How Data Analytics And Other Smart Technologies Can Help Improve African Healthcare Systems

Nzekwe Henry September 25

As indicated by recent reports from the United Nations, there has been an outbreak of cholera in North-Eastern Nigeria which is believed to have claimed the lives of nearly 100 people in the last two weeks.

According to these reports, over 3,000 cases of cholera have been recorded in Yobe and Borno; two Nigerian states that can be thought of as worse bit by the well-documented Boko Haram insurgency.

Figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) make for gloomy reading. There has been a total of 3,126 recorded cases of the disease with 97 fatalities already taken into account since the disease first broke out a fortnight ago in Borno, where people, numbering in hundreds of thousands, are known to be currently taking refuge in Internally-Displaced Persons (IDP) camps as a result of the violence erupted by the insurgency.

Since the turn of the year, it is reported that the death toll due to cholera outbreaks in the Lake Chad region is over 500 – a figure that is believed to represent the worst outbreak of the disease in four years. With heavy rains and flooding rampant this time of year — which serves up an ideal environment for the spread of the disease — it is feared that up to six million people might be at risk. And that might be just for starters.

Recent reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo indicate a worrying and troubling development. It appears there is now confirmation of a new case of Ebola on the country’s border with Uganda. The new case of the virus is reported to have occurred almost 200 km away from the nearest other known case in Congo’s most recent Ebola outbreak, which is believed to have claimed up to 97 lives since July and infected another 46 in the country’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces.

The same disease is known to have killed over 11,000 people in West Africa between 2014 and 2016, with statistics hinting at a disturbing fatality rate of 40% of all the reported cases. African countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Liberia were bedeviled by the virus, which eventually found its way to the UK, US, and Spain.

With these in mind, the assertion that the healthcare system in parts of Africa is both inefficient and inadequate might not be very far from the truth. It is reactive rather than proactive, at best. The most recent cases of cholera and Ebola make good pointers. These diseases are anything but first-timers; bodies have been left behind in their wake in the past. And it does worry to think about how many more lives will have to be lost before a there is a return to the drawing board and proactive measures are put in place to forestall future occurrence of epidemics and pandemics which the continent appears to be very susceptible to.

What if we could have caught wind of these disease outbreaks months before it did happen? Wouldn’t that buy us some time to take preemptive steps toward curtailing its spread? Think about that. This informs the need to ditch the old ways and embrace newer, reliable, and more efficient ways of keeping diseases at bay — proactive measures that can, at the very least, significantly curb the spread of disease if not completely prevent them. And smart technologies might just provide the answer.

Terms like data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, are regarded in some circles as the stuff of geeks with no real practical use or problem-solving application in the real world — perhaps, just another fad that will keep the tech scene abuzz for a couple of years and then fade out just as soon as the next one shows up. There may even be individuals who feel like they might wince or gag the next time they hear those three terms, having heard them being mentioned far too often without even the slightest idea what they entail.

Be that as it may, this may be a chance to learn about some ways in which these smart technologies can come in handy in solving some of the world’s problems — especially those ones associated with epidemics and pandemics.

By leveraging smart technologies, there is a good chance that the carnage and devastation left behind by the spate of killer diseases in parts of Africa and the rest of the world in the past can be significantly reduced. These technologies can do a good job of providing a heads up with regards to the imminent outbreaks of diseases that can potentially hurt a significant demography. They have the capacity to put health bodies in the know beforehand as per looming epidemics, thus helping to direct and channel preemptive efforts to areas that are at most risk or in most need, which could imply the reduction of the impact of the disease, if not its entire prevention.

By utilizing the full potential that comes with accessing large amounts of data, the computational power that is required for the storage and analysis of the data accessed in real-time, as well as the complex algorithms that are adept at identifying data patterns, health authorities can be alerted of looming problems before they escalate into full-blown disasters. Essentially, disease outbreaks that have gone on to become epidemics and even pandemics in the past can be effectively reduced to isolated cases through the adoption of smart technologies.

Advanced data analytics, on its own part, can help bring about better patient treatment, cost savings, and more effective distribution of resources — which could prove helpful in the management of both long-term and short-term diseases, as well as pandemics.

