You sat down one evening watching the news and there was this feature in the news of how farmers, excuse my manners, smallholder farmers are being exploited along the whole value chain; from inputs supply to production, marketing.
You tossed and turned in bed that night and at the end came up with an amazing ICT based solution that could revolutionise agriculture and help the farmers needs. In the next couple of days you developed a proposal and worked to ensure all the dots were crossed and so was your pitch deck. It was perfect. The investors gave a money nod to it and implementation took its course. You were elated.Everything was already lining up until a year down the line and you had not achieved any of your set goals.
The ripple effect followed which saw investors pull out. The investors pool is now dry and your are trying to figure out where and how you went wrong. This post if for you and so it is for the newbies thinking of venturing in the world of ICT4ag projects. As Bill Gates puts it across, its fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed to the lessons of failure.
Ten Reasons Why Your ICT4ag Project Failed
You Never Spoke to Farmers
Your idea was good on paper and this blinded you from speaking to the farmers to establish whether your project was really addressing a challenge/problem they had. Better still if they needed the solution. Were you solving an existing problem or did you create one in your mind?
Fix: Start from the farm before creating the solution. Talk to farmers and learn what their challenges are. Only then can you be in a better place to create a solution to improve their livelihoods.
You Business model was Flawed
For every business venture you partake, four key elements come into play, that is the price, the product, the place, and the promotion. Basically, is it clear as to what you are selling (product or service) , to whom you are selling (the target audience) , where you are selling (the place) and how you will ensure the product reaches your target customer (promotion). More often than not you will find new venture model swaying around and going with what comes their way.
Fix: From the onset, be clear on what/where your income will come from. Are you selling a product or a service. Who will you be selling it to? How much will you be selling it at?
The basic rule to making a profit or breaking even in any business is to keep your overheads at a bare minimum. So if as a startup, for lack of a better word, you spend more on rent and acquiring posh furniture then you are headed for failure. I once worked as a junior accountant at a manufacturing firm which was housed in a godown. The place was so rugged that you couldn’t tell where the door was but need i tell you what their turnover was in a day?
Fix: Set your priorities right in the beginning , the big holidays, cars, houses will all come into play when you have proven that your project is viable, feasible and so has the potential of not only being scaled but also repeatable.
Wrong team for the wrong Job
I get it that you are the fly by the seats of your pants kind of person. You hire people in restaurants , coffee shops even on taxi rides because that burn rate has to be achieved. This is what ends you in hiring an agronomist for a dairy based project. What (s)he gonna do with the cows? Detect diseases in the rumen?
Fix: Hire the right people for the right job. I once heard an investor giving advice that its best to hire young people on a low salary given that you are a startup. Just ensure you give them responsibilities and exposure and they will feel like they are working for the whole team. Additionally, hire because you need a service . Don’t do it for the sake of it.
Spreading yourself too thin
You started with a marketing idea but later on one farmer shared with you the unassuming details of his soil health. After solving the issue you took it as a cue to venture into soil testing and so came the distribution and promotion end of it. You have no idea where you suit best.
Fix: Stick to one end of your business chain. There is a reason why big corporations stick to one end of their business and do it to their level best.
Do it all
What’s delegation? You’ve never heard of that word. Someone must have torn that page from your dictionary. You know every crook of what happens in your business. And your employees report every single day to the office with no clue of how the day will unfold.
Fix: Let go of some duties a little so that you are able to think clearly. Set goals and deliverables to each of your employees to hold them accountable. At the end of it all, nothing is permanent in this life and your startup is no exception.
Instead of testing and proving your business will work, you are busy looking for more funding before your current pool dries up.
Fix: Baby steps and work on one thing at a time. Build it first and they will come.
The allure of tech savviness
We are in the digital age and so everything you create has to be tech savvy. And how can a product be taken to the market without being accompanied by a mobile app? You relentlessly ask yourself. Never mind your target market if in the rural confines and network connections is a story on its own.
Fix: Both traditional and modern means of communication can be effective in reaching your target market. Ask yourself whether your target audience is tech savvy, are they literate? Will they afford the costs related to your tech product?
Fame and Networks
You concentrate so much on having your name out there from media station A-Z and you forget to focus on creating real networks. Real people who will offer you and your company the greatest advice. There is an old saying that empty vessels make the loudest sounds.
Fix: Focus on building networks of people who can help propel you in the right direction. Fame will come looking for you.
You loathe failure
You have no patience to learn from failure or mistakes. As soon as you notice one thing is not working you move on to the next and the next till you hit the jackpot on success . Sorry to tell you that that is never the case. Dependent on the stage your project is, failure is bound to come along. If you are in the ideation stage, you are basically proving if your idea is feasible, desirable or viable. If it doesn’t work let it set some precedent on how to go about the next stage.
Fix: Learn to embrace failure and better still fail forward. Look keenly at why the solution never worked and put your efforts into ensuring you never repeat the same.