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:
2013 Annual Review
2014 Annual Review
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 exactly two 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 cash flow positive. So we’ll file that in a list of projects on our site.
Ok enough of that…
So here is our 2015 Quarter 3 report. Enjoy!
CMEDIA—VIDEO PRODUCTION COMPANY
CMedia continues to crush it like Schweppes fresh squeezed orange soda. Speaking of Schweppes, we’ve been filming in their orange groves in southern Zimbabwe this month. The customer trend with CMedia is growing steadily. The team is hungry, firing on all cylinders, and our clients catch the ethos of what we’re creating—giving us more creative license to do what we do best. We have a number of nice partnerships taking shape regionally that will expand our client base into a few new nations in 2016. Look out for the new CMedia Africa re-brand which we collaborated on with an zimbo living in California—our good friend Danny H! We have a few TV show concepts in the works that we’ve begun seeking funding for. You’ll be able to see how that works out in our next update.
Our Kilimanjaro Documentary that we did in conjunction with celebrate.org won top film documentary at the 2015 Zimbabwe International Film Festival. A great honour and surprise. Our Director of Photography, Ben Deuschle, deserves all the credit as he did the majority of the filming in the harsh conditions alongside the mountain. All of the proceeds of this film are going to build a new orphan community in Harare, Zimbabwe with one of our nonprofit partners, Compassion Ministries. To view the film in its entirety for free, click here.
COTRADE—MINING SUPPLIES & DUST SUPRESSION
Each quarter’s update brings an interesting reflection on the mining industry in Zimbabwe. With the nationalization of the major mining operations and the current economic climate, cash flows are challenging to say it mildly. Cotrade is on the projected schedules for the largest mines in the country. This is a projected 5-7 year plan for what the mining companies plan to implement, build, and purchase. It’s a waiting game and you have to work the relationships from the top of the food chain and from the bottom. This is a seesaw type of relationship effort. You make friends with people who can influence the decision makers. Then when they seek research and input from their team, you must have influenced the researchers and influencers that manage the company lower on the hierarchal chart. We’ll see if our efforts prove fruitful and then make future decisions based on early 2016 project revenues.
There are lots of offshoots of new innovative products that Gift and his team are looking into. From drilling through bedrock and offering clean water solutions to a new compounding agent that bonds dust particles together. Gift is sharp and we trust him to navigate the unstable industry here, which seems to be the only constant at this time.
EDUCATE—MICROFINANCING FOR SCHOOL FEES
Terrence, Gerald and their team continue to pound the beaches as they seek funding for their micro-finance education startup. They have many conversations happening concurrently with hopeful parties. We continue to be impressed with their grasp of their market and the product they are offering is top notch—a solution for children to get educated with affordable payback plans. This business has the opportunity to explode, but will need a serious cash injection to do so. The fundraising process has gone slow. Yet new relationships and breakthroughs happen consistently over time. Even amidst the constrained capital markets, Educate has never missed a payment or defaulted. Their payback rate from their customers is unheard of. We’re bullish on Educate and the team. When they have stock, buy it.
PITCH NIGHT ZIMBABWE
Pitch Nights can be likened to a ship that has fearless pirates directing its course. Costa Nyanzero attended the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi and came back with new ideas and a new "guff". We recently heard that someone from Malawi attended our Pitch Nights and has started the same thing in the capital city in Malawi. Which is great! We've loaded a few new sponsors on deck and they're adding some very new pieces of value that we know will benefit the community in the coming months.
It's been in the works for a while, but now it's a go. Finally the papers are signed and the infrastructure piece will start right after the rains. Look out for more updates on this, but it could be one of the biggest projects we've ever embarked on.
As our deal flow continues to increase, we are sensing the increased need and possibility of a funding mechanism. We’ve been thinking about this for years, but believe in the next 18-24 months, we will see this as a reality in our strategy.
CONSTRAINTS—ARE THEY BEAUTIFUL?
This past quarter has been tough and trying on most of our entrepreneurs. Certain power grids experience 72 hour power cuts with a few hours of power in the middle of the night. It’s hard to do business when all you can think about is trying to sustain life in such an environment.
Our team members have experienced car accidents, funding deals not matriculating, some of their largest months in terms of cashflow, and stalled project proposals. Doing business here is literally a roller coaster. But with a strong vision, strong team, and steeled determination, perseverance prevails here.
We choose to view the infrastructure constraints as positive. There’s nothing we can directly do at this time to control these variables. So we work around them and make plans to work them into our contingency plans. This allows us to more often than not, see the humor in the situations, versus throwing in the towel. Don’t get me wrong, we feel negative toward these hurdles daily. That’s why we’re working now to be able to make a dent in these larger issues in the coming future.
As is the nature in anything when you’re starting out, it just takes time. It will take time for outside investors to trust entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe and as financing happens, it will take consistent good results for that trust to be strengthened. It’s a long-term play, but building, developing, and ultimately sustaining is not easy or quick work.
Things slow down significantly over Christmas and the New Year, but we'll have our projects in positions that when things slow down, the conversations and momentum carry over into 2016. That takes discipline and a lot of communication this time of the year. But it’s worth it and allows us and our teams to spend valuable time with family over the holidays.
Things continue to move forward at a nice pace. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to drop us a note by hitting reply (if this is in your email) or by hopping over to twitter and saying hello. We look forward to connecting with you.
Tommy & Tim and the rest of the growing Emerging Ideas family
(photo via hartwig hkd)