The efficacy of data analytics at predicting disease outbreaks is anything but a bogus claim as it may be worthwhile to note that x-raying streams of data obtained from social media platforms, online forums, and keyword searches, is believed to have weighed in significantly in predicting the 2012-2013 U.S. flu season a good three months before the first official warning was put out by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Having said that, it becomes all the more interesting when some thought is given to the kind of impact such an analytical power would have if it is leveraged across the global healthcare system — right down to the individual level.

The Evolution Of Data

Africa, like every developing ecosystem, has favored the manually-intensive, paper-based systems in the record of infections and deaths that accompany major disease outbreaks. This system can be said to be flawed not only because errors are bound to occur but also because it is difficult to clearly understand the reach and impact of these disease outbreaks since the data collected often proves historical and anecdotal at best.

A case for the adoption of smart technologies could be built by citing the earlier mentioned outbreak of Ebola where health workers were mandated by the CDC to instantly submit information connected to the outbreak via text messages in a mobile data collection system. Even though the adoption of this low-cost system came with fewer errors as one of its perks, a bigger achievement came in the form of the detailed maps and population movements information which made it easy for analysts to have a handle on which areas were at most risk and where treatment centers should be set up.

While this approach certainly represented an upgrade from what used to be the case with the paper-based systems of the past, it did have its own Achilles Heel. The mobile data system is more or less historic, and it is not exactly efficient at providing real-time data on population movements that can serve to keep tabs on the developments. This weakness can be thought to have propelled the creation of more reliable systems.

Data-Driven Action

Despite the best efforts and promises of the mobile data system, the glaring truth remains that mobile devices represent just one data source, out of what seems like a plethora of them. Social media, keyword searches, airline ticket sales, media reports, health and physician reports, transactional data from retailers and pharmacies, as well as geospatial data and a number of others, are amongst examples of data sources that can be referred to by health authorities in today’s world.

These data sources can function to point them in the right direction and trigger action that will serve to not only better manage diseases and outbreaks when they do occur, but also see them coming beforehand. And possibly draw up an impact assessment on the amount of damage that could be done if nothing is done to forestall — some sort of doomsday prognosis if a solution is not sought.

By leveraging smart technologies, both structured and unstructured data can be mined, and this can help health authorities keep tabs on infected populations, as well as who they come in contact with, especially in the case of contagious diseases like Ebola.

These technologies can also allow for the measurement of the success of containment policies, as well as education campaigns and treatments, while also giving an indication of the next line of action if efforts have seemed abortive and futile. They could as well give an insight as per the connection of diseases with environmental factors, and direct corrective action accordingly. Through such a system, we might finally be able to act on information to save lives through better understanding and treatment of diseases, and not through gathering the ruins in the aftermath of pandemics.

Customized Treatments

Until recently, the norm has largely been to extrapolate one standard procedure and incorporate it into the treatment of all cases of a particular infirmity, say cancer or HIV, with little regard for the peculiarities of some cases and the unique medical and health profiles of some individuals. It is not out of place to assert that there exist treatments which are largely regarded as routine and standard but still come up short when administered to certain individuals. And perhaps until recently, this may have been little understood.

But this does not have to be the case as smart technologies like data analytics boast the potential to analyze and create what can be called ‘medical maps’, by taking into cognizance, such biological aspects as chemical composition, physiology, DNA, RNA, and similar others. This can aid health professionals in administering treatments that are attuned to the unique therapeutic needs of each patient, thereby yielding optimum results.

Data analytics can also be beneficial to healthcare in a number of other ways which include the following;

  • The data obtained can aid governments in the development of proactive measures towards the promotion and protection of the health of the populace. Through this means, services can also be prioritized with a view to cutting costs and making sure healthcare reach more citizens.
  • Through the adoption of personalized therapy, effective treatments and faster results will be the case for patients and this will also bring about fewer hospital admissions.
  • Data analytics can help cultivate a better understanding of the impact of lifestyle and diet on health. And medical aid providers can leverage this information as a point of reference. This can help them educate individuals with a view to improving their health and wellbeing, and this could imply lower medical bills.
  • Data analytics can layout a pathway to novel innovations and spark insights that can ultimately bring about improvements in treatment outcomes. Medical researchers can be furnished with vital knowledge regarding the genetics of disease-causing germs. This is because data analytics can handle such details as studying data and results obtained from clinical trials, as well as juxtapose the said data with that gotten from academia, industry, and patient records. This may well spark the next big idea in the world of medicine.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) And Machine Learning

As data analytics continue to be increasingly enmeshed with machine learning, intelligent algorithms, and natural language processing, it is something of a given that the efforts of humans in the area of producing faster and more accurate medical diagnostics are expected to be increasingly supplemented by technological innovations.

