarter 1 report. Enjoy!
The Swamp of No Boundary
This is what it feels like to live and work in Zimbabwe today. In other words, there are no rules for anyone to trade on, so it makes it impossible to guarantee anything. And doing business with no guarantee is like trying to give a beautifully wrapped gift package with no actual gift inside. It may be great to look at and give away, but there’s no substance to anything.
This causes a lot of problems for normal life. Because what’s normal? For many, this fact makes life difficult to cope with on a personal level and challenging to navigate which direction your ship is heading.
This is why it’s critical that your business doesn’t define you, but your character does. With few investments being made in this current market, those with strong vision and character are slowly and quietly positioning themselves for regional expansion, relational alliances, and hope that things will be different in the coming years.
Now for a few business updates.
COTRADE INDUSTRIAL SOLUTIONS
Cotrade keeps getting proof of transfers for new orders on new projects, but the proofs never actually get proven by the banks, and so it's a wheel full of potential, but it's just not spinning. The leadership is working tirelessly to expand their reach into the surrounding nations and there are a number of relationships proving optimistic about the solution. But entering into a new market while your current cashflows from the previous market are suffocatingly tight makes it difficult to make much headway. All it will take is for one stone to start rolling down the hill.
CMedia has been ramping up their internship project with both international and local interns working on real projects. We've seen university students and recent graduates skyrocket their learning curve and repertoire because of hands on experience. We don't treat them like interns at all, but force them to swim in the deep end of the pool. The project plate is constantly full and this year we're looking to partner with a few global distribution companies, allowing us to really take the content creation conversation to all sides of the African map. This Quarter, we were nominated for a local NAMA award for 2016 work pieces, and the next Quarter is lining up to be full of love and new territory.
We’re excited about this. It’s outgrown us and is wanting to fly. We’ve kept it under wraps for now, but in Q2, we’ll be open sourcing it! Any passionate and hungry startup community will be able to host a Pitch Night and get a template on how to launch it in their city, wherever they are in Africa. Be on the look out for the downloads and the website. The demands for Pitch Night are more than we can consult with or skype with, so we're giving it away.
Collaboration between academic, business, professional, and nonprofit worlds. Hosting short term trips from abroad are great for vision casting, but not for long term development. We're pioneering with Oral Roberts University (ORU) for a new vision that will showcase a medium term development plan with long term success metrics (data, best research, testing, implementation, scaling). This kicks off May 2017.
- Medical shipments landed. Hope landed. Help landed. and now over 10,000 people will received the benefit. Who gets the credit? Probably no one, but all of these people get proper medical support and that's enough for us.
- A Local Orphanage we support is now better maintained by the purchase of a bus and installment of border fence. The fence at Ivordale looks stunning. I imagine that it's challenging the nearby town to do more for their own security. The children had been secure in the past, but the boundary lines were areas of gray and there was no stopping the wanderers who felt like they wanted to drop by for a visit. Now that's sorted and the renovations of the orphanage have been completed.
- celebrate.org app launched and running smoothly.
RESOURCING & CONTENT DEVELOPMENT
- We had a conversation and new relationship form with a top content exec in Africa. Discussed content and telling stories and narratives that move people to action. We want those actions to be positive and produce life in society.
- Starting to focus on developing many of our own shows and script ideas for entertainment and resourcing of young people as they are making healthy life decisions. We’re also collaborating with a few local church movements to enhance local discipleship as young people are making decisions to follow Jesus Christ.
Educate is the little engine that could. It's a ship in the ocean that is struck with perpetual storms, however the team is navigating the waves like champion swimmers, and keeping the boat on a streamline channel to success. The bills are paid, the clients are committed and the trust has been established in the industry. One of the founding directors spoke at an event in Switzerland where the UN and the Bill Gates Foundation applauded the outlook of the company and its effort to make a difference. If those applauses turn into transfers of additional capital, then that'll be great. If not, we'll still navigate the white water.
THE CAR SALE
We sold a small white car for a few thousand dollars. The deal was that the buyer would pay over three months. Three months came and went and finally the buyer arrived at the office. She shut down her business and was moving out of town and was about to sell the car again to someone else. But she needed to conclude the deal with us first. So she talked us down a few hundred dollars so that she could conclude the sale, which turned out to be a loss to the other person buying the vehicle. So it was a three way conundrum where everyone cut their losses. But, at least things moved (sort of).
The deals in Zim these days are strange. It's three deals in one, all the time. "I have a little bit of US cash, some transfer, some Zim Bond note, here's a jar full of rand coins, and I'll pay you a little bit when I get some more... if you're ok with that deal?" It's barter and trade all over again. People are de-registering their companies, because the demands to keep them formal are seemingly too high. Auditors, taxes, penalties and internal transfer taxes abound in this ever-expanding swamp.
A CLOSING THOUGHT
Relationships are still key. All of our businesses are looking regional and it's actually forcing us to adopt scalable models. It's a good lesson: build it in from the beginning and when it comes time to scale, making that shift is not so insurmountable.
Thanks for reading! We’ll talk to you soon.
Tim, Tommy & the rockstars on the Emerging Ideas team
(photo via cifor)