This notion is supported by the idea that artificial intelligence is already being deployed in medicine where it is seeing some use in the identification of different types of cancer, as well as in the prediction of relapse in cases of leukemia.

Machine learning can aid the extraction of valuable information from staggering amounts of unstructured data which are obtainable from such sources as clinical notes, academic journals, and even scholarly articles. This can lead to the provision of even larger datasets that can potentially transform the medical industry into a proactive entity from its largely reactive stance.

Many a doomsday theorist are quick to hint at the idea that we might be in for a machine invasion and that all these technologies may one day supersede our intelligence and rise against us. We can, however, only wish for more of such stories about the potentials that are yet untapped in data analytics, AI and machine learning.

These smart technologies have an important role to play as they can augment human knowledge and skills with a view to fostering developments that can spark significant improvements in the lives of individuals. At this point, it seems more likely that the machines will actually change our lives for the better and make things a whole lot easier for everyone.

What You Should Know About Google Hangouts’ Rumored Shutdown

Andrew Christian December 9

Sources familiar with the tech giant’s product’s internal roadmap have reported that 2019 will be the last year for Google Hangouts, as the company plans to shut it down by the year 2020. The development, to nearly no one’s surprise, is a reiteration which accompanies the company’s apparent decision to hold off on further developments on the app more than a year ago.

Google had previously announced its pivot for the Hangouts brand for enterprise use scenarios with Hangout Chat and Hangout Meet, so it has been telling for a while that the consumer app would soon cease to exist. With the abandonment of Google Hangouts concerning development and its presumed final extinction, many entrepreneurs have begun charting a course away from the app, even though it will remain a prominent official chat option in Gmail on the web – continuing on the Google Play Store even now. In line with recent reviews, the app has shown signs of ageing which are evident in its display of bugs and performance glitches.

Hangout as a brand will remain with G Suite’s Hangout Chat and Hangouts Meet, with the former tailored for Slack app-comparable team communication and the latter as a video meetings platform. In the same line, Google Voice calling, which was initially independent and then integrated into Hangouts, was restored to its own redesigned app earlier this year.

Worthy of interest is that in spite of its inevitable axing, Hangouts was one of the few apps to receive early support for Android Auto’s new MMS and RCS functionality, alongside Whatsapp and Android Messages.

Nonetheless, Google’s Scott Johnson has chimed in on this development and denied any decision being made about the timeline of legacy Hangouts’ shutdown. He did confirm that users of consumer Hangouts will somehow be upgraded to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, both of which have been presented as enterprise-focused products that fill different needs. Scott also confirmed rather explicitly that Hangouts Classic, which is the subject of this development, will eventually be “shutting down’. Meanwhile, there are sources which corroborate the initial report, informing that decisions have been made for the depreciation of legacy Hangouts.

Most of us consider the Chat and Meet to be more business-focused products, and these plans make the situation seem as though they could have more of a consumer-facing component in the future. For entrepreneurs who have continued to use Hangouts, and who are now coming to rely on Slack or Discord style at-mentions, having such features in Hangouts may be somewhat snazzy. If the rumour of Hangouts’ death or transition are true or have been exaggerated, it wouldn’t matter so much if the new upgrades come with those new features.

Meanwhile, another source reports that Google provided an update on its current efforts, and now focuses moving towards a simpler communication experience. Starting on the consumer front, Google has “decided to stop supporting Allo to focus on Messages.” In April this year, Google only noted that it was “holding off investment” on Allo, but the tech giant confirmed that the service is about to get the sunset. Allo will be available until March 2019, with the service continuing to work until then; disregarding today’s downtime. Google has furnished us with details on how users can export existing conversation history from the app.

Google Hangouts, for as long as it has been in use, hasn’t disappointed entrepreneurs, as it can be a great asset to a company of any size – even more ideal for smaller businesses and startups. The app allows you to connect with employees easily, business colleagues and clients via calls and video chat making it seamless for those who travel or work from home. Hangouts also afford companies the flexibility of connection form virtually any smart device. Users can also, during chats, share files via Google Drive, stream live broadcast, participate in webinars and hold staff meetings amongst many more.

As customers will be able to review your business as an accessible one that cares about customer satisfaction, using Google Hangouts is a marketing strategy with all the makings of greatness. With weekly/monthly question and answer sessions, customer chats and feedback reception, you can not only appeal to customers but receive immediate interactions that can help you develop a more robust marketing strategy. Taylor Swift hosted a Google+ Hangout to announce her new album, and with the medium, she was able to reach fans from all over the world – making her song hit number one right after its release.

This goes to say that Hangouts is a great way to make business announcements such as funding rounds, product launches, expansion or any other news that customers may be interested in. The app is also useful in holding online staff meetings, and conference calls with important clients even while you are in transit.

We are yet to find out the actual features that will come with the storied Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet as replacements to the authority-building, customer-gathering, engaging, and collaborative Google Hangouts. 2020 is more than a year from now, so while Sundar Pichai and his team of techies decide the fate of this G Suite member, we still have no less than 12 months to enjoy the existing chat room app.

Nigeria’s Logistics Startup Kobo360 Raises USD 6 Mn From World Bank’s IFC

Andrew Christian December 7

Nigeria’s Uber-like trucking logistics startup Kobo360 has raised USD 6 Mn in its second investment round this year. The equity financing which was gained from World Bank ’s sister organization IFC, will help the company upgrade its e-logistics platform and spread its tentacles to Ghana, Togo and Ivory Coast.

This recent investment for Kobo360, which also involved efforts from other platforms such as TLom Capital and Y Combinator, will be used by the startup to become more than just a transit app. The founder, Obi Ozor, told Techcrunch that the company broke into the logistics market as an app that connects truckers and companies with freight needs, but now looks to build a global logistics operating system and become a full-fledged platform.

While bridging the gap between truckers, producers and distributors, Kobo360 is now chomping at bit to build the platform that will offer supply chain management tools for enterprise customers. In a statement, Ozor revealed that large firms are now demanding for movement, tracking and sales-related specific features, which is why the startup is looking to leverage two options – integrate other services such as SAP into Kobo or building the solutions directly into the e-logistics platform.

With this new investment round, the startup will sally forth with the said upgrade by developing its API and opening it up to for the use to large enterprise customers. With the intent for clients to use Kobo360’s dashboard for everything from moving goods, tracking, sales and accounting, the platform wishes to tackle the challenges faced by its customers.

It is also reported that the company will forge a more physical Nigerian presence in order to serve its customers better. Concerned about truck movements and monitoring, helping operation’s collect proof of delivery and accessing trucker owners more closely for inspection and training purposes, Kobo360 is poised to launch 100 hubs before the end of 2019, according to its founder.

The startup, remaining “aggressively” focused on reducing logistics friction for large enterprises and SMEs alike, alongside connecting new markets and unlock better community wellbeing, will add more warehousing capabilities to support its reverse logistics business. By matching trucks with return freight after they drop their loads, Kobo360 will bring down prices and eliminate the return-empty challenge facing its customers.

In a statement, the IFC enthused that the company currently has over 5000 trucks empanelled on its platform, from more than 600 small fleet owners, serving some of the largest enterprises in Nigeria. Kobo360 told Techcrunch in January that it is looking to add 20,000 trucks to its platform and latch on to the expansion which is now made possible by its USD 6 Mn raise. According to the founder, the expansion, which is scheduled to take off in 2019, will be with existing customers – one in the port operations business, another in FMCG and the last in agriculture.

As a matter of strategic priority, the funding, which was announced by both parties on the eve of the opening of the IFC’s Next 100 African Startups Initiative, will be used by the startup to also expand programs and services for its driver members. Along this line, Ozor remarked that neglecting drivers would crumble the company to a pile of issues while iterating that the same loophole hinders ride-hailing companies from becoming trillion-dollar enterprises.

Because owning trucks may be too cumbersome to handle, Ozor opines that the best scalable model is to aggregate trucks, while handling more volume at cheaper prices to leverage the startup’s asset-free digital platform and business model to outpace traditional long-haul 3PL providers in Nigeria.

According to a Weetracker report, Kobo360 raised USD 1.2 Mn in June this year from U.S venture capital firm Western Technology Investment and became a Y-Combinator cohort, while receiving USD 120 K equity investment from the seed fund. The logistics startup, which has served 900 businesses, aggregated a fleet of 8000 drivers and moved 155 million kilograms, is welcoming IFC’s regional head for Africa, Wale Ayeni and TLcom’s senior partner Omobola Johnson to take seats at its board.

Kobo360 also offers training and programs on insurance, discount petrol and vehicle financing to its drivers. The startup has also created an HMO for drivers, alongside an incentive-based program to afford education, which is monikered as KoboCare. The company’s top clients include Honeywell, Dangote, Unilever, Olam and DHL.

 

Featured Image Courtesy: Macktrucks

South Africa’s Naked Insurance Scores Additional USD 2 Mn Investment

Nzekwe Henry December 6

Johannesburg-based artificial intelligence-driven car insurance provider, Naked Insurance has secured additional USD 2.2 Mn K to grow its team, ramp up customer acquisitions and expand into new short-term insurance product categories.

After the company’s success at meeting key milestones, two venture capitalists; Yellowwoods and Hollard, have invested additional funding in the startup to enable the company to accelerate its growth and expand into new product lines.

“We are proud to receive this vote in confidence from our investors and look forward to rolling out new products in response to customer demand,” says Naked co-founder, Alex Thomson.

The contrivance by actuaries Thomson, Sumarie Greybe, and Ernest North, Naked leverages AI and automation to lower costs, puts customers in the cockpit of their insurance experience, reduces fraud and enhances insurance as a social good. Customers can afford to go online and get a final insurance quote for their vehicles in less than 90 seconds without having to fuss with a center agent.

“We’re delighted by the response our insurance offering has received from the market. Our proposition of putting the customer in control, value for money and customer fairness is resonating with connected customers who are looking for a better car insurance experience”, Thompson enthused.

Naked’s offering is built on the latest technology, free from legacy costs. Innovations in how Naked reaches its customers mean that it has lower sales and servicing costs, enabling it to offer lower premiums to the customer.

In dissimilarity to traditional insurers, Naked takes a fixed portion of premiums to run the business, with the balance going into a pool to cover claims. Naked’s income doesn’t depend on whether claims are paid or not. This business model resolves the inherent conflict of interest in traditional insurance: that paying fewer claims results in higher profits for the insurer. Money left over in the claims pool goes to charities nominated by customers rather than towards company profits.

Instead of filling in forms and phoning call centres, customers can use the Naked mobile app – available for Apple iOS and Android – to manage their policies and claim after an incident. The app includes functionality such as Naked CoverPause™, an innovation which gives customers the ability to pause their accident cover if the car won’t be used for a day or more – instantly reducing the premium for that time. Naked uses AI to pay valid claims quickly and repudiate fraudulent or invalid claims to the benefit of its customers.

According to Nic Kohler, Head of Insurance at Yellowwoods, “We are proud investors in Naked because we embrace innovation that delivers an improved customer experience and enhances fairness for policyholders. Its strong performance over the past six months validates its business model, giving us confidence in its ability to drive further growth and innovation in the months to come.”

 

Here’s How To Craft A Winning Startup Business Plan

Nzekwe Henry December 5

A kickass business plan can be to a startup what a winning game plan is to a soccer team. Starting a business is serious business and you don’t want to go in blindsided or unprepared. Much like a game of soccer, it is important to do your homework with regards to what you are up against and collect all the information available on how to develop a winning strategy. This will give up you a heads-up, as well as brace you up against the pitfalls.

Business plans of existing companies are heavy on such aspects as setting overall goals, evaluating new products, assessing new technology in the industry, reviewing specific operations, and a number of other equally important details. For a startup, however, it’s kind of a slightly different ball game.

The business plan of a startup is essentially the schematic for its formation, operation, and success. And this is why startups are advised to not circumvent this process by taking the shorter but dangerous route that is devoid of this critical aspect. That is to say, nothing less than adequate attention ought to be given to this detail.

Here’s what a business plan does for a new company; it serves up a good idea of its strengths and weaknesses. It also exposes ways through which the strengths of the business can be built upon and the weaknesses eroded. A startup business plan lifts the lid on every aspect of the business that can be developed and highlights the best ways to bring about those developments. In your quest for the winners’ medal, you need nothing short of a well thought-out and laid-out plan.

It’s easy to lose sight of the true magnitude of the quest ahead, it’s even much easier to be bursting at the seams to hit the ground running already. But a Kamikaze approach won’t do you much good in business. If anything, it sure is one way to plunge into the deep end. And you don’t want to be there, trust me.

Sure, putting together a solid business plan does require a lot of time, thought and effort – there’s no getting around that. At some point, it may even seem like the albatross that is keeping you from going big, but you must realize that this is a vital ingredient that is on the menu of success for today’s businesses.

In today’s ultra-competitive world, a premium is placed on gathering all the related information and evaluating them before throwing your doors open. You are in much better stead to compete, thrive, and succeed in the current business climate with a business plan that checks all the boxes. This is not one of those times when you get to cross the bridge as you reach it, you may never even get as far as the bridge without the well-oiled machine that is a well-constructed business plan.

I get it; most entrepreneurs are practical, hands-on people with very little tolerance theoretical planning but you can’t afford to take a pass on this one because it may well prove the difference between success and failure in the grandest scheme of things. Fair enough, researching and putting together a business plan is quite the task but you can make it that bit easier for yourself with some preparation. Here’s a perk; walking through the process can help you better understand your business, boost your chances of success, and whittle down the risk of failure as a startup owner.

There are several issues that ought to be taken care of before going ahead with putting together a business plan that can hold its own. While it may not exactly be possible to cover all those details within the scope of this text, there exists a basic checklist with which you can cross-reference as a way of setting yourself on the right course.

As an aspiring startup founder, you may have already had run-ins, however briefly, with such aspects as vesting, business objectives, mission statement, keys to success, industry analysis, market analysis, competitor analysis, strategies, marketing plans, management, organizational structure, operations, financial pro formas, break-even analysis, and financial requirement.

But no worries if most of them sound them like abstract terms to you. Writing a business plan for your startup is no rocket science, it’s largely a straightforward process that you can walk yourself through step-by-step, all the way to the finish line. Depending on the scope of your business, the entire process can take between a few weeks to a couple of months. Just pay attention to the following details.

Professionalism In Presentation Is Key

There is hardly any single standardized and adopted format for writing a business plan. In most cases, the format of a business plan is dictated by the nature of the business, and this implies that certain details are given more attention than others in some business plans.

It is also common for business owners to be the main architects (though not necessarily the only ones) of their business plans since they have better grips on the operations of the business and its management, as well as having learnt what elements to include to make the best possible impressions.

What is ideal for a startup is a business plan that highlights its best features and as such, it is best to organize the business plan with the logical development of the business plan in mind. And in view of that, there are at least a dozen basic components – namely;

  1. Executive Summary: A summary of the key elements of your business.
  2. Company Description: An introduction of your company and your business concept to your readers.
  3. Industry analysis: A insight into your industry and the position of your business within the larger mechanism.
  4. Market and Competition: Basically an evaluation of what you are getting into. While it is not uncommon to have some business plan proponents place market and competition in separate categories, you can’t come to an accurate conclusion on a vital component: your market share, without studying both together. Hence, best practices entail examining and presenting them together.
  5. Strategies and Goals: An analysis of the market and your competition so as to determine how and where your company or products or services fit, as well as broaden your position with your target market.
  6. Products or Services: A description of your products or services and how they match the findings of your strategies and goals.
  7. Marketing and Sales: A statement of how you will market your products or services with the best positioning, as well as an attempt to forecast your sales based on the results obtained from categories four, five, and six, in that order.
  8. Management and Organization: This entails highlighting the management and personnel that will be calling the shots.
  9. Operations: An explanation of how the business will be run.
  10. Financial Pro Formas: This is essentially a forecast for successful financial performance for all activities. A projection or estimation of the financial implications for when things go mostly right.
  11. Financial Requirement: This is an elucidation on the type and amount of financing needed, based on the previous sections, to bring the whole plan into fruition.
  12. Exhibits: This marks the conclusion of the plan. This is where supporting materials that would otherwise make the “story” disjointed and incoherent are featured.

A startup business plan that is written by an individual who knows his onions will feature the lot of these basic sections systematically laid out in the order of the outline. Most of the segments highlighted will also be outlined in the same order of presentation, with slight variations to be expected depending on the nature of the business.

If you have set out to put together an attractive business plan for your startup with the aim of scoring capital investments, you may need to tweak the financial requirement section somewhat so as to include a loan request or an investment offering proposal.

Don’t let the business plan process scare you out of your wits, embrace it! Armed with preparation, knowledge and these insider tips, you are well on your way to creating a flawless and foolproof business plan that has all it takes to hit pay dirt. And planning shouldn’t be such a big ask anyway – you know what they say; failing to plan is planning to fail.

 

 

Image Credit: Shutterstock

No Power? No Problem! This Nigerian Engineer Is Making Ironing Possible Without Electricity

Andrew Christian December 5

Have you ever wanted to look dandy and gilt-edged for an occasion, looking to rock your hairsplitting and genteel piece of fabric, only to be done a number by a faulty iron, mind-of-its-own fuse box, or iffy house wiring?

You have envisioned that wedding ceremony for so long, and your role as best man or chief bridesmaid is to be the apogee of your friendship with the ‘to-wed’. You barked up the wrong tree by placing all your certitude in the dry cleaner just around the corner, and now you have your tail between your legs as you don’t want to bring your lifelong bestie to naught with your shabby, uneven and squeezed looks.

You sure don’t want to attend that ‘press’ conference looking like you haven’t gone out in months, and that big presentation with potential investors needs a good-look first impression else your pitch is toast and parch. Well-ironed clothes speak volumes of coordination, dress sense, regard, exposure, personality, and mindset.

But when the electric iron disenchants that premise and stands you up, what do you do? When the power grid inadvertently or accidentally shuts down to everyone’s vilification, does it mean you will grace that big occasion with oddly-scrunched clothes or casual alternatives?

Ayokunle Adeniran was in the same dilemma when he was to meet his father at a Nigerian Airport back in 2012. Certainly, beeline to not keep him waiting, the young Nigerian engineer got frustrated when he couldn’t get to iron the perfect shirt he thought to attire in because of the unexpected and, in fact, disturbing power outage in his neighborhood. Long story short; he had to change his choice of clothes that day because there was no way to remove all the creases and get the shirt straightened as he would have liked – that really upset him by the way.

As necessity is the mother of all inventions, rather than letting the muddle get the very best of him, Adeniran summoned his thoughts and asked himself how he could make an impact in the Engineering field with respect to the rumpled shirt crisis that annoyed him. Instead of sulking over the frustration brought about by the inconvenience caused by ruining the big day with his Dad, he decided to take some steps to invent a kind of pressing-iron that could work without electricity.

There is no gainsaying that constant power supply is yet a mirage to many parts of Africa. This Nigerian engineer who schooled at Covenant University, where he studied Mechanical Engineering, started seeking the best ways he could innovatively come up with a kind of iron that would run without grid electricity. And thus was the provenance of what we today know as Nepaless Iron.

Breaking away from the reliance of volts and bolts, the young graduate built the iron to run on cooking gas – also called butane. A gas canister provides the needed energy to power the device. There are actually six canisters in each gas cartridge, each of which can last for about a fortnight worth of daily ironing. That means, all things being equal, this invention by ‘Sean’ (as he is fondly called by his friends) can render 40 clothes into well-pressed outfits in a row.

The moniker ‘Nepaless’ given to this invention is coined from two words; NEPA – which is a lodged-in-the-brain acronym for the National Electric Power Authority in Nigeria despite being rebranded to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) – and ‘less’ – an English suffix that announces ‘without.’ The Nepaless Iron surely doesn’t need the go-ahead of the power authorities and can press clothes efficiently, making the name no short of a significant and accurate description.

Image result for ayokunle adeniran

The Nepaless Iron (Courtesy: Techuniport)

In Nigeria, the butane canisters this invention uses go for NGN 120.00 (about USD 0.30) – which is a no-brainer for corporate workers and gentlemen and women living in areas struggling with power challenges. The iron, whose first prototype took about two years to complete, is a user-friendly product because the design is centered around user ergonomics while being tailored to function in most habitable environmental conditions – making it very reliable.

The said canisters are being manufactured by a company in China, but at the same time, provisions are being made to facilitate its local production in Nigeria. The projected calculation rate is judged to serve all functioning irons to a fault, along with a recycling process that makes it possible for users to get discounts on recycled canisters.

This breakthrough invention didn’t come without its own set of hurdles and red-faced moments, as Adeniran revealed that time came when he grew tuckered out and drained at the feet of the invention, almost deciding to discontinue the process.

Due to how demanding the project was and the stress it burdened on him, he once decided to put it all aside and continue with his life. But later on, he picked back up and checkered his pace, learning on what has so far been an adventurous journey that interest is critical to any accomplishment in life.

In a conversation with Outpreneurs, he revealed that there are times when being an inventor will involve your many failures, but you should be able to persevere and keep track of your work. In his words; “It is like you are working on a research document; anything you find out is something you can always build on to climb up the ladder.”

Adeniran’s wayfaring to become a globally recognized inventor took a hit back in 2015. That year, he sought funding support for the Nepaless Iron and put up an online crowdfunding campaign to raise NGN 20 Mn (USD 55 K). Unfortunately, all his efforts yielded was a meager NGN 30 K (USD 82.00). He replicated the campaign in the United States and was able to raise USD 1500 K.

At some point, he was labeled a financial desperado who wanted to rip people off in the name of crowdfunding, and that was a saber in the heart of his project. He also cited that the U.S. campaign would have been more successful had the country been hamstrung by power problems of its own. It appears the invention would be a lot more useful in Nigeria and other parts of Africa that are bedeviled by electricity challenges.

Even after being called names and dismissed as a fraud, he went on to create prototypes of the Nepaless Iron as a way of contributing to Nigerian technology. Better parts of the project were done in Lagos, after which he journeyed to the United States to get materials from tech firms to complete it.

“It is a great move for Nigerians to help people who need surgery abroad, but we also need to support technology. If we support inventors, Nigeria will be a better place”, Ayokunle remarked.

Despite living and working in the United States where there is hardly any power problem, Sean uses this gas-powered pressing iron in his home. Some modifications and iterations have been made to the earlier prototype, making the gas canister last fifteen times longer than the initial prototype. The innovation has not undergone mass production, not because of the lack of funds, but because the Nigerian is a stickler for the right strategy.

Not chomping at the bit and bursting at the seams to just latch on to the idea and blast off into the African market with what appears to be a breakthrough, he’d rather put in more work and wade through more processes to make the invention superb and near-perfect.

“It is easy to blame the problem on the fact that I don’t have sufficient money to mass-produce the Nepaless Iron, but sometimes it’s all about having the right strategy.”, said Adeniran.

He is, nonetheless, putting two and two together to rope in angel investors not just for the Nepaless Iron, but for other inventions still in his engineering stables. “Inventions are potential solutions to specific problems faced by Nigerians,” he enthused.

The device, with the present cost and volume of production, goes for NGN 5 K apiece. But the inventor is convinced that the price will drop in future based on economies of scale.

Image result for nepaless iron

Courtesy: Techuniport

Ayokunle Adeniran lived the early parts of his life in Ekiti and Ondo; two states in western Nigeria. He moved to Lagos in his teens to attend secondary school. A soccer lover, video game fan, and people person, Sean likes to network, learn and play. He gained admission into the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Covenant University in 2004 and became a baccalaureate in 2009, with no less of the vehemence and spirit for Engineering as when he began his tertiary education.

As a kid with an on-fire passion for innovation, he made his own toys from parts around the house which he sold to kids in his neighborhoods – an entrepreneurial prodigy to say the least. After his studies, due to his experience in the design of elevator components and consumer products, he got hired as a Mechanical Engineer by New York-based packaged-consumer product firm.

Forming part of some of the most important moments for his invention, Adeniran remains grateful to all those who warmly received his idea and posted to create awareness about the Nepaless Iron. Although the Nepaless Iron is yet to gain widespread acceptance and entrepreneurial breakthrough yet remains a pursuit of this young Nigerian innovator, he can certainly be given credit for his innovative spirit.

 

Featured Image Credit: Africanloving.com

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